It feels good to be back in the saddle again | Sports | #sports | #elderly | #seniors
You’ve probably noticed my byline has suddenly switched back to sports over the past 10 days after spending the previous eight months somewhere in the A section of our newspaper, and that was not just a brief reprieve from the education beat.
Yes, James Barron is back writing sports.
It feels good, and the symmetry was almost too perfect. It was 14 months ago that I last got the chance to cover a sporting event — the state basketball tournament. And so it was that my triumphant return just so happened to be during the state basketball tournament.
Of course it was, because nothing says sports in Northern New Mexico more than basketball.
And to have fans in the stands in The Pit, no matter how limited, was refreshing, not just for this sports writer but for every prep fan in the state. While it feels good to be back in sports, it just feels good to have sports back.
We can debate the merits of this truncated high school season (and we will at some point) as well the value of blue trophies versus just simply playing sports once again (also for a later topic). But for right now, let’s bask in the glow of things that we missed — like basketball.
The events since March 2020 feel like a blur. So much happened, and so much of it not good. We didn’t just lose games, sports and our way of life (for a minute). We lost loved ones, friends, neighbors and so many thousands of New Mexicans that we can only bring back in our memories — and not all of them from COVID-19.
Never has a winter felt colder (even if meteorologists say it wasn’t) than this one. Sure, pro and college football was there to make us feel normal — but it wasn’t. The shortened MLB and NBA seasons were nice distractions, but the looming specter of a disease was apparent.
The darkness of winter gave way to the hope of spring, which seemed to brighten with every announcement of openings, whether it was schools, sports or businesses. It was during those dark times that I decided I missed sports too much to stay away for so long. Truth be told, sports was a small part of it.
I missed the people I got to know — the players, the coaches, the administrators, the fans and, yes, friends I’ve made over the past 17-plus years. Some of you kept in touch. Some of you said you missed me. Absence truly does make the heart grow fonder, and I couldn’t stand it anymore.
The excitement of returning to sports grew with each passing day, until the calendar hit April, knowing May was coming soon. Dreams of walking into Capital’s Edward A. Ortiz Memorial Gym or Santa Fe High’s Toby Roybal Memorial Gym or Perez-Shelley Gymnasium at St. Michael’s danced in my head.
Then, the darkness reemerged.
Yes, I was vaccinated, but I got it while tending to my girlfriend, who had contracted it just days after receiving her first shot. Fortunately, the virus didn’t affect me badly — just a head cold for a few days and I felt better.
But for four days, I got to know what families and loved ones endured as they tried to help someone who struggled with the symptoms. I had the dreaded nightmare scenario of knowing someone who went to the hospital staring me in the face. I had to deal with the possibility that someone I cared about might not make it.
There is nothing in the world to prepare you for waking up in the middle of the night, looking at the readings of an oximeter (a device most of us wouldn’t have known from a hole in the wall 14 months ago) and wondering if a trip to the emergency room was needed. It was scary, and I wish that on nobody because of how it can shake you.
My girlfriend pulled through, the tough bird. She’s doing better, walking around and telling me it’s time to get a haircut and a shave. I cherish hearing that — even if I haven’t done it yet. She’s here and that’s all that matters.
But so many aren’t, and I can’t imagine the pain their loved ones endured — but I have a better inkling than I did three weeks ago.
Having endured that, I had to go through the 10-day quarantine period, which ended May 5. It was weird watching games online, then calling coaches and players to talk about it. But, hey, it was sports, and there was a song in my heart.
It was a great feeling walking down The Pit ramp for the Class 2A girls basketball championship last week, sort of like wearing an old T-shirt that still kinda fit (thanks again, COVID-19). But it was nothing compared to coming home to a loved one who could see the spring in your step and the smile on your face. That matters more than any game, and it’s not even close.
So, with all of that, let me offer one public service announcement. If you’re on the fence about the vaccine, I recommend you get it. It worked for me, and helped save me from a world of pain (I’m pretty sure of it). It could help you, too.
Besides, wouldn’t you rather have a debate about something more fun and interesting — like sports?
Lord knows I missed you, too.