It’s not supposed to happen this way.
In the sports department at The Alligator, print nights mean food, sports debate and, of course, editing. It’s very much a social experience and you get to know your staff well after a few runs to La Tienda, and Chipotle, and Dick Mondell’s, well, you get the idea -- we eat a lot.
And we talk about sports a lot. Is Philip Rivers a Hall of Famer? Can Florida go to an SEC Championship game with Kyle Trask at quarterback? What do we make of Jameis Winston? Where is the #FireMikeWhite hive tonight? These questions and more can be answered at the wooden table that I’ve congregated around for three semesters on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday nights.
Despite moving over to the sports editor's desk this semester, I am still very much an active participant in those arguments and food runs.
I say it’s not supposed to happen this way because we haven’t edited as a group in five days (it’s been a week for me, because I’ve been on self quarantine after someone at a journalism conference I attended tested positive for coronavirus last week. Someone else from the conference tested positive on Monday). Our raucous sports debate has been replaced with strained communication over Google Hangouts as we adjust to social distancing in the wake that the coronavirus has left.
I write this to you as a sports editor with no sports left to edit.
Virtually everything has been suspended, canceled or postponed (and I’m sure Texans fans wish that applied to the start of the league year after Monday’s transactions). Just last week, we were gearing up to send two of our writers to Nashville, Tennessee, to cover the SEC Tournament. Now, March Madness has been canceled, as have all NCAA spring and summer championships and regular-season games, and professional sports leagues are on standby.
Sports bring people together in times of crisis, but the problem with coronavirus is that people physically coming together is the issue.
We’re in a kind of limbo, but everything is moving fast. There’s confusion which leads to indecision which leads to panic.
The Alligator is doing its part to sort out that confusion in our coronavirus coverage. The sports staff has transitioned to assist in covering the spread of the coronavirus and the response at UF and in Gainesville, Alachua County and Florida as a whole. We’re following the lead of our incredibly talented news staff to keep you updated on what you need to know.
That doesn’t mean our sports coverage is done entirely. There are still features to be published and if and when news comes out of the sports world, we’ll be there. But the sports coverage that we know is on hiatus along with the leagues we cover.
I hate that the coronavirus took away the opportunity for our writers to cover a once in a lifetime event. I feel for the senior student-athletes whose last chances at glory were stripped from them in terms of their respective postseasons. I empathize with the members of our staff and students at my university who will not have a traditional graduation after years of hard work.
But I recognize, in the grand scheme of things, that these are small sacrifices to make for the greater good. There are people much smarter than I am telling me to stay inside, minimize social contact and wash my damn hands. Who am I to question them?
Thank you for following The Alligator’s coverage of Gators sports teams. I encourage you to follow our coronavirus coverage. And I assure you that when it’s safe enough for athletes to return to courts and fields and for fans to pile into seats by the thousands, we’ll be back in the press box covering the teams you know and love.