An unprecedented time in sports, life

Posted 3/27/20

There are times in life that you never forget where you were when a particular event occurred. The Miracle on Ice, N.C. State defeating Houston for the ‘83 hoops national title, and 9/11 certainly …

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An unprecedented time in sports, life

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There are times in life that you never forget where you were when a particular event occurred. The Miracle on Ice, N.C. State defeating Houston for the ‘83 hoops national title, and 9/11 certainly come to mind for me for a variety of reasons, both good and bad.

Now Thursday, March 12, is certainly on that list for me personally.

I was down in Bear Creek at a 1A Yadkin Valley Conference track meet between Chatham Central, Albemarle, Gray Stone Day, and North Stanly, enjoying the competition, like any other day from my more than 23 years of covering sports.

Now, of course, I was well aware of the coronavirus and the problems it was causing worldwide, but still, in the back of my mind, it really hadn’t hit me the severity of the situation. Or maybe it had and I was in denial.

Well, I found out just how real a situation it was that night when word began circulating around the track meet, boys tennis match, and girls softball areas that sports would be put on hold in Chatham County until April 7. I remember standing there with Chatham Central Athletic Director and good friend Bob Pegram and the school’s Assistant Principal Matthew Wilkins, and discussing exactly what our thoughts were and what the future may hold in what is an unprecedented time in sports and life.

In the week and a half since that evening I heard a great deal of discussion from people around Chatham County, parents, players, coaches, fans, administrators, teachers; it’s just the dominating theme of our life, the prevailing topic of conversation in so many ways.

While riding home one day I began thinking of some of the prevailing words that continued to reoccur in these conversations, and for some reason I came up with a new word in my head to sum them up, almost like playing the game Scrabble, which I used to play with my grandmother. And that word was SABAEVA.

Now honestly, the word sounds like a Russian Siberian Buryat surname, as my wife’s last name was Altaeva, and subconsciously I’m sure that played a part in the deriving of it. In her homeland, common Buryat names are Bambaeva, Pantaeva (Irina the famous model and actress), Dagbaeva and the like. But alas, SABAEVA didn’t derive centuries ago on the Siberian steppes with the indigenous Buryats, but rather here 8,000 miles away in Chatham County.

The letter “S” in my new word SABAEVA stands for what we all feel currently, Sadness. And its not so much for myself, the coaches, and even the parents, but for the kids here in Chatham County on all the teams whether its baseball, softball, track, tennis, soccer, lacrosse, golf — it’s just a sad feeling.

Don’t get me wrong. I feel bad for the likes of John Will Headen at J-M, Brett Walden at Chatham Central, David Miller of Northwood and Bill Slaughter at Chatham Charter, all of who were set to have banner years on the baseball diamond. But they’ve all had their days as players and coaches. It’s just different when talking about the kids not only in high school, but middle school and recreation ball, in our county and across the state and nation, robbed due to a health hazard that was sprung upon us almost out of the blue. Sixteen teams were set to decide eight state titles in basketball two days after the announcement on that Thursday, and they will never get the chance to know if they could have won as a NCHSAA state title.

The first letter “A” stands for Anxiety. We all have felt it to some extreme or another, whether its worrying about your job, business, loved ones — it’s everywhere and it’s real.

My first real experience with the anxiety that the coronavirus would cause was that night down at Chatham Central when a well-known young lady who competes for the Lady Bears came up and spoke to Coach Pegram, Assistant Principal Wilkins and myself. I will never forget it. I was left in almost shock and thinking, “Wow, this is serious and how do you explain to a teenager that things will be OK when she’s expressing such valid concerns?” Missing her final spring season of sports, missing school and not seeing her lifelong friends on a daily basis, missing a prom for which she had already purchased a dress and was so excited about, and possibly missing her graduation with all her classmates to celebrate 12 years of accomplishments and hard work. All just heartbreaking thoughts that were running through her mind and probably most other teenagers. But then, she took it a step further, and showed how caring a young lady she is, and said, “They say it affects elderly people more, I don’t want anything to happen to my grandparents.” That was a real dose of reality in that moment, and real anxiety over fear of something happening to loved ones. As adults really not having a sure answer to give her other than words of reassurance that all would be OK was a tough pill to swallow.

The letter “B” has been a common theme, and most parents can identify I’m sure, and that’s Boredom. Kids of all ages all of a sudden have been yanked out of the classroom, off the sports fields and courts, and now can’t even go out to a restaurant just to have a sweet tea and burger with their friends. And the younger ones. I mean, parents are having to create academic schedules and forms of entertainment while juggling work around it to try and keep the kids from going stir crazy.

Next is the letter “A” again, this time for Athletics, or the lack thereof. So many people have brought up the cancellation of March Madness, the Masters, Major League baseball, and the likes, all staples of spring time in America. For me, the withdrawals of not having March Madness have been difficult; it’s just one of my favorite times of the year.

The letter “E” stands for the Elderly. It’s been noted from day one that this terrible virus affects our elderly population more than any other age bracket and that has been a big topic of conversation among many I know. So especially with those over 80, it’s up to us to take real precautions and the social distancing needs to be part of our daily life for a while.

With that said, “V” can be a something very positive in these trying times, and that’s Virtual. With Skype, Facetime, and other apps we can communicate like never before. And the Virtual aspects are key for our kids to continue to get an education online while at home as well as our college students. It can also be used to set up play times and discussions with the kids missing their friends, and more importantly in some regards, with the elderly population, which often includes grandparents, to make them feel still connected. Medically, the virtual hospital and health care visits online are going to be an area that will grow exponentially due to this virus, which is at least one good aspect to come out of a bad situation.

The final “A” stands for America. We’ve been through hard times before, and one thing Americans always do is pull together and help out others. This situation certainly is unique, but the efforts by so many to help others and the overall response has been amazing to see. But it’s no surprise, because this is America, and it’s what we do. God Bless America!

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