For 35 years, 365 days a year, there have only been a few things I could count on: my dog’s love, the sunrise, and that a game will be on tonight.
Only one week of my life did not include sports: the week following Sept. 11, 2001. But all of that changed on March 11, 2020.
At home, I sat down to watch an important Western Conference matchup between the Utah Jazz and Oklahoma City Thunder. The teams were on the floor, starting lineups had been announced, and the official was just about ready to toss up the opening tip. Then, a member of the Thunder medical staff came sprinting onto the floor, calling the officials over to the scorers’ table.
“That’s strange,” I thought. “Why would there be a delay?” About two minutes later, the teams were ushered off the floor, into the locker rooms. The 18,000 fans in attendance were left confused. But nationwide, this was about to become a much larger story.
Jazz starting center Rudy Gobert, who earlier in the day had been ruled out due to illness, had tested positive for COVID-19.
Immediately, I knew it was over. Everything was done. In short order, the NBA, NHL, MLB, XFL, and many international leagues were cancelled or placed on hiatus.
In the blink of eye, my world changed.
My older brother Jeremy, 10 years my senior, is at fault for my sports obsessions. As the only person in the family that cared at all about sports, he introduced me to the joys of Jazz basketball, the benefits of Denver Broncos football and the cautiousness of Chicago Cubs fans.
He and I attended countless Jazz games together, including the famous Michael Jordan “Flu Game.” We embraced and cried together when the Broncos won their first world championship; and joined Harry Caray for seventh-inning stretch renditions of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” more than I care to admit.
After my brother passed away unexpectedly months before I turned 16, sports became a way for me to stay connected to him.
As a child, I learned U.S. geography by identifying teams, cities and states; I learned the time zones so I knew when my Cubs, Broncos and Jazz would be playing, no matter where they were in the country. I learned discipline and hard work by playing basketball and baseball throughout my childhood.
Many of my fondest memories revolve around watching games with those that I love.
Taking my fiancée to Wrigley Field and getting our first MLB home run ball, watching the G.O.A.T. in the NBA Finals, sitting in the Wrigley Field bleachers during a World Series, watching Utah State Aggies basketball with my childhood best friend, and countless other cherished moments happened because of sports. Sports have taught me the importance of effective communication and chemistry.
As an adult, many of my friendships center around sports in some way. A shared team or a rivalry; a moment in time that we can remember together. Far too often, I see a stranger wearing a jersey or the hat of a team and will end up in a conversation with them. When my fiancée rolls her eyes at me over these instances, I laugh it off saying, “Sports bring everybody together.”
Anybody who has ever known me understands that I like sports. But these days, saying I “like” sports is an understatement.
Often, my schedule is planned around games. If I’m not playing, I’m watching; if I’m not watching, it’s probably because I’m working the game in some capacity.
I’ve been fortunate enough to find many opportunities to work directly with various sports: from my passion of broadcasting baseball, softball and soccer for Salt Lake Community College to my sports variety podcast, “Name Change Pending;” and my ultimate accomplishment — serving as the Cumulus Media correspondent for the Utah Jazz during the current 2019-20 season.
Unfortunately, all of that has dried up as well.
For nearly 20 years, sports have allowed me to stay connected with my brother. They encouraged me to leave my comfort zone and meet new people. Without the games, I feel lost. I often wonder these days how I pass any time without a game on in the background.
I miss the games.