DANIEL YOUNGBLOOD: Uncertainty hits home amid coronavirus response

A week ago Monday, my partner Evan Ren and I were sitting down to do interviews with Jayton’s Ryan Bleiker and San Saba’s Mark Kyle for our weekly podcast.

Evan was planning his trip to San Antonio to cover those men’s teams at the University Interscholastic League’s boys basketball state championships, and I was prepping for a baseball tournament that was scheduled to be held here in Abilene over the weekend.

As it turned out, neither of us would reach our destination.

Instead, Evan was hospitalized Tuesday for a case of pneumonia that would put him on the shelf for a week, and most of what I was planning to cover in his stead was canceled or postponed amid growing concern over the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.

What a difference a week makes.

While sitting down Thursday afternoon to write up the recap from Jayton’s 45-28 state semifinal loss to Slidell, with plans to write a feature on a special group of San Saba athletes after that, it was announced to the crowd at the Alamodome that the boys basketball state tournament would be suspended after the first two sessions. This left the Class 2A, 4A, 5A and 6A tournaments unstarted.

Shortly after that, the news came down that, effective Monday, the UIL would be suspending all sanctioned athletic activity until March 29, putting the baseball, softball, tennis, golf and track seasons on hold.

Just like that, Texas high school athletics were joining their pro and college counterparts in coronavirus limbo, and many of us were losing some of our favorite pastimes — and the sense of normalcy and security sports bring.

For the first time in a long time, our weekly plans would not be dictated, or at least influenced, by our favorite teams’ schedules, which — in an instant — lost all weight they had previously held.

All of the sudden, the future felt uncertain.

As America and the world work to fight the spread of this global pandemic, that feeling of uncertainty has become a common one in most aspects of our lives. And for your friends at Big Country Preps, last week served as a harsh, but necessary reminder that we’re not immune to that feeling.

When Evan told me he wasn’t feeling well Sunday night, I figured it was a cold. I’m ashamed to admit this now, but my first concern was whether or not he’d be able to make his planned trip to the Alamodome.

When he texted me Monday afternoon from the emergency room, I felt some well-earned guilt as my priorities were jolted back into rhythm.

I told him to forget about the website and to focus on getting well, and then tried to figure out how I’d add his workload to my own, starting with what would turn out to be our final Big Country Preps Player of the Week column for a while.

I was finally getting into a rhythm as the state tournament neared, even making plans to attend Saturday’s championship games should one of our teams advance.

It was then that I got another dose of reality and learned as Evan had earlier in the week just how little control we have over the world around us.

The event cancellations/postponements that I’d watched pile up throughout the week finally hit home with the suspension of the state semifinal games — a decision that may have cost San Saba the opportunity to complete its storybook season.

Like that, I was asking the same questions everyone else was amid the growing national and global concerns over the spread of COVID-19.

“So, what do I do now?”

“How long will this last?”

“What do I need to do to keep my friends and family safe?”

And after coming to grips with the relative uncertainty surrounding each of those questions, I arrived at one more unique to me.

“What do you do with a website devoted to high school athletics — and the celebration of those who make them possible — when there are no high school sports to cover?”

As with just about everything else at this point in time, there’s some uncertainty here as well. But one thing I can confidently say is that Evan and I are as committed as ever to mining out meaningful stories and providing quality content during this down time — even if we don’t know exactly what that will look like right now.

I think we could all use a momentary distraction from the valid fears and concerns unearthed during this outbreak, and we’re determined to help here where we can. 

In the meantime, I want to thank you for reading this and offer a special thanks to our subscribers, whose support has made our coverage — and this website in general — possible. We’re grateful that your love of Big Country athletics matches our own and has provided an avenue to realize our dream and vision for Big Country Preps. 

As we wait together, uncertain of what the future holds, please remember to take care of yourselves and each other.

This is a difficult time, but we’ll get past it. And we’ll have our sports to enjoy when we do.

And when the kids do eventually return to the court/field, plan on seeing Evan and me at their games — with our cameras, our notepads and an even greater appreciation for the job we’re privileged to do. 

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