It was exactly one week ago that I saw a number of posts on my Facebook expressing a largely discarding view of the seriousness regarding the blossoming story that was the COVID-19 spread in America.
I had, the weekend prior, been to the MIAA Basketball Tournament in Kansas City and had witnessed, first-hand, a number of people who declined so much as a handshake due to concerns of the virus.
My immediate reaction: this thing is not going to completely change who I am, change my humanity. Why are people getting so incredibly nervous over this?
I said as much online the next night, which of course, as does absolutely anything in this day and age, drew mixed reviews and comments all, appreciatively, within reason.
The friends who seemed most bothered, were extremely close proximity to those who are in the most-likely-to-be-harmed demographic, so I made that realization and moved on.
THAT ... was Tuesday night.
Then came Wednesday and the cascade of shock and awe that fell out as the NBA cancelled a game between the Utah Jazz and Oklahoma City Thunder, only to, a short few hours later, declare its entire schedule on hold indefinitely.
Then I went, whoa, waiiiit a minute.
It is not uncommon for a general population to react hastily to news or decisions. There are instances where its unfounded panic, but at times, those choices could theoretically be the difference between health or illness, life or death. (Insert joke about a toilet paper shortage being relevant here.) Then people are somewhat forced to react to those reactions themselves rather than the event (insert my joke about thinking I was well stocked on toilet paper only to find I was actually on the brink of needing to add it to my next grocery list).
But the suspension of one of the United States’ major sports leagues — that wasn’t a knee-jerk reaction to uninformed people’s pandering.
This is a multi-billion dollar industry that, with educated partners and information, recognized a potentially serious matter and opted to sacrifice money in an attempt to proactively protect its investments of players, personnel and patrons.
In just two days following, the NCAA went from suggesting to turn away spectators to disallowing games, practices and remaining spring schedules, leaving collegiate coaches and student-athletes across the country flailing for some grasp of closure.
In a span of less than 36 hours, I went from attending the NCAA Tournament in Warrensburg, Mo., with the Emporia State women aspiring to return to the Elite Eight, to questioning whether I would be allowed into the arena for the game, to discovering there were no games to attend.
Next came the KSHSAA State High School Basketball Tournaments, which while taking fire from many, continued on, getting one full game through.
That rug got pulled, then, from beneath the teams and attending fans. While some recognized the writing on the wall earlier than others, many felt (perhaps rightfully) deprived or robbed, without genuine closure, though at least the state tournaments did play one full round. Twitter, which can be a trove of information at some points in time, is also a cesspool of fire in others. This was certainly the latter. Immediately furious comment, one after another, was posted, some condemning the shutdown. Others condemning the delay in doing so. There was no hope of a victor being found, not the teams, not the schools, not the venues, not the state of Kansas.
I can see both sides of that coin and am not going to get caught up constructing a bridge between two parties since that particular ship has already sailed.
One week later, every professional sports league in the country (as best I can tell), is on pause. Disney is shutting down its theme parks for the foreseeable future. Even a large number of Las Vegas casinos announced last night the temporary closure of their venues in order to help fight the potential spread.
This is an unprecedented act, some may say of fear, which at some level is undoubtedly true, but a founded one as other nations are struggling to keep up with what we’re just on the brink of actually facing. Much is changing on this landscape, which can somewhat be anticipated, but in no way genuinely predicted. News I will have seen and be addressing here as I type on Monday evening, will be well obsolete by the time this goes to press in the wee hours of the night and even moreso by Tuesday.
That’s less of a shot at printed media’s struggles and more of indicating how quickly and abruptly things are changing before our eyes.
I initially bristled, quite emphatically, at the suggestion I should worry about whether I acquire this tiny trending tyranny. But with more thought and individual observation and research, it admittedly concerns me that I could perceivably help conduct the spread from Point A to Point D, whether that is my own parents, or someone else’s parents, grandparents, young children or friend/acquaintance who for one reason or another, currently has a weakened level of bacterial immunity.
But some of the early panic certainly made it seem like it was an epic horror. No, this isn’t something from a Monty Python film, where folks are asked to “Bring Out Your Dead” as perhaps they may have in the days of the Black Plague. It’s not some futuristic strand of flesh-eating bacteria that is fatal with a touch.
But it is, certainly, something necessary of monitoring and being mindful of as it tries to make its way across our country, state and eventually community.
I realize I’m just a guy who’s made an attempted living by reporting on sports in a small Kansas city for eight years. So my knowledge is quite limited when it comes to such matters of world influence or influenza.
Even while enjoying some of the perks of my position, I’ve always remained innately aware that sports are largely irrelevant. They can absolutely be therapeutic for spectators, fans, even players. In terms of developing teamwork, communication, fighting adversity, improving health, creating mental toughness it is a treasure trove for youth five to 25 and beyond.
In the big scheme of humanity and existence? It only passes the time.
So while I await — as do many in the sports media industry**, whether author, photographer, videographer or any other role — what exactly will become of our jobs, our livelihoods and our lives, in the weeks to come, I want to try to maintain my civility, my courtesy, my love of people, my love of the outdoors.
And in a business where many of my coworkers have been trying to keep up with a constantly evolving problem, getting word out as best they can, I don’t even know what this week will hold for me. Much like many of you, I may not even still hold a job in the near future should things get too fragile.
And I’ve been called to engage primarily in social distancing which, let’s be honest, those who know me realize that I’ve essentially become an office-homebody for a majority of the last six months. I’m not fond of it, but feel like I’m now a seasoned pro at this. I’m not locking away in a cave and will go out for necessities, but once I finally do get a few more frozen pizzas and find that valued package of t.p., I’ll be relatively well set for the immediate future.
Suggestions from this sports-loving guy?
Use the time to write letters to your friends and family. (Yes, those can be texts, emails, facebook messages, you don’t have to use the mail if you don’t want, but then again, getting a genuine letter in the mail may be a novel thrill, so whichever method tickles your fancy). I’m relatively certain that every single one of us have wanted to stay in touch with any number of people but have been ‘too busy.’ Well, most of us aren’t as much now, so let’s find some productive ways of using the spare time. Encourage those around you, whether they’re sharing your peace, or your fear. Relearn how to engage in dinner conversations or board games on the living room floor, putting together jigsaw puzzles or simply cleaning your house/apartment for the first time in a month or two or 46, organizing your bookshelves or pantry shelves ... that laundry list is endless. Oh, and there’s laundry to do you say?
Some things won’t change that much.
To some in the medical field, things have already been real. They’re likely to get even moreso. For the rest of us? There’s lots of fine things we’ve been putting off.
I’m guessing we’ve got some time now, so until this virus stops going... viral, let’s dig in to this whole humanity thing again.
As much as I hate to imagine it, if the worst part is being without sports for two months (or more), then so be it. It would do us all well to remember, as well, that should things not get awful over the next week or two or six, that was ultimately WHY this stuff happened in such dramatic fashion, to try to cut off multiple stunted heads off the beast before they could fully develop.
It may alter our jobs and immediate lives, which can be an unsettling possibility.
But maybe our lives still get better so when baseball (or your sport of preference) returns, we’ll embrace it all the more joyfully.
Go Royals and God Bless.
**- Also, I realize that any number of service or customer-oriented industries are possibly (or likely) in over-worked disarray or concern of their positions as well. The pain is real everywhere.