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Missing basketball and missing myself

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I miss basketball and I don’t feel bad about that

I miss basketball. I miss sports overall. Sports are a massive part of my life. Never had they been more so than in the period from the NBA leading up to the suspension of the season.

At the end of February, I left my job of nearly 20 years with the Walt Disney Company to cover the NBA full time. It’s become cliché to say leaving a job is bittersweet, but this truly was. I loved working for Disney. I started as an intern and worked my way up to a job I loved. I was working in a place I loved for a leader I admired and I was leading a team of talented individuals who made every day great.

But as much as I loved working for Disney, I also love sports. I mean I LOVE sports. Covering the NBA has been a dream for years. I had to make the jump. It was now or never. I finally had enough freelance work to cobble together to make it happen.

For about three amazing weeks, it was everything I had hoped it would be. Instead of missing a phone call or a text or a Woj Bomb tweet because of a meeting, I was there. When I went to bed around 2:00 AM in the morning following a last west coast game, I didn’t have a 5:30 AM alarm putting me in a zombified state for a chunk of the day at my “real job.”

I was also no longer working what essentially had become two full-time jobs. I was able to have one focus work-wise for the first time in about seven years.

I realize that isn’t probably all that different from most. Lots follow the NBA passionately while working full-time. Where it was different was watching NBA games for me wasn’t just the Celtics a few times a week and popping in and out of other games. It was generally six plus hours a night every night. That was on top of countless hours during the day around my Disney job. In effect, I had replaced free time--usually family time--with NBA time. My wife and daughter gave up so much for me to chase this. It was finally paying off.

In my new world, I was doing both school drop-off and pickup. Because I was around, I was able to help with homework and stuff. During the day, when I was catching up on games, researching articles or writing, I was able to get other stuff done. I could work out. I could work on the “honey do list.”

In short: life was everything I wanted it to be.

Then the season was suspended. That sucked, but we got this. A couple of weeks, we’ll fill with some stuff and get back at it.

It pretty quickly became clear it wouldn’t be just a couple of weeks.

I lost two of my freelance gigs that make up half my income. Now, money was a concern. My wife still works for Disney, but with the resort here in Florida closed, how long would that last? (Thankfully, she’s one of the fortunate few who has remained working.)

Like everyone, I stress. Stress takes on a lot of forms. For me, I get snippy. I get snippy with my family and friends. I get snippy online. I go through periods where I’m not real pleasant.

I also eat like crap. This is always a problem, but being stuck at home all day, every day, I snack. Constantly. And it’s always garbage. Comforting? Maybe. Bad for me? Definitely.

I also get really quiet. For those who know me, this is the telltale sign I’m stressed. I retreat inside my own head. That’s not a great place to be. Inside my own head is where I dream up the worst results. What if the NBA season is cancelled and I lose all my outlets? How will we pay bills? What if my wife loses her job, too? Will we lose the house? Maybe we can sell a car. I can cut off the cable package, but that’s one of the only things helping the whole family with something to do right now. How are we going to make it through this?

I’m a natural worrier when it comes to my family. I’m an eternal optimist about most things, but with our own family situation, I worry. All the time. I was terrified to leave Disney and make this jump. What if I suck as a writer and doing it full-time exposes me? I can get over it, but I can’t let my family down.

That’s the thing that drives me now: not letting them down. Despite my wife’s assurances that we’ll be fine (even before COVID-19), it was the fear of letting down my family and forcing them to change their lives that kept me up at night.

Now, I’ve lost half my income. We’re still doing OK, certainly better than a lot of people who need help. But it still stings. I look at our monthly budget and I keep making trims here and there. Nothing major, but they all suck to cut out.

Remember how I said I get snippy? We’re all home now all the time. Our daughter doesn’t have school or soccer to get her away from us. Little things, like lights getting left on, become big, emotional fights. It’s all so silly. I find myself aggravated with the people I love most and that brings me down even more.

Eventually, I drag myself up and out of the mire of my own mind. I still have places to write for. A number of my outlets, including CelticsBlog and SB Nation, have kept me on. There is still basketball to be talked and written about. No games to cover, but there are other topics.

I seek out my basketball friends and force conversation about basketball that flowed free and easy just a month ago. Sometimes we find that familiar rhythm and go for a while. It feels like magic now.

I get outside and try to get active. I need to do that more.

I’ve started shutting off the TV and limiting my news intake. I’ve picked up reading more. Some of it is sci-fi/fantasy, which takes me out of this world and into another. That’s a nice escape.

And I write. I write because I’m a writer now. I write because not only do I need to, but because I want to. It’s a form of therapy for me.

But hanging over everything is missing sports. Mid-March was going to kick off a glorious time for me. For the first time in my life, I wouldn’t have to use vacation time to enjoy the best months of basketball of the year. I was going to be home to watch the conference tournaments and then the NCAA Tournament. Right after that was MLB Opening Day. Baseball always makes me smile and is the perfect background soundtrack to spring and summer. And then the NBA Playoffs would come on the heels of that.

Now? Nothing. 2K20 tournaments? I tried, but not my thing. Marble racing? That was fun for a couple of days. Watching old games? I’m in, but it’s so different when you know the result.

I knew I loved sports, but I had never realized how deeply ingrained in my being they were. It’s like a major part of me has been taken away. And that makes me sad.

It’s that sadness that I fight daily. Sometimes, I don’t want to get out of bed. It’s just easier to lie there and let exhaustion take over the day.

I’m thankful for our new puppy. We just got her as all this madness started. She forces me to get up and going each day without even knowing it.

I’m thankful for my wife. She’s always been the rock in our family and my biggest fan. Never more than now.

I’m thankful for our daughter. She’s a smarter and better person than I ever could be. I need to be more like her.

I’m thankful for my family and friends. They’re all mostly healthy and always there for a chat. I would never make it without them.

But some days I’m not thankful for what I have. I’m not “making the best of it.” Some days I’m trapped in my head and I’m angry and sad. Those are the days I really have to fight.

Those are the days I really miss sports. I miss sports lifting me and giving me purpose.

When I tweet or write about missing basketball, it’s not that I’m insensitive. It’s not that I don’t understand that there are more important things in life. It’s not that I don’t understand that people are dying.

I tweet or write about missing basketball because I am sensitive. I miss it deeply. When I tweet or write about missing basketball, I’m generally heading down a spiral to a low point.

When I tweet about or write an article about how the NBA Draft might work, or what teams need to do in the offseason, or what a resumption of this season might look like, I don’t need the “who cares, bro?” comments.

If your escape is binge-watching your favorite show and you laugh during a funny moment, you shouldn’t feel bad. If you want to play happy, upbeat music to make you feel better, you shouldn’t feel bad. If you want to play video games for hours, you shouldn’t feel bad.

My escape, and one of my favorite things in the world, happens to also be my job. I’m that lucky. I shouldn’t feel bad for expressing that.

I don’t need the reminders that there are things bigger than sports. I know there are. Everyone knows that there are. We don’t need to be reminded of the over-importance we place on sports.

Also, you’re wrong.

We all have our things that help us through the sad times. Hopefully, those things are not self-destructive nor harmful to others. We need whatever those things are just as much as we need air, food and water. For me, it’s sports. It’s especially basketball. Especially, especially NBA basketball.

So, yeah, I miss sports. I miss basketball the most. A big part of me being me involves basketball. I’m already sad about that being gone. I don’t need you trying to make me feel worse.

Mostly, I miss being me.