Stephen Milligan is a staff writer for The Walton Tribune. He lives in Monroe and is a graduate of the University of Georgia.

For most of us, the shelter-in-place precautions we’ve taken during the coronavirus pandemic have been more irritating than life-threatening.

The quarantine efforts have worked as intended to keep the virus from spreading as easily and rapidly as feared, so for a lot of us, catching COVID-19 was far less likely than simply being annoyed that we couldn’t find our preferred brand of toilet paper for the fifth week in a row.

Even if we didn’t get sick, there were plenty of serious problems during this trying time. Many are out of work or have seen hours cut back. Others are overworked due to the essential nature of their jobs. Stress has been easy to find even without catching a potentially deadly virus.

Which is why it’s been so sad that one of the universal stress relief remedies has been unavailable for the duration of this crisis.

I am, of course, talking about sports.

You know, those athletic competitions in which opponents compete in an organized game to score points of some kind and ultimately prevail one over the other to triumph and win a plastic trophy of some kind?

You might not remember them well, given their total absence for months now. But they were once myriad: baseball, basketball, tennis, golf, soccer, racing … all of those things should have been ongoing this entire time and had to be abandoned due to this dratted virus situation.

We missed the NCAA tournament, making this the first spring in years I didn’t get to fill out a March Madness bracket. We missed the Masters, though that will apparently be held late this year rather than completely canceled. We’ve missed weeks of baseball.

We even missed the NBA playoffs, which bothered me not at all but probably annoyed somebody.

Well, sports are coming back at last. Things are moving slowly, but football practice is set to start up next month to make sure fall sports proceed as planned.

Meanwhile, NASCAR has resumed races to empty stadiums. I stopped on a stock car race for five minutes the other day, despite never having cared about NASCAR, just to enjoy the sheer novelty of having organized sports on my television again.

I’d even watch curling if it pops up on TV at this point. As long as it’s even technically a sport.

We learned we could do without a lot of things during this crisis, but let me tell you, sports was not one of those things. We have needed sports in our lives, badly, and it’s a sheer joy to see them start to return.