John’s Journal: Everything Changed One Year Ago
Looking Back, Looking Ahead In Times Of Covid-19
Posted: Wednesday, March 3, 2021 - 1:35 PM
My first mask was a worn, blue bandana. I pulled it out of my back pocket, tied two corners into a knot, slipped it over my head and pulled it up to cover my nose and mouth. I looked like an outlaw from the old west.
This was shortly after the end of the 2020 Minnesota high school state tournaments … an end that came early, abruptly and memorably.
I remember vividly that final day of competition, the second of four scheduled days of the girls state basketball tournament inside Williams Arena and Maturi Sports Pavilion at the University of Minnesota. We were all learning some new terms: Coronavirus, Covid-19. I had purchased a small plastic squeeze bottle of hand sanitizer; it had the U of M logo on it and I’m still carrying it a year later, having refilled it many times.
On that Thursday night, I wrote about coming home from the tournament – everything would be cancelled the next morning -- amid all the uncertainty. That post included this passage:
I was sitting courtside at Maturi Pavilion with my good friend Pat Ruff from the Rochester Post Bulletin. Pat wiped off the tabletop with Clorox disinfecting wipes he had brought, and I used the bottle of hand sanitizer that has been my constant companion lately. Pat and I like to have a laugh and solve the world’s problems, but our conversation this time was quite serious. It’s simply the not knowing … about this virus, what it may do, how and where it may spread, what impact it will have. The fear.
And here we are. It’s been 12 months, 12 often fearful months. The girls basketball tournament was stopped in midstream, the boys state basketball tournament scheduled for the following week was cancelled, there were no spring sports at all and the fall sports season was short, ending in section playoffs but no state tournaments.
March 12 was the end of the 2019-2020 high school sports year. And 363 day later, sports state tournaments will return. The winter tournament series is scheduled to begin March 10 with the Alpine skiing state championships, followed that week by Nordic skiing and dance. They will be followed by the others: swimming and diving, wrestling, gymnastics, hockey and basketball.
These tournaments, of course, won’t be like last winter’s tournaments. Crowds are limited, masks are prevalent, some venues have changed, awards ceremonies will be minimal. But we are having state tournaments, which is a great step, a positive step.
That first bandana mask was replaced by masks made by my wife, Beth, at her sewing machine. We bought a pack of 10 masks at a store, we ordered masks online, and dozens of schools around our state have given me masks, in person and through the mail. The masks bearing school logos are special to me. I have a stack of masks in my office, another bunch in my car, several in each of the two bags – a backpack and a roller bag – that I use in my work. I’m guessing that I own upwards of 50 masks and I’ve taken to wearing two when I’m indoors and not at home.
I am patiently waiting, and anxiously hoping, to get vaccinated. The news has been very positive in this area, with several companies approved to provide vaccines and more opportunities to receive them. As I wrote last March 12, I belong to a high-risk group for the Coronavirus. I am over 60 with a chronic condition; specifically, I am 61 and have diabetes. I also have a loving family and an infant grandchild.
Now I’m 62 and we haven’t seen our no-longer infant grandchild in more than 13 months. He’s a California kid, now 20 months old, showing us his toys and blowing us kisses on video calls. We treasure those video conversations and photos sent from our son and daughter-in-law, while they also make our hearts ache at not seeing them – and our other son and his girlfriend, Arizona residents -- in person. We all have similar stories, and I hope your family members can be together soon.
Beth works in health care and has received her two vaccinations. Our daughter, a teacher in the Twin Cities, has received her first vaccination and will receive the second one soon. We are absolutely aching to travel to California to see our grandson/nephew and I’m holding things up, waiting to be vaccinated. But it will happen; we will go to the airport and we will get on a plane, masked up, avoiding crowds when possible and sanitizing our hands. Just the thought of landing in San Francisco, picking up our rental car and heading off makes me smile.
That will be a grand day. And we have many grand, special days coming up here in our Minnesota midst, starting next week and continuing for the next few weeks as state tournaments are held. We’ve all been through a lot and we’ll continue working through things until some sense of normalcy returns.
It’s been a long haul and it’s not over. But state tournaments are back, kids are competing with their friends and communities are involved.
Be well, my friends.
--To read my story from the final day of the 2020 state tournaments, click here and scroll until you see “Home Is Not Where I Planned To Be Right Now”: https://old.mshsl.org/mshsl/johnsjournal.asp?index=45
--MSHSL media specialist John Millea has been the leading voice of Minnesota high school activities for decades. Follow him on Twitter @MSHSLjohn and listen to "Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts. Contact John at firstname.lastname@example.org