About two weeks ago, my wife posed an interesting question to me.
We were about to travel to Stillwater to celebrate my mother-in-law’s birthday. After tirelessly providing coverage of our local basketball teams the week before, I needed the escape.
No better way to spend an extra day off than being around loved ones for a special occasion, right?
However, shortly before our departure, my wife revealed to me that we’d be spending most of the evening at an Oklahoma State baseball game against Missouri Southern.
There was an option attached with this revelation, though.
“She said we can do her birthday tomorrow if we don’t want to go,” said my wife, who admittedly despises sports. “So do you still want to go today?”
I pondered the question.
I am a sports writer, so one would think this to be an easy choice. Not quite.
I love sports, sure. But even the most dedicated connoisseurs need a break every now and then to recharge.
Suffering through a burnout is no fun, and it isn’t something you can just push through. It must run its course.
This day — March 3 — wasn’t about me, though. It was about spending time with family, and the last thing I wanted to do was delay a birthday celebration for selfish reasons.
So, we went to the game. We didn’t stay the entirety of the contest because the Mexican restaurant we were going to had an early closing time, but I didn’t spend much time paying attention to that bit of action I was present for.
OSU lost 11-10, but I didn’t much care. It was just one of the hundreds of games I’ve seen in recent years.
I do, however, care about sports as a whole.
I took for granted an opportunity to enjoy college athletics, thinking they’d always be around. I couldn’t have been more misguided.
On Thursday, the NCAA announced the cancellation of all winter-sport postseasons and the entire spring-sports season to prevent the possible spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).
Even Rogers State couldn’t escape the scope of this mass cancellation.
The Hillcats men’s basketball team was ranked 18th in Division II and was set to play in its first NCAA Tournament in school history as a No. 6 seed.
RSU softball was off to its best start of the NCAA era at 21-8 and reached as high as No. 11 in the national rankings.
Nick Williams, a track and field senior, ranked fifth nationally in the 3,000-meter steeplechase.
Both golf programs tallied team wins and seemed to be locks for regional tournament appearances.
If that wasn’t enough, the OSSAA postponed several athletic activities. Most programs in Rogers County, with the exception of a few, have placed themselves on hiatus.
This news hit me hard. Sports are a huge part of my life, and they are responsible for my livelihood.
Now they are gone indefinitely, so what now?
Several people have already asked the question, “What will you cover now?”
A lot of things, actually. There is more to sports writing than just covering games.
Although there are no stats to keep and no action photos to shoot, these affected players are still a part of the community. They didn’t suddenly disappear and lose their purpose.
When covering games, my main objective is to find the human element of the story. The story isn’t that the game happened, or the stats it provided.
Games are gone for the time being, but that human element aspect is not.
The Progress’ coverage the next few days and even weeks will largely focus on delivering that to you. You’ve already gotten a glimpse at how some Claremore athletes have been affected by the coronavirus outbreak, but what of those RSU student-athletes whose seasons came to an abrupt halt, possibly ending their athletic careers entirely?
The struggles they are going through will be presented to you starting this week. Our goal is to not only inspire our readers through these stories of heartbreak, but also to introduce who these people are off the fields and courts.
Sports are supposed to bring us together in times like this and serve as our refuge from a world of sadness and terror, and they still can.
It won’t be in the traditional manner we’re all used to, but there are inspiring stories all over the place, especially Rogers County.
The coronavirus is but a spoke on the wheel of sports. Things might look bad right now, but sports will prevail.
Destiny — along with the human struggle, emotion and willpower that sports are built on — wills it so.