Rob Gronkowski

Donald Trump announced his 2016 presidential campaign on June 16, 2015, two months after Hillary Clinton did the same.

The Warriors led the Cavs 3-2 in the NBA Finals and closed out the series that night. Jake Arrieta got shelled by the Indians in a 6-0 Cubs' loss at Wrigley Field (Arrieta is 34-9 since). The Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup one night earlier. Tom Brady was preparing for his 10-hour Deflategate hearing coming the following week (he avoided any suspension for the 2015 season). Jordan Spieth won his second straight major at the U.S. Open that weekend. Serena Williams was a few weeks away from taking Wimbledon, completing her second career Serena Slam.

That was 17 months ago. A lot has happened since. Welcome back to sports.

The past year and a half were a reality check for many sports journalists. We chose a career path covering strangers playing games for millions of dollars. Meanwhile, our political reporting peers jumped into one of the most critical chapters in our country's history. The 2016 U.S. presidential election cycle captivated Americans -- a chunk of whom never would have seen themselves voting in spring 2015 -- and individuals from around the world, stunned at the division of the two main candidates.

Bill Murray, Theo Epstein, Chicago Cubs

We got it. Sports took a step back. The Chicago Cubs ended a 108-year curse, and all three presidential debates drew better ratings than extra innings in Game 7 of the World Series. Stephen Curry and LeBron James played a Game 7 in their 2016 NBA Finals rematch, and the vice-presidential debate was watched by more Americans.

In 2015, eight of the top ten U.S. broadcasts were sporting events. In 2016, that number is three, and that is before Election Night.

But the election is over now. Regardless of who you supported and how you feel right now, welcome back to sports. I'm not angry at you for leaving. I'm just happy you're back. I, myself, have been struggling to figure out why I never went with you. The fate of our republic rested in a democratic vote and I spent the past year tracking Russell Westbrook's footwear line and Rob Gronkowski driving a Lyft. Am I a bad citizen?

No, I'm at peace with myself. Every time I tried to invest my time into this election, I felt unsatisfied. Both candidates had their flaws. Debates were clouded by personal attacks, with limited time devoted to the actual job description of the president. The rhetoric was malicious at times, and the news became hard to watch.

Meanwhile, sports are in a comfortable place. The NBA is laden with superstars and personalities that make the game exciting and relatable every night. The NFL is a spectacle now live on Twitter. The MLB just crowned the Lovable Losers and the NHL's next wave of talent (see: McDavid, Connor; Eichel, Jack; Matthews, Auston) is ahead of schedule.

Sports have glaring flaws. Domestic violence, concussion safety and cheating are major problems in sports that cannot be overlooked. But on a daily basis, sports are enjoyable and satisfying. Athletes don't talk about grabbing women by the p**** or hiding classified emails. They perform to the best of their physical abilities, in a professional manner, many times working as a team to accomplish a common goal.

Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry

Nine years ago, as a freshman in high school, I read a Rick Reilly column in Sports Illustrated, "It isn't Just a Game," that stuck with me (read the words, regardless of what you think of Reilly). "When I was a sophomore in college, working on the town newspaper, a professor took me aside and said, 'You need to get out of sports. You're better than sports,'" Reilly wrote.

Reilly went on to spend the rest of the column explaining why he isn't better than sports. I read the piece once and felt the same way. I'm not good enough for politics. I'm not better than sports.

I commend the masses of you for being better than sports the last year and a half. You followed our nation's political news when it deserved your attention. You gave this historic election the exposure it deserved, as the country decided its critical fate. You showed us the diverse dynamics of our 50 states.

In the meantime, I've been at my desk analyzing Stephen Curry's NBA stats vs. his college stats, Aaron Rodgers' play since his brother appeared on The Bachelorette and Bill Murray's vocals on "Go Cubs Go." And it's great. Sports are an unpredictable venue of physical, societal and yes, sometimes political traits coming together on a daily basis.

That's right. Sports bring people together. And they have not lost a step during this grueling campaign cycle. Despite your thoughts on the election's results, sports carry on unaffected as an independent private entity.

Welcome back. We've missed you and we're excited to have your attention again. You will enjoy the ride. That's a promise we can keep.

-- Follow Jeff Eisenband on Twitter @JeffEisenband. Like Jeff Eisenband on Facebook.