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Parker Tillson:

Sports have played a significant role in my life for as long as I can remember. I played baseball and hockey growing up, but I am a full-time fan and reporter now. My perennial love for competition has kept me attached to sports my whole life. They were always a pleasant distraction, something I could fall back on no matter what was going on in my life.

I thought that would never change. I thought there would always be another game tomorrow. I thought there would always be something new to argue with my friends about.

Nevertheless, here we are in a world without sports.

It seems unfathomable, but with the current state of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was absolutely necessary for every professional sports league to suspend play. That does not change the fact that it is inherently bizarre to wake up every day without a game to watch or cover.

I am now a sports reporter in a place where sports don’t exist. In other words, I am unemployed.

As the first week or so without sports passed, I started to see how big of a role they played in my daily routine. My morning coffee was just not the same without watching yesterday’s highlights that I’d already seen four or five times the night before.

I watched a few of the old games that ESPN aired and a couple episodes of the talk shows that normally came on, but they eventually ran out of things to talk about, so I stopped watching.

As soon as I did, it became apparent to me how much of my day was spent consuming sports-related media. It was just weird to see how dull my life was without the constant flow of new games, trade rumors and issues to talk about.

I have found other ways to keep myself occupied, but this break from sports has made me realize how much I miss watching, playing and covering the sports I love.

I miss the excitement of Opening Day and the giddy anticipation of a new baseball season. I miss the intensity and the unpredictability of playoff hockey. I miss watching a 35-year old LeBron James command a league of players more than a decade younger than him. I miss waking up at 6:30 a.m. on a Saturday to watch the English Premier League, even when Arsenal lost.

I miss the homey atmosphere that inhabits a Razorback baseball game. I miss the Hog Pen, the home of the best fans in college baseball. I miss watching Hog fans place their beers on their heads in hopes of a Razorback grand slam. I miss the harmonious Hog call that rings around the stadium during a late-inning mound visit. I miss the late-game heroics and even the heartbreaks that seem to find the Hogs a little too often.

Covering sports has allowed me to witness these things every day, and going without it for this long has made me realize how much I miss it. The banter in the press box, the funny comments from the players and having a new game to talk about every day is something I can’t wait to have back.

Sports have allowed me to work in an environment where I am familiar. Not very many people get to call a baseball field or a basketball court their place of work, but I do, and I am thankful for that.

Although I may not have a job for a while, it is important to realize that this is only temporary, and that the return of sports everywhere will remind all of us to be grateful for the things that we love.

Robert Stewart:

When the National Basketball Association decided to suspend play last month, I had no idea what a whirlwind the next 24 hours would be.

It was the first domino to fall. That fateful Wednesday night led to a devastating reality check that intensified all day Thursday, March 12.

Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League followed suit early Thursday afternoon. All the major professional sports gone for the foreseeable future.

Not even two hours later, the email from the UA Chancellor Joe Steinmetz telling us Arkansas students would have to learn online for the rest of the semester.

And if that were not enough, the National Collegiate Athletic Association ripped away sports fans’ lifelines by cancelling all sports through the remainder of the academic year just a few minutes after that.

No March Madness. No College World Series. Absolutely gut-wrenching.

While I sit around at home with nothing to look forward to at the end of the day, I want to share my sports stories from my freshman year.

I have watched Arkansas football for as long as I can remember. When I took the field with the Razorback Marching Band for the first time, the thrill was unlike any other I have experienced: just shaking with excitement and happiness. There I was, on the same field that my grandfather led the Hogs to a conference championship half a century ago.

I learned the ropes of game coverage while on the Razorback soccer beat. Covering a sport I played for so many years was natural and did wonders for my confidence as a writer.

A top-three moment of my freshman year came at Bud Walton Arena, in a loss, oddly enough. The energy in that building was strong all year, but I believe it was the loudest place I have ever been when Kentucky showed up on a Saturday afternoon in January. I will never forget the roars I heard when the Wildcats’ head coach John Calipari was ejected.

Though I only got to do it a couple times, I felt completely in my element covering Razorback hockey. I got one-on-one interviews after games, and it was in those moments that I knew all my years of absorbing Washington Capitals coverage had paid off. Head coach Keller Sims remains my favorite interview to date because our conversation was so natural.

I found it appropriate that baseball season for the Razorbacks began on Valentine’s Day because baseball was my first love. After suffering through four consecutive heartbreakers at the College World Series over the past couple seasons, I was ecstatic to finally be at the ballpark to watch their run toward another shot at redemption.

Baseball’s absence hurts me the most. Though I have followed the Hogs the last several years, I had only been to one game. It did not matter to me if I was in the press box or in the Hog Pen, I was finally there. I was beginning to feel comfortable asking questions at pressers with all the big-time Arkansas media people. Worst of all, we were so close to having baseball weather.

