What Now?

My typical approach to a piece like this would be to find an analogy to ride on into the blog-sunset. I often rely so heavily on the little wit I actually have, so steering away from that approach is a bit terrifying. I’ve been wracking my brain all morning; gosh, what joke can I make to help all of this feel a bit less surreal and brutal? Is there an Office reference I can pinpoint? It’s not the best mindset to employ, but how might Michael Scott approach this? 

Here’s something, maybe, I guess. Not a joke, but a thing that happened the other day. I wept upon realizing that I didn’t have the same spring break as my brother. Traditionally, we go home, and almost always, the preliminary rounds of the NCAA Tournament start that week. We plant ourselves in the guest room – it was once and will forever be deemed the “playroom” – for hours, four screens at our disposal, trying to keep one eye on every game. He’d take his laptop and a phone; I’d man the TV and my laptop. At halftime, or if the games got out of hand, we’d play one-on-one on the mini-hoop hanging on the back of the door. We’re both taller than the rim; I always won. We had rules: no blocking shots taken from behind the designated three-point line, games to 100 (by twos and threes), and sometimes, we’d go nuts and foul the living daylights out of one another without penalty. By the end of the afternoon, we’d watched 16 basketball games, played another eight or so, and laughed until we couldn’t breathe.

But voila. No more reason to cry; he’s home, I’m home, though it sometimes feels like we’re stuck at home. I’m home because of a predetermined break, as any Marist reader knows, while he was sent home from school. I might as well have been sent home; were it not my designated spring break already, I likely would have been within the week, as the mass hysteria – a word with a negative connotation, though it’s applicable here – surrounding the coronavirus pandemic ramped up to heights we hadn’t necessarily foreseen. And it all came within a 48-or-so-hour span. Is it just me, or is it getting crazier out there? 

It’s funny that it seemed to get even crazier when a couple of multi-billion dollar organizations – primarily ones related to sport, those that we tend to watch in primetime, or throughout March, or on Sundays – decided to take a break. As if they were supposed to do anything but. For it to sink in, we needed to watch Rudy Gobert touch a bunch of sound equipment, therefore treating the disease with overwhelming and frightening flippancy. We needed Gobert and Donovan Mitchell to get diagnosed. We needed college basketball conference tournaments to get suspended and then canceled. And for Kansas and Duke to tear up their tickets to the once-inevitable dance. And for March Madness, the dance, to follow suit, rescinding all of its forthcoming invitations. The NBA, too, though it’s not canceled… yet. They might play in June, if this passes. I doubt anyone tees off at Augusta this year, regardless of “postponed” being their elected verbiage. Naturally behind the eight ball, the MLB just delayed the start of their season. The NFL agreed on a new CBA on Sunday, but haven’t pushed back the start of the new NFL year (March 18). They’ll postpone it; they’d be idiots not to. Well, actually…

I think a lot about the entertainment world, so innately, that popped into my head, too. A Quiet Place Part II, No Time to Die, Fast and Furious 9, and Mulan are just some of the titles to have been delayed (F9 was pushed back a full year, even after Vin Diesel vowed to personally fight off the virus). I had plans to see Never Rarely Sometimes Always and First Cow at my local indie theater this weekend; I’ll wait 14 days or so. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still seeing new movies. Just those that are a bit more accessible. Spenser Confidential is pretty lousy. Lost Girls is fine. I stopped believing about 30 minutes into an online leak of I Still Believe (I guess I believed enough to finish it; maybe I was just bored).

And so here we are. This feels like an extended, peculiar sick day. We have movies on sick days. We have reruns, infomercials, streaming services, and American Idol auditions on the DVR, since they already taped those (it’s a shame we won’t see Rozzo on the live shows, since those won’t be happening). It is different, though, in that we’re kind of living in a world without sports, for however long. On the typical sick day, I’d plop on the couch with my glass of ESPN and hearty bowl of talking heads. I can still do that, to an extent. It’s just more 2006 Big East tournament game reruns than opinions from Stephen A. or Stugotz.

Typically, not just on sick days but on any day, my conversations with friends and family center around sport. It’s tougher to have in-person conversations with friends right now; really, it’s tough to have conversations with anyone. My brother and I have this oddly competitive streak where we inadvertently try to beat each other to reporting the newest sports news to the house. Lately, the “heydya hear Tannehill signed?’ announcements have been traded in for “heydya hear about the updated death tally?” declarations. Morbid, I know. But we’re kind of at a loss here. We stopped competing, I promise.

