What now, sports fans?
How do you cope without any live sport for the first time in your life?
"What do you do when there is no present or no future, for the moment, in sport?" David Rowe tells AAP.
"And the answer is: for your dyed-in-the-wool sports fan, you go mad."
Rowe should know.
He's a sports fan. But also Emeritus Professor at Western Sydney University's Institute for Culture and Society.
A sociologist of world renown, Rowe said there's complex dimensions to an Australia without sport.
There's a hole to be filled. A stripping of national identity. A loss of belonging. And boredom.
But not for all Australians.
"Australia is not a sports-mad nation," Rowe said.
"There are Australians who are sports-mad but there are lots of Australians who either don't like sport or are indifferent to it.
"Sports fans are very good at exaggerating their numbers and their importance.
"We are not talking about the whole country. We're talking about a very noisy and passionate and large component of that country.
"When someone like Peter V'landys from the NRL says 'no rugby league, no Australia' that, to me, is the kind of exaggeration you get from a sports fan."
Another eminent sociologist, Professor Ramon Spaaij, from the Institute for Health and Sport at Victoria University, said sport was "pretty trivial" in times of crisis such as the coronavirus pandemic.
"But the other side to that is, of course, in times like this we actually need distractions or escapes," Spaaij told AAP.
"Even if they don't solve your financial or your health puzzle, they actually give you a temporary escape from the strains of life, which is actually really meaningful for a lot of people.
"Normally we think of sport as an extremely important form of entertainment in the lives of many people.
"But at a time like this it's more than entertainment ... it's taking a breather, having a bit of space where you can not think about stuff."
An Australia without live sport, Rowe said, was "a serious problem".
"I'm not underplaying it. For many people, this is awful. This is like the world has ended," he said.
"People who don't like sport and think it takes up much to much cultural oxygen say 'well, why don't you just go and do something else'.
"But those people fail to understand. For the sports fan, there is nothing else. It's irreplaceable."
The sports-mad Australian attach themselves to sport and their sporting teams. It becomes part of their identity - and of their nation.
Think Socceroos. Ash Barty. Wallabies. Adam Scott. Matildas. Australia's cricket teams.
"They some way represent or embody the nation," Rowe said.
"And if they're not operating, then you actually take out one of the major projections of Australianness, of Australian identity."
So how to replace that newly missing bit? Just where does a sports-mad Australian redeploy the emotional energy they usually pour into games?
"Sport is all organised ultimately, and this is very clear, around the live sporting moment," Rowe said.
"You can watch as much as the archive as you like, and I think lots of people are doing that. That can sustain you for a while, wallowing in nostalgia.
"But sport is always restlessly focused on the moment."
Hence, widespread unease at watching recent games at stadiums without fans.
"How enjoyable is it really, even if you love your team, to watch them playing in an empty stadium as if it was a video game?," Rowe said.
"It's strange because the crowd in sport is part of the spectacle.
"The crowd performs as much, in a way, as the players do in a match, especially where you have chants and all the noise and the atmosphere.
"Sport is actually, for many people, not that interesting on its own.
"You need to feel really passionate about it, engagement with it.
"You might say what unifies people is the love of the sport. I would say, in some ways, the identification is stronger than the love of the sport.
"The sense of oneness with a group of people is maybe actually stronger than your love of a sport."
That "sense of oneness" manifested in an oft-used mantra: coming together in adversity.
"Coming together is actually a big element of sports culture," Rowe said.
"Adversity is what most of us experience about sport most of the time. If we're fans, usually we don't win the big prize.
"But there is always next season, you're thinking about the future ... they (clubs) sell vain hope most of the time.
"Most of the hope that is offered to you will not be realised ... much of it is about fantasy and aspiration.
"But would we want to get out bed in the morning if we didn't have some sense of hope about something?"
That sense of a communal fight against adversity resonates particularly in regional and rural Australia where sporting clubs are considered the backbone of society.
Victoria University's Spaaij said sporting clubs in such communities helped overcome feelings of social isolation.
"For farmers, coming to a football-netball club on a Saturday, was a highly meaningful experience," Spaaij said.
"You get to share - you're not alone doing it tough in the context of drought.
And that now takes a whole new level. Across the board it's going to have a really big impact.
"And I will be interested to see the community spirit or solidarity that comes.
"Is the social bounce-back of people getting together, getting sports back up again, is that going to be one of the defining features, not just in sport, but how we collectively bounce back from this?
"There's a lot of questions. I don't know if there's many answers."
Australian Associated Press
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