Regional SportsSiena

Like everyone else, COVID-19 pandemic changed my world

Everyone else shared their story these last few days on what happened the day the coronavirus pandemic struck. I am no different than others. Here’s my story:

On March 11, 2020, I appeared in a great place. I experienced an opportunity of covering the Siena Saints in the 2020 MAAC Tournament at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.

I wrote about Siena putting on a business-like win against the Manhattan Jaspers for this great site. I expected to stay in Atlantic City for four days with the anticipation the Saints would be the MAAC champions and punched their ticket to the NCAA Tournament.

As I stayed at Quality Inn to sleep in for the night, I turned on SportsCenter. I watched Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for coronavirus. This news postponed the Jazz matchup with the Oklahoma City Thunder. I said to myself then this will get worse before it gets better. I knew there was no way the MAAC Tournament would go on, even when Siena assistant AD for communications Mike Demos told me it’s a “fluid situation” the next day when I asked him if the tournament would eventually be canceled. He knew better, too.

I was proven correct when the pro sports leagues and college sports suspended activities for the time being. I will never forget the surreal scene when MAAC commissioner Rich Ensor somberly said the tournament would not go on. It felt like a funeral in the Boardwalk Hall media room. I remembered telling my colleague Jaden Daly, editor of Daly Dose of Hoops, that we could be staying at home and not watch sports for months.

I stayed at Quality Inn one more day just to get some sleep, and then I would make the long trek home.

Before I departed from Atlantic City, I walked around the Boardwalk and took in some lunch at Chickie’s and Pete’s on a Friday afternoon. To say it was a depressing scene was an understatement. People walked around knowing it would be the last time they would hang out there for a long time. I did not even enjoy my cheesesteak and crab fries when I ate outside.

Talk about being a hit with a dose of reality. Everything was in pause for months. Instead of watching ESPN or other regional sports networks in town, I watched CNN more than I care to admit. Dr. Anthony Fauci replaced Adrian Wojnarowski when it came to the news in a sense we focused more on the pandemic than what’s going on in the NBA.

For months, we went by with no sports. Deaths were reported daily.

Then, I got furloughed at Fairleigh Dickinson University, a place I used to work.

I collected paychecks from the university for the spring and summer. Then, I received bad news from FDU in August: I was fired. This hurt considering I put in 20 years of great service working at the Frank Giovatto Library.

Looking back now, I wasn’t surprised. Ana Fontoura was hired to oversee the library at the FDU campus in 2019, and rumors circulated she was ready to make wholesale changes. She came from the University of New Rochelle, and she expressed to me that she didn’t like the way the library was run. I knew then I was in trouble. She couldn’t just fire people just like that since we were in the union.

But when the pandemic struck, she used that opportunity to make her move. I was first on her list because she didn’t like me, and to be honest with you, I didn’t like her. It speaks about her character in itself. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise since I wasn’t happy there anyway.

I bounced back quickly. The week after I was fired, FedEx called me for a job that I applied for. I said yes to an interview, and I got the job on the spot. I was hired in late August, and I am still employed there. After seven months there, I can say I am so happy there. I work with first-class people from management to workers. When you got those kinds of situations, dynamic things have a chance to happen. It certainly has for me. I enjoy being around my coworkers every day. They make me feel young and vibrant.

I should feel fortunate to be alive along with my father, my mother and my brother. It could have been much worse. We never tested positive for COVID-19. Knock on wood.

Soon, we all adapted. Sports came back. Churches operated again. Restaurants and bars started to work again in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Everyone started to go outside. We went back to work.

We got used to wearing masks and social distancing. We survived, even though it does not change millions died of the pandemic.

Soon, everyone will be vaccinated.

The moral of the lesson from this pandemic is never to plan ahead and enjoy each day and not take it for granted.

Who knows when we will get back to normal?

We can’t say we are back to normal until we stop wearing masks and kids go back to school for good. We will get back to normal when Zoom press conferences end for good.

I certainly would want to get back to normal by covering Siena men’s and women’s basketball next season in person.

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