Typically, if I was at school – and I was doing this until we were sent home – I’d hightail it to Lowell Thomas. “Sheesh, I guess that means the Titans are out on Brady?” would be traded in for “Wow, did you guys see Murray’s email?” Of course they did. But what else are we supposed to say? Smile and act as though nothing is changing? It’d be foolish.

Typically, we’d all convene for our 11:00 team meeting on Wednesdays, ready to hand out assignments for the week. “Who’s free on Saturday? Water polo plays Harvard.” “I can.” “Thanks, Sam. Bridget, can you let athletics know?” “I’m on it.” Pretty formulaic and standard; we liked it that way. It worked. Afterward, meaning after I concluded the meeting, no one would move. Some of the guys would remain in the corner discussing the Knicks; God only knows why. Jake often asked me if I had seen a recently released film. I was always proud when my answer was yes. 

Nothing is typical anymore. Not presently, and I don’t expect it will be for some time. It was weird. The second Dennis Murray’s email appeared in my inbox, it was filtered into the “Other” folder (Microsoft Outlook, you fiend). So I didn’t see it the second many of my other friends did. It was probably the fact that it was read to me – he wrote we’d be home for an extra week, maybe longer – but my reaction in real time was subdued. “Huh. Well.” It wasn’t that I didn’t care. It’s that my instinct is to think about things comprehensively, from beginning to end, and I couldn’t do that here. I had no idea what would come next. I had no clue what would happen to the website, to its staff. I didn’t even consider this beautiful thing, we call it the internet, the fact that mass groups of people can communicate over any messaging platform they please; we could hand out assignments that way, toss ideas around. There are no bad ideas in a brainstorm, and you can always muster up a brainstorm, no matter where you are in comparison to your them

Then the MAAC canceled all spring sports, practices and competitions alike, and I, again, tried to think comprehensively, failing, shrugging. Another “huh,” another “well.” I suppose this is where I comment on the state of this website, something I admittedly was worried about at first: nothing has changed, even though so much has changed, and nothing will change. We’ve been “sent home,” and plenty of us have resigned ourselves to the fact that we won’t be returning this year. And as much as everything seems to be changing ever-so frequently and drastically, we won’t be. The barrel might look a bit barer than we’d like. There aren’t games to write about, after all. There are, however, still players to write about, still columns to conjure up, still stories to be told. Think about it: plenty of spring sport seniors thought their careers were over. We were going to write about that. Instead, the NCAA is giving them a gift. Now, we’ll write about that.

But I’m also not naïve to the fact that this is inconvenient. Not the state this site is in – we’ll adapt; at risk of tooting a horn, we always do – but the state sport is in. I liked how Brian Phillips put it. Amidst this coronavirus crisis (how is that only the second time I’ve mentioned it by name?), he wrote, “here’s sport, acting as an emblem both of what we’re afraid will happen and of what we’re afraid we will lose.” 

Gone in a flash quicker than the typical flash went sport, out of our immediate accessibility, off of TV listings. Trying to think comprehensively, I tried to believe that it was all a dream when TNT looked to be going ahead with their broadcast of Lakers-Rockets on Thursday. I clicked; it was Lakers-Bucks from Dec. 19. I was disappointed, then weirdly comforted. Prior to that click, my housemates and I had finished an especially calming episode of Our Planet. When it ended, they asked, “what now?” “You kidding?” I said. “We watch this.”

We never ask “what now?” when we have a sense of what to do now. We only ask it when we’re in such uncharted territory that we literally don’t know what to do now. We dislike ignorance. And so it feels strange to not inquire about what happens now, even as we face perhaps the most uncertainty anyone my age (21) has ever experienced. We can’t remember 9/11; I can’t even remember the Ice Storm that hit the American northeast when I was a kid. Apparently, there wasn’t any toilet paper then either. So I’ll just answer the “what now?” question instead of asking it. We write, we edit, we publish. We adapt when need be. We do what we’ve always done. Toot, toot.

And we wash our hands, too.

Edited by Bridget Reilly

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