In this strangest of winter sports seasons, it’s no surprise that the only certainty is uncertainty.
The season was delayed by two weeks, and in the two weeks since that delay was lifted, the schedule has already been reshaped by more cancellations and coronavirus updates, and when the games do go on as planned, they’re being played in front of mostly empty bleachers. That all makes for a bit of a headache around the Transcript Bulletin sports department, currently mostly housed in my bedroom in the basement of the townhome I share with two of my friends. (It also means no trips to the concession stand at halftime — just a trip upstairs to the fridge for a ham sandwich.) Fortunately, because of technology, it’s not as big a headache as it might have been, and in some ways, it might even be better.
When I took my first job as a sports writer in 2006, live-streaming as we know it today didn’t really exist, if it did at all. Facebook hadn’t launched Facebook Live, and even if it had, I, embarrassingly enough, was still using a flip phone that didn’t even have a color screen. Now, thanks to NFHS Network and KSL’s live streaming site, I can watch the games from the comfort of my own home, and I can even replay the games once they’re archived later that night if there’s something I missed earlier.
In the past, something like this would have meant no coverage at all. Now, it actually means I can cover two games in the same night, which I never really could before. I watched Tooele’s boys basketball game against Logan on NFHS Network on Tuesday night, and a couple hours later, I was able to watch the archived video of Stansbury’s girls basketball game against Bear River on KSL. Wednesday night, I watched Stansbury’s boys basketball game against Cyprus on NFHS Network, and then went to TrackWrestling.com to find results from Stansbury’s first Region 10 dual of the season. Admittedly, it’s not a perfect system — I couldn’t find wrestling results for Tooele or Grantsville online — but it’s certainly better than how things used to be.
Would I rather be in the stands watching games in person? Absolutely. There’s a lot to be said for being able to sit near the benches and hear what’s going on during a timeout — though the gyms are so empty and quiet, you can almost hear that just as well on the streams. Being able to see the emotion on the players’ faces gives context to my stories, and so does getting to talk to them face-to-face minutes after the final buzzer sounds. I miss the crowds. I even sort of miss hearing their misplaced complaints about coaches and officials — though only “sort of.”
Given the current situation with COVID-19, I find myself having to be patient and flexible, just like everyone else. I hate that crowds are so limited. I hate that games are being cancelled. And, no offense to my roommates or halftime ham sandwiches, but I don’t particularly like a lot of things about having to watch most games from home. But, if these sacrifices mean our student-athletes get to play on and have just a little bit of normalcy in all this chaos, it’s more than worth it.
Darren Vaughan is a veteran sports writer from Moab, Utah. This year was the first time in 23 years that he didn’t attend a single high school football game in person. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.