I was at the media table just inside the doors at Williams Arena Friday morning about 10:30 waiting to get my media credentials for the Girls State Basketball Tournament. A Minnesota high school league official came out and told us the girls tournament was cancelled! No games today or tomorrow! Coronavirus wins again!
The Minneota Viking girls’ basketball team was to play in the Class A semi finals at noon Friday. I arrived at Williams Arena around 10am. The University of Minnesota worker, working the media table told me she couldn’t get me inside yet because she hadn’t received an updated media list of who was approved to enter. Things have changed since Thursday afternoon she said. A few other radio and newspaper people were waiting with me. We made small talk for half an hour, patience was wearing thin with some people. They needed to get inside, I needed to get to press row. Why the delay? Then the announcement was made that all games had been cancelled. Even the boys state basketball tournament next week.
The Coronavirus had claimed another event. As I stood with the other media people, we all took out our cell phones immediately to get the word out. As I was texting and posting on social media, my emotions were everywhere! At first I got angry, I was looking forward to broadcasting the game. A high school sportscasters dream is to broadcast at state! I have been blessed to do that many times and I still get a huge adrenaline rush! I was also excited about my broadcast partner Morgan Kockelman, who made her radio debut the day before and did a really good job and I knew she was looking forward to calling the game with me again. She said she had so much fun Thursday. I was upset that wasn’t going to happen for her. I was also angry because I didn’t agree with the decision. Just let the girls play the game with nobody in the stands! I wasn’t in the room when they made that decision and I’m sure it wasn’t an easy one to make. Safety comes first and I understand that, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. To say I was upset was an understatement.
Then my emotions took me to sadness. Extreme sadness. I started to tear up standing there looking at my phone. I turned towards the wall so nobody could see me. My heart broke thinking about the Minneota girls not being able to play and possibly win another state championship! I’m close with the Hennen family and I’ve seen Morgan and Abby grow up. Morgan is the only senior on the team. This is how it was going to end for her. I thought about Coach Johnston, he lost his thirteen-year-old niece last week to cancer and his family had to deal with that and now he had to tell his team the bad news. I know how Chad and Dale love those girls. I stopped what I was doing on my phone and called Morgan and Abby’s dad Steve to see how they were doing. They had just found out. I know it’s just sports but this one really hurt.
As I was leaving Williams Arena and walking to my car I kept thinking to myself that this isn’t happening. What is happening? I stopped walking in the parking lot a couple of times to look back at historic Williams Arena thinking I’m supposed to be in there broadcasting the Vikings state basketball game, not walking to my car going home. I had read the night before John’s Journal and how the Coronavirus was effecting my friend John Millea of the MSHSL. It was a very powerful and emotional writing. John has a passion for high school sports/activities like I do and many others also. His Journal Thursday night moved me to tears while reading it. I felt his pain, but now in the parking lot I had that same pain. I wasn’t supposed to be standing in the parking lot, I wanted to be in Williams Arena. Coronavirus stole that from me.
Thursday and Friday at the state girls’ basketball tournament was one to remember. I felt like I was in a movie. It was surreal. Everything seemed normal until I signed off the air Thursday after Minneota had beat Red Lake in the quarterfinals. I had just taken my headset off, when Todd from Willmar radio was standing behind me and told me that the MSHSL had just cancelled all consolation and third place games for Friday. I was stunned. From that moment until I was walking to my car Friday morning was not normal! Not normal at all! I was anticipating celebrating another state championship Saturday with my friends from Minneota! That didn’t happen. The Corona-virus stole that from me and others!
I guess it’s another life lesson. I know some of you are saying that there is more to life than sports, Paul. You are right, but if you love something and are passionate about it and it’s taken away from you, you have a right to be upset about it and I am. I do know that the God I serve is in charge and he has a plan for our lives. He tells us to cast all of our cares on him (1 Peter 5:7) and when we do he puts peace in our heart. Life goes on and we need to celebrate another fun and great season the Minneota Viking girls’ had on the court.