Editor's note: Jim Schiltz has covered high school sports for The Daily Gazette since 1987. Like the athletes, coaches and programs he’s covered for decades, the 57-year-old is still getting used to a day-to-day life not packed with sports, and shares here some of his journey trying to navigate it.
GLENVILLE — My new office includes a big window that needs a good wipe, a big-screen TV with a broken screen, a big pile of newspapers, and three cats that aren't shy about telling me when it's time to eat or time to clean up their litter box.
Like so many others near and far, I am working from my home these days as the coronavirus pandemic runs its ugly course. I know it will reach an end point at some time, but that time, I fear, is still quite a ways off.
Honestly, I don't mind my new kitchen office, warts and all, and I actually like writing from home. I don't like why I have to, though, with something I never heard of until a couple of weeks ago that’s affecting so many people around the world, and killing more and more of them every day. I don't like social distancing, though I agree that it is a necessary thing to do. I don't like most of the things I've had to write about lately, either, like the postponement and later the cancellation of the state boys' and girls' basketball tournaments, and all of those spring sport kids who are being kept at home and hoping to get a chance to play.
I'm hoping I get a chance to cover them sooner rather than later. That's what I do best, what I like best.
I get a kick out of being there for the special moments and when history is made. I like talking to the kids and the coaches after those games, and writing about all of it. I like the stats and the numbers. Basketball is among my favorite sports to cover, and for over 30 years working for The Daily Gazette, there was always a state basketball tournament to pour over until this year.
The last game I covered was a boys' Class B regional semifinal between the Schalmont and Ogdensburg Free Academy basketball teams at Saratoga High School on March 10. Before I went to that game, I wrote a short story that afternoon about several other regional basketball games that were postponed in other parts of the state out of concerns over the spread of coronavirus. More postponements and delays and on-holds followed in the next few crazy days, cancellations happened and then some more, and the sports world at all levels stopped.
In my little corner of it, the on-hold spring sports season remains a story and I caught up with longtime Fort Plain baseball coach Craig Phillips to get his take last weekend. I've known Phillips as long as I've been with the newspaper, and he is a character with a heart of gold. We talked about coronavirus. We talked baseball. We got serious. We laughed a bit, too. We both expressed hope.
Phillips has a talented team itching to play, and I'd be excited to watch them do it if that time comes sometime before summer. I can't wait for the return of college and pro sports, too. I'm a huge fan of the NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments and the NBA playoffs, and, as many of you are aware, a big fan of the New York Mets.
(If you don't know me, I'm the guy courtside or on the football sideline wearing that Mets cap.)
My sports fill, meanwhile, has come from documentaries — I highly recommend the Ken Burns "Baseball" series — and game reruns, especially the older ones with details I had long forgotten about. I've been watching more news lately, too, outside of Channel 6 (WRGB), which I have always been a regular, and I am warming to those "Married with Children" and "The Goldbergs" reruns that are on every night.
I need to laugh in these dark times when I sometimes forget what day it is, and, sometimes, just don't want to get up at all.
Before everything changed, knowing a game awaited me was reason enough to get that day started and get the coffee brewing. There's nothing like being there, like a few weeks ago when Schalmont beat Ogdensburg Free Academy for its first state tournament win in 24 years, and its star player, Shane O'Dell, went over the 2,000-point mark in what turned out to be his final scholastic game. A few days before that, I took in the Section II Class A boys' basketball final between Mekeel Christian Academy and Lansingburgh up in Glens Falls and thoroughly enjoyed the grit displayed by both teams in what ended in a close win by the Lions. Within that 32-minute game, several real good stories emerged including a Mekeel reserve player who was pressed into action and sank a couple of big free throws.
That was such good stuff.
That's the kind of stuff I can't wait to cover again.