An empty stadium in Sydney, Australia. Picture: CAMERON SPENCER/GETTY IMAGES
An empty stadium in Sydney, Australia. Picture: CAMERON SPENCER/GETTY IMAGES

In the past few weeks, Greg, a friend of mine, has had as his standard joke when greeting me, what I am going to write about now a pandemic has shut down sport and the world. His reasoning is that if there is no sport there is nothing to write about.

Which is like saying that if there are no clouds there is no weather to write about. I know journalists who cannot write without press conferences or quotes; and there are many of them I admire and realise how utterly vital their role is in getting us news.

There are better writers among them who feel they need someone else to help them tell the story by repeating what they already know.

We used to joke about it in the office, calling it the repeat-repeat. “******* doesn’t know if he will rediscover his form before the first Test, believing he has some work to do on where his bottom hand is ending up. ‘I don’t know if I will get my form back before the series starts,’ said ******. I believe I have some work to do on how my bottom hand is dominating the stroke.’ ”

We tell stories. We entertain. We remind. We dredge up. We delve deeper into history and harder into the future. We investigate scenarios, ask about money, wonder about champions elect and losers on the brink. We write about the fairness of it all, of what is right and wrong and true.

I’ve edited hundreds of stories like that. It is writing that is a nod to a time when there was no other information to confirm or deny. It had to be direct and obvious.

The embroidering was done by the staff writers of the big papers of the day, the men who would shout their copy down wispy phone lines from notes scribbled down during the match. I am old enough to have seen this in action, particularly at Twickenham, and then wonder if my report would stand up.

And now there is nothing. No matches. No leagues. No runs. No bike rides. Nada. What to do? What to do?

What do we tell those who wake up at sparrow’s and check their apps for an update, a habit so ingrained it will take more than a broken season to push away?

We tell stories. We entertain. We remind. We dredge up. We delve deeper into history and harder into the future. We investigate scenarios, ask about money, wonder about champions elect and losers on the brink. We write about the fairness of it all, of what is right and wrong and true.

We remain true to the time we live in. This is a time of fear and loathing, of hope and despair, of belief and ignorance. Staying at home would have been made easier with sport.

The salve of a couch, TV and a DStv box is a thing that takes some beating. Cricket, footie, rugby, Brad Binder in MotoGP, Greg Minnaar at the downhill World Cup, Wayde van Niekerk at the Olympics, the Fed at Wimbledon, Who knows Who at the Tour de France ...

Sport is not what defines us as beings. It should not be. We should not be fighting to be first in line at the bottle store, like those who queued up at 9am outside my local booze depot.

Or those who made the parking in Craighall Park a dodgem centre. Or the ones who emptied the shelves of the butcher. Or the guy who bought three roast chickens from Fourno’s (yeah, that was me). Or the guy who ordered Liverpool kit as it was on a 30% sale (me again).

Sport is our out from the hardness of the survival of life. It is no rescue, no great solution to the wrongs and evils that keep us wondering if it is all worth it. It is a time to sit and sigh and shout and scream and celebrate and mourn. It is real and it is in our heads. It is hard and soft. And we miss it intensely.

Sport will return when the time is right. It will be back in a form, a version of sorts that will give us succour. The suspension of it all, though, should be enough to remind us that the lockdown starting today in our fair and unfair land is no small thing.

This is about living and killing, not just dying. This is about those living in tin shacks being told those walls are all they can see. This is more than about writing about sport now that sport has stopped.

This is about writing about a pandemic that could kill us all.