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Friday, June 09, 2023
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Today, I sit outside my apartment. On a lemon-colored chair as I drink black tea, wear sweats because they’re cozy and write on my laptop. 

Tomorrow will mirror today. And the next day, and the next day. And the next day. My beverage might become the only variable. 

But I have lived this for nearly 365 days. And it will likely continue for many more. Because March 2020 never really ended. 

Nearly a year ago I met up with friends at The Social at Midtown. We always met up on Wednesday nights; it’s an Alligator tradition. 

I stood at the bar, ordered a pitcher and balanced my attention between the television screens above me and my iPhone’s. We knew of COVID-19. We figured the virus’ spread would invade our lives inevitably not suddenly. 

At 9:37 p.m., the NBA suspended the rest of its season. More dominoes fell. I left the bar that night numb to reality as it presented itself. I awoke with the reality hanging over my head. 

I wanted nothing more than to write for The Alligator. It’s why I chose to attend UF. That spring, I was hired and covered lacrosse. I even made plans to travel to Chapel Hill, North Carolina, to cover the Gators play another No. 1 team. 

But the virus left me, a few months into my first semester as an Alligator sports writer, without sports. 

I isolated, my routine disappeared and days blended into each other. Sports acted as a calendar. My schedule intertwined around games. But that facet of life faded, and life slogged during the pandemic. 

A Michael Jordan documentary returned some excitement to our lives. But only once a week. 

After that glorious episode, there was nothing fresh. Nothing exciting. Nothing to drop a bit of money on, if your state allowed it. 

Korean Baseball brought some of that excitement back. But only if you dared to wake up early or stay up late enough to follow its schedule. 

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Bundesliga returned first. I felt rejuvenated watching Erling Haaland’s figure flash in yellow across the screen. I forgot what it was like to be able to watch multiple sports. I felt as though I took that luxury for granted.  

Other European leagues picked up games, and as the U.S. attempted to handle the pandemic, so did North American sports. 

The fall semester then picked up. I had college football to care about again; some coaches said some things they probably shouldn’t have. But sports were back. 

It’s still surreal. After a year, everything remains unfamiliar. 

Covering sports is worse. I’m always afraid to get skipped in the Zoom chat queue during virtual media availabilities. Limited opportunities to travel, report in-person or do most of the things I love about my job. 

A vaccine is out, but we still haven’t figured out how to distribute them. But things slowly improve.

We’re not there yet, but we’re nearing the end. We just need a little more patience. So that when it’s safe, we’ll return to stadiums, sit together and watch sports again — together. 

Contact Christian Ortega and follow him on Twitter @unofficialchris

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