Luther: Without sports, I love them even more

I can’t remember my first OSU sporting event. That’s not to say it wasn’t memorable. It’s just that the games and days and years start to run together. Especially considering my first football game was when I was three years old. 

Here was the deal: My dad got season football tickets, row 80 on what is now called the “Old Side” but at the time, was simply in section 9. He promised my mom he would take me to one game, then use the second ticket for friends for the rest of the season. So much for that theory. I was apparently hooked from the first game, and he began taking me to every single one. 

When I was about 10 or 11 years old, and my dad had to miss games for travel for work, he would give away our tickets to family friends. But I continued to insist that I wanted to go to the games. So the tickets came with the caveat that whoever had the tickets would take me with them for the four hour round trip to Corvallis on game day. 

I’ve been to several away OSU football games, including Oregon, LSU, USC, Hawaii and Ohio State. When I came to college, my dad and I started going to as many baseball and basketball games as we could make it to. We traveled to Omaha in 2017 and watched the heartbreaking losses against LSU. My brother and my dad traveled back out to Omaha in 2018, and I insisted he fly me out to meet him for the final series that season. We celebrated the College World Series win together after Kevin Abel’s final out. 

My dad and I have seen other incredible wins, like the Civil War win in 2016. We met in the middle of the field after the football game and nearly shed tears of joy in the wake of eight painful years of losses. We’ve griped about bad seasons and celebrated the beautiful ones. 

In the fall of my senior year of high school, I hadn’t decided if I would for sure be going to OSU the following year. My dad still traveled with me to Corvallis for us to take senior photos in the MU Quad and on the field at Reser. 

I just finished taking my college senior photos in front of Reser Stadium again. And it gets me thinking. I look back on all of the highs and lows of the last 19 years of being a fan of Oregon State sports. 

See, my job as OMN Sports Editor is to not be a fan. Our job, as reporters, is to be impartial and cover the realities of sports, both good and bad. So for most of the year, I’ve had to remove the hat of OSU Sports fan when working. It’s hard but possible and necessary. I look back on our work from this year, and I see that reflected in it. 

And then March 11, 2020, everything changed. On that day, the NCAA made announcements of canceling any current or upcoming basketball tournaments, signaling an indefinite halt on all college sports. 

My job became a sea of unknowns. No guidebook exists for how to be a sports editor when sports literally stop existing. But it wasn’t just that. It was my senior year, with baseball season barely even starting, and not being able to experience that with my dad and my friends. 

I’ve reflected. I’ve reminisced. I’ve grieved. I’ve been angry and heartbroken and frustrated at trying to do my job with no sports and feeling robbed of something that brings me so much joy. 

But I’ve learned something too. I have worked with our team to continue putting out inspiring and consistent content, even with no sports, and they have taken every challenge in stride, flawlessly. They have proven their strength and perseverance to me. 

I keep coming back to one thought about myself and my love for sports in this difficult time, a time when the game is needed more than ever. I took those moments for granted. Even when I felt every fiber of my being appreciating those moments, I took something for granted. In my mind, sports would continue forever, this was the normal. But our normal has changed, and we are only beginning to see the return of sports on our horizons nearly three months later. 

So maybe college sports will return in the fall. Maybe they won’t. We still don’t know when that will happen. I do know that the day they return, it will feel different. The moments won’t be the same. The crowds will still roar, and the love for our teams will surge through the stadium. But there will be something that feels different, deep under my skin, the feeling of how truly remarkable sports are. 

Sports are not just a game. For me, they are my history. Sports are my passion. OSU Sports brings my dad and me together, and give something for my mom to sarcastically roll her eyes at when we geek out together over them. 

So that moment I step foot in a stadium again, it will be different. I won’t take sports for granted again, because I have known a world without them. Whenever that happens, I’ll realize that a time without sports has only made me love them even more.

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