When the Coronavirus Beat Sports — Our Constant, Our Obsession

Three men played pool. Two men nursed beers. Twenty-four taps stood ready for deployment.

The conversation struck optimistic, nostalgic chords. Maybe the networks will show classic games to fill airtime, or some of those old World’s Strongest Man competitions, the way cable did years ago.

Sure, sports are gone, but they will be back.

Won’t they? This is just a hiccup, right?

But now that they have stopped play, sports will have to figure out how to start again. Most N.B.A. teams have 17 or 18 games left in the regular season.

“Just go straight to the playoffs,” a man said.

“You have to put an asterisk on that trophy then?” Prien asked.

The man pondered the question.

“Just give the trophy to the Lakers,” he said.

“I think Giannis would have something to say about that,” Prien said, standing up for the Milwaukee Bucks and their superstar.

The pool game ended, the players left, and the cue ball took its place behind the bar. One of the two men at the bar settled up and left. Prien got a rag and began wiping surfaces, maybe as he always has.

“This is going to show us what a world without sports means,” he said.

A foghorn belched. The shape of light from the doorway had shifted with the sinking sun. San Francisco public schools announced that they were closing for a couple of weeks, at least. Every hour, it seemed, brought ominous news of rising casualties, falling markets and a world closing in on itself.