TEXARKANA — The recent COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way of life for many across the world.
Being a sportswriter in an area with a rich athletic tradition like Texarkana is special. We live in an area that's combined with two states and we also live in an area that is a hotbed for athletes.
Yet with the outbreak of coronavirus, our government and nation's health experts have urged Americans to practice a new term, called "social distancing."
To be honest, I don't know what that means.
Some of my fondest memories as a sports journalist weren't practicing social distancing. In fact, I was possibly either standing or sitting right next to someone in a pressbox in Arkansas or Texas.
When I cover Arkansas High in football, the Texarkana Gazette has a section in the James Williams Pressbox. I appreciate the conversations between myself, Coach Sam Weaver (boys head basketball coach), Coach Dulincia Keener (girls head basketball coach) and Bill Waid (assistant baseball coach) during the Hogs' football games.
I believe those conversations and interactions wouldn't mean as much if we were having to practice social distancing.
Al Hanna Pressbox at Tiger Stadium in Grim Park is one the nicest in Texas and could possibly make a run for one of the nicer pressboxes in the country.
Last season, I accompanied my sports editor to cover the Liberty-Eylau and Texas High football game. It was a experience in itself being in the Al Hanna Pressbox.
I previously heard other out-of-town sports journalists rant and rave how great it is. It totally lived up to the hype, but now with the coronavirus pandemic, that all will possibly change.
I've covered the Leopards the past few years, and I have made working relationships with the people that sit by me in the pressbox. Mr. Chad Turner (L-E school employee) and Mr. Roy Shine (L-E school employee) sit to my immediate left, and we've had some substantial conversations. I appreciate those conversations and the knowledge those two have passed on. That possibly may change.
I interact with countless people in my profession weekly. The way I interview people and social interactions will also change.
Matt Fry, Liberty-Eylau's director of communications and play-by-play radio personality for all Leopards athletics, understands the change but he is not letting that stop him.
"The how of what we do never affects the why of what we do," Fry said. "The how is going to be different. The virus and the shutdown changes how we do it, but what we do cannot be affected by it. Sports has to be covered and high school kids have to be covered. On a macro level, we're trying to feed kids, educate them and everything that comes along with that. That's just the nature of it.
"The fundamental mission hasn't changed but how we do it is changing. I think this will all teach us some flexibility. It will also teach all a little bit about what's most important."
I'm not going to let panic stop the fact that interacting with people brings me joy. However I will be more cautious about my surroundings and myself going forward.
Everyone be safe and hopefully soon, this will be a bad dream future generations will only read about in history books.