I hope all of you are managing to maintain order at home, and your own sanity, as we continue to stay inside.
Did you lay in bed and watch movies for eight straight hours? If you did, you have a clearer idea of what military deployments are like. It’s not only about sitting around finding ways to keep yourself occupied. There is, however, a lot of down time on deployments. Watching movies and playing cards are two of the things people on deployments do to pass the time.
I’m not writing an editorial this week to talk about military deployments. I’m writing this week about something that is very near and dear to my heart – sports.
Before I became the editor of the Eagle, I was a sports editor in central Missouri. Sports are actually a big reason why I’m in journalism. In high school, I discovered that I had a future in writing. As I got older, I decided sports journalism was what I wanted to do.
Life has taken me down a different path since then, as I’m not a sportswriter at the moment. Another thing I’m not doing at the moment is watching any live sports on tv. People, this is March. This is a big month for sports. March Madness happens. Major League Baseball opens the regular season around the end of March or beginning of April. The NFL Draft happens in April. NHL teams fight for playoff seeding as the hockey season enters its final stretch.
None of these things are happening. March Madness was canceled. The baseball season is suspended. The remainder of the hockey season is almost suspended. The NFL Draft is still happening, but the fanfare in Las Vegas has been canceled. The 2020 NFL Draft was expected to be one of the biggest events to happen in Las Vegas.
What I’ve been doing during this time with no sports is watching memorable games. I’m not talking about player performances or missed calls. I’m talking about the memories I have attached to certain games.
Last weekend, I watched the 1994 men’s basketball national championship game, between the Arkansas Razorbacks and the Duke Blue Devils. Or, as I like the call it, the greatest basketball game ever played. Arkansas beat Duke 76-72 to win its only national title.
I remember watching that game with my dad. He raised me on all things Razorbacks. Watching football on Saturdays is a fall tradition in the Ursery clan, and the winter tradition is watching college basketball. Summers are for baseball.
My dad took me to my first baseball game in 1986, at Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego, California. I was instantly hooked on both baseball and the Padres. I’ve been a Padres fan since. My father finished his U.S. Navy career in San Diego. When he retired in 1986, we moved to his home in Pine Bluff, Arkansas.
It was in Pine Bluff where my dad and I began bonding over sports. It was our time. My father was a police officer, and spent part of his off time working security at various establishments around town for some extra cash to give us a better quality of life. He’s never been an outdoorsman, and neither have I.
In 1993, the Razorbacks entered the season with a top 10 ranking and were coming off a Sweet Sixteen exit in the previous tournament. They climbed their way to the No. 1 ranking in January 1994, and talk of playing for a national championship quickly started. The Razorbacks were the No. 1 seed in the Midwest Region of the 1994 tournament. After an easy win over North Carolina A&T, Arkansas went on to beat Georgetown, Tulsa, and then beat Michigan in the Elite Eight.
A win over the Arizona Wildcats in the Final Four set the Razorbacks up with the Blue Devils. We watched the title game that April evening in our living room. I remember my dad and I both feeling anxious while waiting through the last 15 minutes or so until tipoff. We both groaned when Duke went up 10 points in the second half. We became nervously optimistic when the Razorbacks regained the lead.
I remember us both jumping to our feet when Scotty Thurman hit a 3-pointer to put Arkansas up by four with 10 seconds left in the game. I remember after the game, my mother telling me to go to bed because I had school the next day, and then my dad telling her that I could stay up because Arkansas just won a national championship.
I was too young to remember the Padres coming back from a 2-0 deficit to beat the Chicago Cubs in the 1984 NLCS in five games. I am old enough to remember the Padres beating the Atlanta Braves in six games in the 1998 NLCS. The Yankees swept the Friars out of the World Series that year, but we don’t talk about that.
This is how I am spending my free time through all of this – looking back and appreciating the good times. With a few announcements earlier this month, sports were taken away. A lot of other things people enjoy won’t be available for some time, until we are able to contain this virus.
I can sit and think about how long it will take for all this to be over so we can go back to normal, but that’s no fun. I’d rather look back on the things that make me happy.
Everyone is doing something different to get through this uncertain time. Whatever you do, be sure to take a minute to appreciate all the things you already have. One day, the things that make you happy might not be there anymore.