AS the planet shivers with apprehension and society embarks on a perilous journey into some dark unknown, that seminal Bill Shankly line hurtles across the years.
Often misquoted, the exact words of Liverpool's beloved Yoda read: "Some people believe football is a matter of life and death... I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that."
The last week – our world turned upside down – has delivered an unanswerable verdict on the brilliant father of Anfield's most remembered words.
In this nerve-jangling crisis, when a coughing passenger on public transport provokes the kind of hysterics ordinarily reserved for a burst of machine gun fire, Shankly's vignette appears just a little unhinged.
These last few days of emerging horror, the coronavirus outraced only by the fear rapidly colonising our lives, have seen a sharp recalibration of priorities.
Even those of us hopelessly enslaved by the beauty and magic of Cheltenham week came to understand, long before Al Boum Photo strode into history on Friday, that this year's Festival was an unforgivably reckless indulgence.
An admission: initially unconcerned racing was given the go-ahead, I settled with a jaunty absence of disquiet into my television ringside seat as the Cotswolds sprang to life.
But as the Covid-19 story rapidly and inevitably escalated, so came a deepening sense of unease.
I watched every race, found a number of the storylines compelling. But I did so with an understanding that Cheltenham should have fallen on its own sword; for the greater good it ought not to have come under starter's orders.
And yet sport's soothing presence will be profoundly missed in the uncertain weeks and months that stretch before us.
As our favourite games are compelled to surrender to a microscopic killing machine and, as, one after another, the doors to the world's greatest arenas are padlocked closed, it brings with it a crushing kind of emptiness.
Katie Taylor takes her place on the podium at the ExCel Arena in London after claiming the Olympic gold medal in 2012. Photo: Sportsfile
Sport matters deeply. It touches lives. It offers hope. It inspires. It lifts us out of slumps and slouches. It has an unrivalled capacity to bring communities together.
Yes, there is corruption and greed and ego. But there is still so much to enrich and thrill and spray-paint our universe with optimism and sunshine.
It blazingly awakens the power of the human spirit.
And, in the face of the creeping terror of this crisis, there is no more vital ally than that unquenchable resolve.
If you require proof, have a look at the heartbreakingly beautiful media footage of Italians in the worst hit areas finding solidarity in song, patriotic tunes from their balconies pouring out onto narrow, dark, locked-down streets.
Hauntingly graceful, a communal exorcism of hopelessness, it makes the hairs on the back of the neck stand tall.
In a way that the greatest sport often does. Consider the inspiring athletic soundtrack that has elevated so many of our lives.
Maybe it was Katie Taylor in London's Olympic ring in 2012, so many of us reduced to a teary Niagara as the euphoric relief flooded out of a young woman who had invested all of herself to deliver something imperishable and enchanting.
Croke Park in August or September, when Ger Loughnane or Liam Griffin, Seamus Darby or Stephen Cluxton break down the emotional floodgates and carry their tribe to a palace of heartsore.
They haven't won an All-Ireland since 1951, but think of how much poorer lives in Mayo would be without the shared experience of following their football team on their Sisyphean expedition up and down the ridges of summer's Everest.
What a weight in gold those 1990 days of thunder brought with them, Ireland mining a rich seam of confidence, the exploits of Jack Charlton's team evicting so much of that debilitating Celtic insecurity from our DNA.
The snapshots go on and on.
Munster's players pogoing on the Cardiff turf, hugging and dancing, deliriously helpless as the sheer madness of their 2006 European Cup triumph adrenalise their every living pore.
Pádraig Harrington, his eyes faraway, moving into that elusive zone of achievement which enabled him to plant his standard on Carnoustie, Birkdale and Oakland Hills.
Dennis Taylor keeping the nation from their beds until the early hours of a May morning in 1985 as his epic, jumpy showdown with Steve Davis delivered a spike in Valium dependence.
Sonia O'Sullivan knew the deepest disappointment, but she kept on running, declined to bend and carried us with her on that magical night in Sydney when second place in the Olympics seemed so much more precious than a silver lining.
It was, yes, that same triumph of the spirit as those Italians singing their arias in virus ravaged Sienna.
Shankly, an obsessive yet reflective man, one whose World War II service in the RAF offered intimate exposure to the priorities of existence, spoke late in his life about how he might have done things slightly differently.
His pursuit of glory on a rectangle of grass as something more important than life and death had come with what economists call an opportunity cost.
Family life had suffered and Shankly, his necktie still Liverpool red and white, was asked by a chat show host if he regretted that brutal truth.
"I regret it a great deal," he sighed, the sport as life-or-death mask slipping to reveal the human behind the caricature.
That was his personal loss, but then set against that is that bronze, eight-foot likeness of Liverpool's adopted Scot erected next to the Kop. The legend on the plinth below it reads simply: "He made the people happy."
A flawless reminder of sport's power to take us to a better place; in the testing days that stretch before us it is a soothing balm we will profoundly miss.