(Editor’s note: We asked some of our sports department colleagues to share this week what their lives have been like without the usual routines of news, practice and games to guide them. This is a six-part series.)
On March 13 — the same day Gov. Tim Walz declared a “peacetime emergency” that started to dramatically reshape life in Minnesota — the Vikings released Xavier Rhodes and Linval Joseph. Three days later, they signed Kirk Cousins to a new three-year deal. That night they traded Stefon Diggs after the wide receiver tweeted “it’s time for a new beginning” in the wake of Cousins’ contract extension.
Since then, as other sports lurched to a halt, the Vikings haven’t stopped making news.
They used the franchise tag for the first time in nine years on safety Anthony Harris. They signed former Ravens defensive tackle Michael Pierce to a three-year, $27 million contract. They brought back a handful of their own free agents while letting Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander sign elsewhere. They assembled the largest seven-round draft class in NFL history, released a schedule that has them playing on Christmas Day for the first time in 15 years and started a virtual offseason program with their facilities closed.
How has my job changed during quarantine? Mostly, it hasn’t.
At least this one hasn’t.
I also spend my spring coaching the distance runners on the Apple Valley boys’ track and field team. And there’s perhaps no change I feel more acutely from the coronavirus outbreak than the loss of time with the guys I coach there.
Last year our 4x800-meter relay team missed going to the state meet by two-hundredths of a second, after a two-hour review of a photo finish — I know a thing or two about gut-punch losses, in other words. We were set to come back with two of the top eight returning 800 runners in Class 2A (one a senior, the other only a sophomore).
After weeks of writing workouts our athletes could complete on their own, I found out April 23 that the Minnesota State High School League had canceled spring sports, officially wiping out a season for which our team’s expectations couldn’t have been much higher.
The loss of that season, though, has meant more time to (sort of) slow down. I get up and run around Lake Nokomis by myself, then split my days doing two things. One is covering the Vikings through text messages, phone calls and Zoom conferences from my desk at home. The other is helping my wife, Marissa, handle distance learning for our two daughters, one in second grade, the other in prekindergarten.
Most days, Marissa takes the morning shift with the reading and writing curriculum we’ve received from Hale Elementary School. I handle the afternoon shift with math. In between Zoom calls, I peel away for my daughter’s introductions to algebraic concepts, geometry and logic puzzles. She usually sails through those, and then it’s time for my personal favorite — the optional advanced problems her teachers have taken to calling “spicy math.”
There’s even a little chance for crossover. I’ve made it my offseason project to learn the Python programming language from my dad, a software engineer for 40 years, in hopes of boosting my analytics game by the time the 2020 NFL season rolls around. Some days, my 8-year-old tags along for an introduction to the coding classes that could be an integral part of her life someday.
After dinner, it’s usually time to run around in the front yard with my kids — either by playing “Ships Across the Ocean” or setting a five-minute timer on my watch and betting them they can’t tag me before the timer runs out. They’re getting better at playing zone defense, and they’re 2-1 against me so far.
I expected I’d be talking matchup zones with rookie cornerback Jeff Gladney in Eagan and running laps with a group of teenagers I absolutely love in Apple Valley this spring. But in the fleeting few months before both of our kids are in elementary school, the extra time to work, play and learn from home hasn’t been such a bad thing.