I find myself questioning my emotional maturity as I reflect on how the coronavirus has affected my sports journalism work and rec sports life.
Maybe I am too self-critical, but I am hardly the poster boy for how middleaged adults should behave. Generally, for example, I handle last-second changes badly. Yet I am taking the barrage of changes to my sports reporting and rec sports schedules surprisingly well.
The barrage started last week with the Big 12 Conference men’s basketball tournament. I was scheduled to cover the single-elimination postseason tournament at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri. The night of March 11, when the first two men’s games were played, I read the remaining seven games would be played with limited spectators. I expected to enter a ghost arena the next day.
Then, the morning of March 12, I learned Mayor Quinton Lucas had declared a state of emergency for Kansas City. I wondered if I would need to commute across the Missouri River after all. I asked Jodi Lehman, Big 12 director of media services, if the games would go on as planned, given the declaration. A few minutes after sending my email, I got my answer.
While running errands on that fateful morning, I turned on Sports Radio 810 WHB in my truck – a.k.a., my “Canyonero Junior.” There was a live broadcast of a press conference announcing the cancellation of tournament games amid safety concerns for fans because of the pandemic. A few days later, during email checks, I saw an email from Lehman, dated March 12, announcing the cancellation of the Big 12 men’s and women’s basketball tournaments.
After the Big 12 press conference, announcements of sports-related postponements and cancellations went into hyperdrive. March Madness got cancelled. Postponements and/or cancellations of other pro and college games, tournaments, even seasons, peppered the media. Items were disappearing from the sports calendar at a head-spinning rate.
Quickly, the spread of cancellations trickled down to the county level. On Sunday, I saw on the Richmond R-XVI School District website that “all activities, including practices” had been called off through March 24.
Other high schools – Excelsior Springs, Lathrop, Orrick and so on – are doing the same.
As for my own rec sports pursuits, I learned Sunday via a text message from Holly Moentmann that the Richmond City Hall gym would “be closed tomorrow and a decision will be made regarding future developments,” meaning no Monday morning pickleball. Also on Monday, Moentmann followed up with a text message relaying news from Hayley Williams, Richmond’s parks and rec director, saying the gym would be locked up through March 30.
Still on Monday, I received an email from The Soccer Lot in Kansas City, Missouri, where I have occasionally played pickup 5-a-side soccer, stating there would be no pickup sessions there from Monday to March 29. No league games there from Monday to March 31 either.
In roughly a week, an illness traced to late 2019 in China has started hitting close to home, throwing hard punches, hoping to leave me on the canvas.
Still, I find myself rolling with the punches. For example, like Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby, I felt disappointed for the basketball players who did not play in at least one Big 12 tournament game – and for their coaches and loved ones who would have watched them. But I did not feel disappointed about not covering the men’s tournament. Because I was recovering from a sinus infection, the cancellation forced me to stay home and try to rest. In addition, it saved me from the stress that often comes with a Ray County-Kansas City commute.
The stress of urban commuting is why I can handle missing the Sporting Kansas City-Real Salt Lake soccer game that was scheduled for March 28 at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kansas, now postponed because MLS games have been suspended. I feel badly for the players and other affected workers, but not for myself. Yep, I have found a way to roll with this punch, too.
Nor, surprisingly, do I feel distraught about being denied my own rec sports opportunities. I know the gym lockdown will give me time to continue recovering from the tennis elbow I suffered late last year. Besides, I can hone my golf game – if I can dig my putter out of my living room clutter.
Finally, as a fan, I am experiencing no withdrawal pains of being deprived of live college or pro sports online, on radio or on television. Watching encore presentations of games helps, along with a cornucopia of information and entertainment options. And it helps that this is not my first sports stoppage rodeo. Since I was a boy, there have been more halts in play by labor disputes than I can count, many of them involving Major League Baseball. So I guess, in a weird way, my current peace of mind is thanks to disgruntled rich owners and athletes.
I wish you all peace of mind as you manage the barrage of changes, sportsrelated or otherwise, thrown your way by the coronavirus. To help you stay sane, remember this: If an often ill-behaved, middle-aged male like me can handle the barrage of changes with something resembling maturity, so can you.
High heat, drop kicks, random observations and points that amuse are all part of the wide, wide world of sports at the community and national levels.