March 11th: the Day the Sports World Went Dark

It started much like any boring March Wednesday does.

I skipped my 9:30 am American Federal Government lecture because it was optional, and I slept in. Lying awake at 10 am staring at the LEDs on my alarm clock, I had no idea what this day would hold.

The University of Florida already recommended professors to move their classes to an all-online platform because of coronavirus. The invisible threat loomed.

I grabbed my longboard and rode to the newsroom as I usually do on Wednesdays. My only availability to do my newsroom shift is that afternoon, so naturally from 2 pm to 6 pm you can find me buzzing around Weimer Hall at ESPN Gainesville.

As the men’s basketball beat writer for the station, my editors tasked me with writing a few preview articles about the upcoming SEC tournament. I wrote about how the Gators would face off against an unknown opponent, and how Missouri looked to beat a Texas A&M team that they already lost to twice in the season. Neither of these games would take place.

Near the end of my shift, Steve Russell, the sports director, walked frantically out of a J-school meeting in the upstairs conference room.

“They’re shutting the whole thing down,” he said.

Everything. My trip to cover the first round of the NCAA Tournament, shut down. All in-person classes, shut down. The University of Florida was shutting everything down.

The rest of my shift was like a rollercoaster. In the last hour alone: the Warriors announced that they would play all home games with no fans and the SEC announced that their tournaments would have no fans. Little did I know that this was just the tip of the iceberg.

By the end of the night, the NBA’s Jazz v. Thunder game broke the internet, and the league suspended all games. By the end of the next day, there were no major sports playing games. No March Madness, No baseball, no basketball, no hockey, no football. All was silent.

It’s a bit jarring, having nothing to cover.

The lack of sports is something that never really happens in society. Fans on Twitter are outraged that during their self-quarantine they will have to watch re-runs of the NBA All-Star game on TNT instead of actual games.

There is this idea of, “Well, what do we do now?”

The fact that I’m a sports writer and have nothing to cover is something I’ve never experienced. It makes me introspective about what really matters. For months on months, years on years, I’ve only worried about the next thing I need to cover. What time is that media availability? When’s the next game? What feature can I write? Stop.

Maybe we all can take a step back during this sports hiatus. Sport dominates our culture and dictates many aspects of our lives. It is important to remember that it is just a game sometimes. They are not gone, just on hold.

So stay safe, wash your hands, and be mindful of those around you. Coronavirus is not something to panic about, but it also is not something to take lightly.

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