Confession: I deal with anxiety.
It crops up in weird ways. A side effect is I don’t deal with change well. Even positive change isn’t always easy. If I had a nickel for the number of times my wife thought I was crazy for being something between distant and fraught after we signed for our condo or during our engagement, I could probably pay for the research to cure what’s ailing our society right now, Coronavirus or otherwise.
Even when I take time to think through consequences of change, the best way to cope, I still can’t always shake my feelings. Wednesday, after being glued to Twitter to track the Rudy Gobert saga, I encouraged my Facebook friends to remain calm, use “socially distancing” time to work on self-improvement and not get ahead of ourselves with worry. It was the most rational thing one could type.
And yet, I’m ill-at-ease. In conversation last night, as my quickened pace of trying to explain what all has been canceled only gained speed, my wife told me, bluntly: “You’re freaking out.” She’s right.
I hope it’s somewhat understandable. A healthy chunk of what she and I look forward to in spring got washed out over the last two days. The Marquette men’s and women’s lacrosse seasons I spent a lot of time working on music and game atmosphere for, thinking they’d be playing into May, are done. There won’t be my most-common distractions — watching Marquette Basketball, the Brewers or the Bucks — to keep me from thinking about real-world concern for people who don’t have it nearly as good. It won’t even feel right to go to a crowded bar, and there probably won’t be crowds anyplace for a while. My wife is facing the prospect of postponing an annual charitable fashion show she organizes, with upwards of 130 participants in a small space, a week from Saturday downtown. An event she was going to show at over Easter weekend in Las Vegas just got cancelled. Those constituted two of the three biggest days of her year; her nights have mostly been spent sewing since last fall. In a little over 24 hours, just about everything involved with our lives’ passions on a day-to-day basis, other than seeing each other and being around our cats, has been taken away from us, all without anyone or anything other than an invisible virus having an iota of control over it.
If it’s not apparent from how spottily Courtside was published in the 2019-20 season, sports media is not my primary means of income. It has dividends, but I do have a non-sports day job, much the way my wife has a non-fashion job. We’re in our 30s, still younger than the age range where they’re saying the disease is most dangerous. Yet, I’m around sports enough to know a lot of folks who depend on them for a living, the staff of 97.3 The Game among them. Those folks are going to have even more nothing to do over the next few weeks than my wife and I will, as well as no way to make a living. My empathy for them, and worry about what will happen to them, only adds to my anxiety.
When I was first thinking, nay hoping, sports would continue, even without fans, I thought of the people who might end up at home, quarantined, needing distractions. Sports on TV could have been a reminder to them that life would go on. But I’ve stopped thinking that. The way the Gobert thing went down made me too uncomfortable. The microphones he touched are too similar to the ones I own and use regularly. The officials he came in contact with, which caused the cancellation of the Pelicans/Kings game, wear stripes too similar to the many officials I bump fists with before countless college basketball games at Alverno & MATC’s scorers tables. It hit too close to home.
Before Marquette home games, a healthy collection of media and gameday staff eat together in a media dining room at Fiserv Forum. I’ve mentioned before that I’ve befriended a number of members of the scorer’s table crew, as most also work Bucks games and I sometimes work with them there. I usually eat with them. All have great stories and good senses of humor, mostly because they have been working games anywhere from 15 years up to Bob Wanek’s 52 years of time. That also means, frankly, they’re old. Some of them have health issues. I like those guys a lot, as I see in them what I’m probably going to be like when I get older myself. I’d hate to think what an errantly thrown sweaty towel or shooter shirt from someone like Gobert or Donovan Mitchell could have done to them. Again, anxiety.
Fortunately, we’ve shut everything down so nothing like that can happen. But, at the same time, we no longer have the events that gave me reason to get to know and like those guys. Even if it’s just for a month or two, a lot of us who work in this business, make sacrifices for it, spend a lot of our time away from home to cover it and provide the fuel for your passion for it, will feel far less than whole without sports. The mere prospect of it eats at my soul. To see the fragility of it all — how easily these venerable institutions, the NCAA, NBA and NHL, which have made this time of year so wonderful, for so many sports fans, for upward of a century, all just left our lives in a day’s time — makes you feel less secure about a lot of other things in your life, too.
But that’s where I remind myself the goal, ultimately, is for everything to eventually come back. Yes, we lose some time and have to sit idly by, hoping the smart folks and doctors can make things better. There’s a lot more on the line than hoping a jumper will go in. We need the faith humanity is smarter than something smaller than we can see that’s still strong enough to take life. That requires faith in something I know a lot less about than Markus Howard’s shooting ability. It makes me nervous. But I remind myself, too, as much as I trust those guys I eat with, I need to trust we’re doing the right things.
Sometimes, the best thing you can say to someone with anxiety is simply, “It’s gonna be OK.” Even if you don’t actually know if it will, that’s usually what I need to hear to feel a heck of a lot better. And, if anything, that’s the nicest thing I can think of saying to all of you readers. Humanity has survived plagues, outbreaks, wars, hatred, violence and Bob Dukiet. People are doing everything they can to make this better, and that’s all we can hope they can do. It’s gonna be OK.
It’s with that thought we, for better or worse, bring the 2019-20 Marquette Basketball season to a close. A sixth-place BIG EAST finish is about all the finality we’ll get. We can wonder what would have happened — to Howard, Steve Wojciechowski, the team, and so on. But we have other, more important things to think about first. It will require coping and dealing with anxiety. But I’ve decided to do my best to do exactly that, and hopefully you will, too.
It’s gonna be OK.
COURTSIDE (HEAVILY SANITIZED) SPLINTERS
QUICK THANKS & A THOUGHT: I’d be remiss without plausibly ending the season with a thank you to Jimmie Kaska, Tim Scott and all the folks at iHeart who let me do this. I say plausibly, though. I think we’re all going to be spending a lot of time sitting around our houses the next couple months. Writing might be a way to keep me from going stir crazy, and reading might be a way to keep you all from getting the same feeling. So don’t be surprised if I come up with a historical Marquette topic or two to write about during sports’ lull, if only out of boredom. Let’s leave the option open.
Photo: Getty Images