REGINA -- The COVID-19 numbers in North America and around the world are staggering. Chilling.

And getting worse.

The world is climbing a scary wall of worry. For many citizens habits and luck become questions of life or death.

As federal Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland stated in the House of Commons on Monday, for many Canadian families this winter will bring “loneliness and grief” along with “hard slogging”.

Seeing such tragedy and suffering, both physically and psychologically, makes one wonder if this pandemic has made sports irrelevant?

Some sports are carrying on, some are not, does it matter?

After all, no lives are on the line with any game result. Never have been, never will be.

While sports does seem irrelevant right now for many, the answer likely depends on a person’s particular circumstance.

I’m a big Roughrider fan, but when hard times have struck me, the Rider scores temporarily seem unimportant. I don’t pay the slightest attention.

After time and healing allows a bit more happiness, and as that process continues, Rider scores suddenly become important again.

But that was without a pandemic.

If you have lost your job and bills are piling up because of COVID-19, if a family member has suffered because of the pandemic, sports means a hill of beans.

Everyone is having a hard time with this pandemic one way or the other, it’s overall effect is total. Some, however, are doing much better than others, and for those lucky folks any diversion can be absorbed with appreciation; including sports.

A report from CNN suggested more Americans will die from COVID-19 than in World War II.

That is mind boggling when you consider the devastation that resulted from World War II.

Troops in both world wars strove for diversion, they had too, just to keep their sanity. A soccer ball would be welcomed and well used.

On Sunday I watched the NFL and enjoyed it, it was a good diversion. Did I enjoy it as much as in the past? Probably not, because I also wondered about how many of these players will get COVID-19 next week. The shots of empty stands are always a reminder that things are not normal.

No matter the diversion, be it reading a good book, playing music, darning your Montreal Canadiens hockey socks or walking the pooch - it’s all good, and thank goodness.

Until vaccines clear the world of this nightmarish curse, the diversion absorption rate for many may not be as strong as in the past.

That will change.

When vaccines kick in the Riders will become more important than ever before because normalcy is coveted. Same with the Pats, Warriors or Broncos. Same with a trip to Vegas. Don’t forget, what goes on in Vegas, stays in Vegas.

Darn it, I’m too old and boring to get in trouble!

In the meantime any diversion is good, including sports.

Don Hewitt started covering the Saskatchewan Roughriders for CKCK-TV in 1979.