It is incredibly disappointing to be without pro sports at this time of year. The excitement of the Stanley Cup Playoffs is unmatched, and the weather is as close to perfect as it will ever be to enjoy an afternoon at a ballpark.

But I am no longer just a fan. I miss more than that. I have a fun job, and I took it for granted.

These are tough times. I beg you all to do your part in preventing the spread of COVID-19 so we can get back to watching the games we all love.

Mason Choate:

Throughout my life, nothing has been bigger to me than sports. All is well in life if I can sit in bed at night and turn on a game. I never thought that could be taken away, but I was wrong.

Wednesday, March 12, will go down in history books. I sat in the pressbox of Baum-Walker Stadium and watched the Arkansas baseball team complete a midweek sweep of Grand Canyon University. This was the last time the 2020 Razorback baseball team, a team destined for Omaha, would play a game.

As I sat in my friend's dorm room watching the Razorback men's basketball team take on Vanderbilt that night, I had no idea it would be the last time I would see them this season. In the first half, that red banner flashed on the screen breaking the news that the NBA was cancelling its season, and I had no idea the repercussions that would follow.

By the time the next day was over, I was moved out of my dorm and all major sports in America were cancelled. I was completely and utterly devastated.

The day that nobody thought could come, the question you ask your friends as a joke: “What would you do if there were no sports,” was here. What do people do when their job is to write about something that is not happening? The answer is nothing.

What is there to talk about if there are no sports? There is nothing better than an argument about whether or not your favorite team lost because of refs or if they just are not good. There is no more bonding over sports. No more watching games at your favorite sports bar.

I can sit at home and play NCAA Football 14 all day, but it will never amount to the rush I get from watching college football. The hour’s worth of Darren McFadden highlights do not compare to the feeling of watching that #5 jersey break a 60-yard run with 72,000 of my closest friends cheering him on.

Something can never fully be appreciated until it is gone. The fact that Mason Jones, who has declared for the NBA draft, will never suit up for the Hogs again is gut wrenching. I took it for granted. We all did.

The smell of hot dogs on the grill as you walk to Baum-Walker stadium is second-to-none. The echo of the organ playing tunes is magical. When the ball soars off the bat of Heston Kjerstad and flies into the parking lot of Foghorns is something of dreams

The impact sports has on this world is undervalued. The greatest experiences of my life came from the deafening roar of Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City. The impact those moments had on my life will never be forgotten, and in these moments, I long for them.

We may never be able to watch sports again. That is a real possibility, but if that moment where we hear the national anthem played and that first pitch is thrown finally comes, all will be well. Here’s to having hope, my friends.

Drew Watzke:

Excluding some of the infamous strikes of American sports, like the 1994-95 Major League Baseball strike, for example, there have been two events that have halted American athletics in the last century: World War II and 9/11. And now, the coronavirus pandemic.

We are now a part of what will go down as one of the most influential events in the history of sports. Unprecedented, incomparable to any crisis that the world of sports has ever dealt with. It will make for a fantastic series of 30 for 30 documentaries one day, no doubt. But for the community of sports fans around the world, it leaves us all in the present feeling empty.

In fact, we as sports fans had made it through one of the driest sports spells of the year: February. Following the Super Bowl, there were regular season basketball games to keep us company, with some tennis and golf tournaments sprinkled in. But March Madness, MLB’s Opening Day, the French Open, the Masters, and NHL and NBA Playoffs were quickly approaching. We were about to dive into one of the richest sports seasons of the year.

I remember watching as the SEC’s commissioner, Greg Sankey, sat at the microphone in Nashville and announced the cancellation of the men’s basketball SEC Tournament. And as the sports editor of The Traveler, I thought about how disappointing it would be to lose basketball for the season. It’s one of my favorites to cover, along with many of our staff writers, and we were losing postseason basketball coverage.

Not long after, the whole sports world went haywire. The NCAA announced the cancellation of all winter- and spring-sport championships. Then, the cancellation of all spring sports events. I sat at my computer and realized that every bit of content we were responsible (and privileged) of covering was gone. Sports had drifted off into the darkness, leaving a void both in the sports section of The Traveler and in the hearts of sports fans everywhere.

So, here we are. Nearly a month since the last televised sporting event. We have all resorted to watching reruns of Michael Jordan’s greatest performances in the ‘90s or finally having the time to watch the full, 11-hour match between Isner and Mahut at Wimbledon in 2010.

The NBA, NHL and MLB are patiently waiting to re-start or kick-off their seasons. The Masters has been pushed back to November, the French Open to September. College football fans are crossing their fingers, toes, arms and legs that stadiums will be packed with 70,000 fans by August. The complete opposite of social distancing: that’s the hope.

Until then, all we can do is wait. And when sports return to our television screens, our fields, our arenas and our favorite university newspaper’s sports section, it will be even more glorious than before. So don’t lose hope, stay consistent in playing your part of ending this pandemic, and thank you for loving sports as much as we do.

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