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Navigating the World of Sports When There Are No Sports to Cover

March 15, 2020

“Hail Varsity is a magazine, website and radio show dedicated to covering Nebraska Athletics.”  

I can’t begin to tell you the number of times I’ve said that very line over the last five or so months. I started working with students in Nebraska’s College of Journalism and Mass Communication early last November as part of the Roper Sports Reporter in Residence initiative. The point of the program is to connect professionals in the sports industry with journalism students, providing input, insight and more. 

I sat on a panel last Thursday alongside three others in what I figured would be the last thing I’d do with journalism students for the foreseeable future. Things had been canceled, suspended or postponed pretty much non-stop over the previous 48 hours, including the NBA, MLB and NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments. 

The students’ questions reflected the uncertainty. They wanted to know what we would do now and how our jobs would change amid the COVID-19 pandemic. All four of us sitting on that panel told them not to worry about us. We’ll figure it out. We always do. We told them we’d likely shift our focus from spring sports coverage to explaining what this all means and providing important context for our readers. We’d probably pull from the stories we planned for June and July—when news is slower—and use those sooner.  

But what do you do when you’re a sports reporter with no sports to cover? 

I’ve had a couple of days to reflect on this now and the answer is simple: I don’t know. 

I had my next few months planned as of last Monday. I had my plans set for spring football coverage, as well as beach volleyball and baseball. I had stories I wanted to tell (and still do) and balanced that with planning my wedding, an upcoming trip to California, a bridal shower, a honeymoon and a family vacation. These next few months were going to be busy, but I was ready. It was, after all, something I had been looking forward to so deeply for so long. 

I don’t know what any of that looks like now. 

What I do know is that a lot has changed in one week’s time. Basically, everything is canceled. Spring sports activities are on hold until at least April 6, recruiting has been moved into a mandatory dead period and we still have no idea what exactly is going on with the Huskers’ spring game. A lot of other Big Ten programs have already canceled theirs, but Nebraska hasn’t made any official announcement at the time this was published so it feels like we’re living in limbo. 

In the meantime, we’ve been asked to “social distance” to help “flatten the curve,” and you should be doing that as much as you are able. Universities—like Nebraska —have closed and moved to remote learning for a reason. The less people are around each other, the better. I know there are people unable to work from home, and I trust they’ll do everything they can to keep themselves and others safe as they do their best to navigate this time, but you shouldn’t be out in public gatherings right now if you can avoid it otherwise. Those packed bars in Chicago for St. Patrick’s Day over the weekend? Not great. 

We have a duty to one another, in this country and in the world. I say this knowing I have a large event taking place in two months, and Douglas County (where my wedding is happening) has its first community-spread case of COVID-19. One more reported case and things get even more strict in my area. It might not even matter after the CDC recommended all large events be canceled for the next eight weeks. I’m still OK by even those guidelines, but not by much. It’s a lot to process.

But beyond my personal life, my professional one has gotten more interesting too. I was prepared to show up Monday for an open portion of football practice followed by post-practice availability. There would have been photos and video and stories and reports. I never imagined that would have been taken away as quickly as we had gotten it. Things were perfectly normal on Monday, March 9. Beach volleyball was in action at the Hawks Championship Center, while football kicked off their spring press conference on the sixth floor of Memorial Stadium. One week later, we have no idea when things might get back to normal. Whatever “normal” might be going forward. 

Don’t let anyone fool you and tell you there’s nothing to talk about though. While there may not be any games to recap or box scores to report, the stories never fade away. Every story I wanted to tell is still a story worth telling in the right time. That hasn’t changed. 

Hail Varsity will continue to be the magazine, website and radio show dedicated to covering Nebraska Athletics. Things may look a little different right now—and they probably will for some time—but it’s going to be OK. 

In the meantime, if you are looking for practical ways to keep yourself safe and to help in your community, I wanted to provide some of those ideas below. This is going to be a tough time for many, so hopefully we can still support one another through the uncertainty.  

Some ways to keep yourself safe: 

  • Most importantly, wash your hands often and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with your hands. 
  • Avoid close contact with people, especially those that are sick. Refer back to the social distancing mention above. 
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with the inside of your elbow 
  • Manage your stress and anxiety by doing things like sticking to a routine, managing the media you consume, checking in on others, and more

Some ways to help those in your community:  

  • Buy gift cards for your favorite shop, theater or restaurant.
  • Shop local, but online (a number of local businesses are offering free shipping to incentivize you to do so) .
  • Want to support your favorite local restaurant for dinner? Consider curbside pickup or delivery. 
  • Tip generously, if you are able. 
  • And again, avoid close contact with people.  
  • Be kind to yourself and to others.

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Tags: COVID-19