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It happened so fast it is very difficult to put in order the exact chain of events. The NBA suspended games, calling some off with players and fans still in the arena. It was the same for the NCAA. Hockey, baseball and golf followed. High school sports were called off as well.
For me, filling the void was not easy. I was looking forward to the conclusion of the local spring sports seasons with much anticipation. Then the games were suspended, practices called off and schools closed.
There were attempts by most major broadcasting networks to help out. I don’t know if their showing old games and other specials really worked for me or not. Other than the 2016 World Series I’ve tried to forget most of the ways my favorite teams’ seasons have concluded. Even watching old clips of the legends from my time just seemed to make me realize that they weren’t ever stepping back onto the field or court again.
What those shows did, however, was to turn my thoughts back to when it all started for me. I have some recollection of watching a bit of some of the early Super Bowls and other games on television, but what I remember most about sports from my youth came from listening to events on the radio. Two in particular were of prime importance in my house; the Indianapolis 500 and the University of Iowa Hawkeyes football team. Not blessed with the availability that we all have today to watch literally everything, I remember listening to the 500 every Sunday in late May and then following my Hawkeyes every Saturday in the fall.
Yet I’m not for sure if my lifelong interest in the world of sports would have played out like it has over the years if not for one September morning in 1973. My dad and I were eating breakfast, talking about the Hawkeyes game later that day in Iowa City against the University of Michigan.
“It’s the season opener today,” said my dad, as if I didn’t know. “Do you want to go?”
I can’t recall much about the rest of that conversation or how long it took before we were on the road. I suspect I got myself ready rather quickly and before I knew it, there it was: Kinnick Stadium. I walked inside, saw the field, and gazed in awe at the iconic maize and blue uniforms and helmets of the Michigan Wolverines as they came out of their locker room. I couldn’t believe I was really there. I also had to remind myself that I was there to cheer on Iowa.
My cheers didn’t help the good guys that day but it didn’t really matter. My world had changed. What followed were more trips as basketball games got added to fill the void after football season. I haven’t stopped since. I’ll never forget walking my own kids into their first Hawkeyes games or the day I called my dad, and said, “The Cubs are playing in Wrigley this week. Do you want to go?”
The opportunity for moments and memories like those are coming back. Professional and college contests are now basically in full swing. High school sports have re-started. There have been alterations and it may be a while before any spectator sport gets back to what it was before, but they are back.
The local prep scene is getting ready to roll as well. Both Mission CISD and Sharyland ISD schools began practicing again this past Monday. La Joya ISD will begin next week after reconsidering their earlier decision not to participate this fall. Volleyball scrimmages, team tennis matches and cross country races have already started or will this weekend. Football games will be starting in a few weeks. It means going back to work for me. Covering games for the Progress Times over the past year has allowed me to see numerous games on the high school level from a perspective I never had as a parent, fan or coach and it has been a great one. I look forward to seeing many more.
I say this not to overlook those who have concerns over the decisions made to re-start contests. I believe there are legitimate points to be made whatever side you are on and I wish for the safety of all.
Still, I look forward to seeing the teams and athletes that I have followed as a reporter back on the fields, gyms, courts, tracks and mats.
I want to hear the fans, the fight songs and feel the energy of a game winning goal, a walk-off homerun or a quarterback sack.
I can’t wait until the call to “Play ball” is shouted out again or watch a stadium of fans, players, band members and cheerleaders rise up for the opening kickoff.
I want to see high fives, fist bumps and hear the post-game alma-mater.
I want it for everyone else as well.
For those who play the game, those who coach the game, and the trainers who hold it all together.
Let’s not forget the officials running the game. You can’t have a contest without them.
Those in the band along with the cheerleading squads and dance teams deserve their night as well. They practice just as much as the players.
I feel good knowing that parents, families and friends will get the chance again to stand up with pride when someone they know slides into second base for a double, drills a three –pointer or pins their opponent.
I hope we all follow the safety guidelines put in place for the event and venue we are at and when it’s over we all remember that win or lose it’s still just a game.
But most of all I’m happy that somebody gets to say, “There’s a game today. Do you want to go?”