President of Yale University, and one-time commissioner of baseball, A. Bartlett Giamatti once reflected of his sport: "The game begins in spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone."
When using sport to measure the waxing and waning of the year, the Six Nations occupies an opposing space in the calendar.
Even in these strangest of times, the arrival of the championship in the first week of February brings a certain level of comforting normality, here to guide us through the last vestiges of the long winter and into the spring when, even more so than usual, the world will hopefully be that little brighter.
To its cost, rugby has already found that introducing the novel in times of crisis is to be avoided - the Autumn Nations Cup won't so much fail to be remembered fondly as fail to be remembered at all - but, in the northern hemisphere's crown jewel, the sport can point to a familiar rhythm of tradition and ritual so absent over the past year.
While people talk of "tent-pole" events, the Six Nations and its place in the calendar feels more akin to a load-bearing wall.
Where other such etched-in-stone markers such as The Open golf, Wimbledon tennis, the All-Ireland and football's FA Cup final were all cancelled or moved from their usual time-slots, the late-winter renewal of such long-established rivalries as England versus Scotland and Ireland against Wales this weekend will feel like one small step towards normality.
There is no point in claiming this will be a championship as full or vibrant as any other. Even those who chafe at the reductive national stereotypes of beret-wearing Frenchman, drunk Irish leprechauns and duelling English knights will miss the colour provided by the mass gatherings in and around stadiums.
Similarly, the die-hards with their eyes virtually glued to the action for 80 absorbing minutes would surely swap the unimpeded view of their television to be poking their head around the much-maligned stream of more casual supporters heading for the stadium bars, toilets and burger fans during games just like old times.
It may be too far to imagine, though, that the uninitiated would now even welcome the influx of rugby-watching hordes that flood through the doors of their local pubs for five weekends each February and March, if only they could be allowed in.
In the absence of the attending carnival that rolls in and out of town, we'll be left with just the rugby.
Under the circumstances, it seems unlikely there'll be much appetite for the storm-in-a-teacup, verbal sparring that so frequently punctuates build-ups - at the very least we should see a decrease in the presentation of games as battles and wars given the severity of what's presently being endured by so much of the population - but there will be no shortage of storylines either.
Coming into the opening weekend, France and England, just as this time a year ago, look the sides to beat.
Last season's top two are once again the bookies' favourites to be lifting the crown, with 'Le Crunch' at Twickenham in round four already looming large on the horizon.
France enter knowing that they should have at the very least been celebrating a first title in a decade back in October, losing out by just a point, while the somewhat surprising defeat by Scotland just prior to the pandemic-enforced stoppage cost them a Grand Slam.
Still, they enter as arguably the most compelling team, their exciting attacking talent still building nicely ahead of their home World Cup two years down the line.
But knowing that they'll meet them in London, Eddie Jones will be optimistic his powerful England outfit can retain their crown. While there will be huge interest in whether the likes of Paolo Odogwu can break into a settled panel, the biggest question mark remains over some of their most experienced campaigners.
With Saracens having played so little rugby thanks to their demotion to a yet-to-restart Championship, just how battle-hardened can the captain Owen Farrell and co. be ahead of this weekend's Calcutta Cup?
For Ireland, knowing they have both the presumed heavyweights in Dublin will be a cause for optimism, but they will need to show that the disjointed beginning of Andy Farrell's reign has allowed them to set foundations to build upon in the future. Another middling showing, doing little right or wrong in relation to par, will only raise questions about the team's long-term direction in the wake of their unprecedented success through the Joe Schmidt era.
Much will be gleaned, no doubt, from Sunday's trip to Wales at a ground where they have lost in each of their past three Six Nations visits.
While that game will set the tone for Ireland, it is of even greater importance to Wales.
Having beaten only Italy and Georgia during his first year at the helm after taking over from Warren Gatland, former Scarlets boss Wayne Pivac is already a man under pressure in some quarters and another poor campaign may not be tolerated.
Scotland, meanwhile, will be out to prove they are the team that beat Wales in the autumn, not the one so convincingly beaten in turn by Ireland. And with poor Italy, it's the same question it's been since their last day to remember in 2015 - can they actually win a game?
To take the view that it's hard to muster much of an appetite for these debates in light of dreadful daily headlines coming from elsewhere is perfectly understandable. But for others, there is comfort to be found in arguing the same such points this year just as they have done through every other. On that note... should the Principality Stadium roof be open or closed on Sunday?