Editor’s note: Like you, NBC Sports Bay Area insiders, reporters and analysts are feeling the sports void during the coronavirus stoppage. They’ll share their thoughts every Monday, Wednesday and Friday in “What I Miss About Sports.” Next up in the series: Sharks analyst Jamie Baker.
The global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has brought the sports world to a standstill.
For the Sharks, that meant a pause to a disappointing season.
While we wait for sports to resume, here are 13 reasons why I miss sports.
1. Game Day
What’s better than waking up and the first thing I think of is “It’s game day.” Love those days, and today, is even more special.
We are creatures of habit, and I love my gameday routine. I do my “train the brain” regimen, have my green goodness protein shake and then head to the practice facility for morning skate. Part of today’s routine includes Facebook Live to preview the game and answer fans’ questions. I’ll get a hot yoga workout this afternoon and I’ll try to nap, but no chance, not with what’s at stake tonight.
Just arrived at Morning Skate, and I always enjoy seeing my fellow broadcasters, other media, the PR and digital media staff … We share stories, predictions, updates, all while doing our own thing. We all have one thing in common on this day … anticipation. The day will not go as fast as we want, because we are so excited for puck drop.
At morning skate I pick up a copy of the official NHL game notes. Some games I use them more than others, today I’ll just use them to update a few stats. After the players finish their skate I head to the dressing room with the other media. I listen in on a few scrums, and pull a couple of Sharks players aside for a quick 1-on-1 interview. My interviews are fast; I only ask one question and then I’m done … as an ex-player, I respect the routine the players have on game days.
After both teams’ morning skate and my workout, I go back to my place and do game notes. My game notes take on average 4-to-6 hours of total prep time, but I only need an hour or two today because of the magnitude of this game.
I enjoy picking out my suit/shirt/tie combo and then the last part of preparation is arriving at the arena about two and a half hours before puck drop. It’s now two hours before the game and we have our production meeting run by Producer extraordinaire Sean Maddison. We go over all the elements of the open, what we are looking for in the broadcast and discuss the keys. This prep ties directly with camaraderie, love this time with our “team.”
5. The Headset
When I put the headset on, I enter a different realm. It’s like voyaging into a different world for the next few hours. My focus becomes more alert, I’m aware of my energy, trying to be part of a symphony, doing my part to help inform, analyze, educate, and ultimately entertain. I’m in my happy place when the headset is on! Tonight, I’m grateful to be calling this game at ice level, and glad that we are getting closer to puck drop. The wait has been killing me … you know what I mean!
6. The Warm-up
There are many different elements to this, including: Fans arriving, fans holding up signs of their favorite players, the players warming up, players throwing pucks to fans, pre-game interviews, the pre-game show, a rehearsal for the open and then the lights go down. The best pre-game light show in sports lights up the arena, gets the crowd even more jacked up for the game as the famous Shark head slowly is lowered to the ice.
We all know what’s next, the Sharks are introduced and the place is booming as the Sharks skate through the Shark head, one of the most iconic player entries in all of sports. We have one more item: the national anthem. I love listening to the anthem, it brings us all together and is the last part of warm-up to what’s about to unfold live in front of us all.
7. The Energy
Can you imagine an arena with no fans? Sports are all about the fans, and the energy they bring … tonight the energy is enticing; excitement, nervous, and anxious, they too just want the puck to drop. Be loud Sharks fans, you make a difference; just ask the players, they’ll be the first to tell you.
By the way, The Energy was picked No. 7 for a reason … it’s what I love the most, and miss the most. Without the fans and their energy, the other 12 attributes are meaningless! It sits right smack dab in the middle of everything, right where it belongs.
8. Different Characters
Sports are its own version of a reality TV show. It’s not just the different players, like Burns, Jumbo, Logan, Hertl, Karlsson, Kane, Meier but it’s the coaches, the referees, the mascot, in this case SJ Sharkie, and yes even the broadcasters. As I look at the Sharks bench waiting for the game to start, I think to myself “Who is going to be the player to take on the character of ‘hero’ tonight?”
Hockey is a modern-day gladiator sport. Because the shifts average 40 to 45 seconds and there are live changes during the play, the pace is always fast. Hockey, unlike many sports, doesn’t have an out of bounds, so there is nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. Hockey has speed, skill, physicality and all of it every shift. Watching these two teams, who despise each other, battle for time, battle for space all the while executing at a high level with almost zero room for error has been exhilarating and excruciating at the same time, that’s what showtime provides to us.
The game is incredible, but the visiting team is getting amazing goaltending, and they have also taken advantage of a couple of Sharks mistakes and have been the recipient of a lucky play. The game isn’t over, but it’s slipping away, and the home crowd can feel it, their energy is changing.
10. Tension & Unpredictability
In the span of five to 10 minutes the fans went from:
• sitting back in their seats filled with tension that the season might end
• to leaning forward in their seats with incredible concern for a beloved player who was just seriously injured and helped off the ice with his equally concerned teammates
• to standing, jumping, hugging, screaming, you name it because the unpredictable went to a completely other level
This game’s tension and unpredictability would reach new levels as the visitors scored a late goal sending this game into overtime. I knew it was an instant classic, was just hoping the end would be in favor of the good guys. It was, showtime showed up, so did a new hero, the energy was insane, the warm-up, preparation all worth it, always is, but even more so today.
11. The Emotion
After the game, the energy didn’t go away, it just shifted to different locations as the crowd and anyone who witnessed this game couldn’t hold back their emotions. Twitter lit up like a Christmas tree, I had over a hundred texts, some from people I hadn’t heard from in years and the streets filled with joyous Sharks fans. Trying to get to sleep was impossible, I think I finally fell asleep around 4 a.m., it was late, but it was going to be a satisfying sleep.
12. Non-Game Day
I wake up and the first thing I think about is the game last night. I smile. It’s a non-game day, while the camaraderie of hockey people all over the world discuss last night’s epic Game 7, the controversy, the incredible comeback by both teams, the drama in OT, I start to think about the next-game. Tomorrow is game day, and I have to start my series preparation for the Avalanche.
Sports are about passion. Not every game is a classic, but every game is different and sports brings us together. I was asked to be on the NBC Bay Area Unite float during the Warriors second championship parade. Barry Bonds was on the same float; people went crazy when they saw him, just wanting a wave or for him to smile for a picture. Rickey Henderson was on the same float; he received pretty much the same adulation that Barry did. The passion was palpable as everyone celebrated at the Warriors parade.
I can’t remember exactly how long the parade went for, but about three-quarters of the way through Rickey and I were talking. He had been way busier waving to adoring fans than I had, but I was able to take it all in from a different lens if you will. Anyway, I said to Rickey, and I remember saying it vividly “Look at how happy everyone is, everyone! People from different walks of life, different races, political affiliations, sexual orientations, tall people, short people … and everyone is happy. How do we make life where everyday we treat each other like it’s a parade?”
We don’t, but that’s what sports can do, bring us all together for incredible moments we will never forget for the rest of our lives.
Just like Game 7 on April 23, 2019 between the San Jose Sharks and the Vegas Golden Knights, the epic series was a war from the drop of the puck in Game 1. The series that had everything including a Game 7, somehow managed to squeeze out even more, and not surprisingly, in the true nature of sports, it gave us a new character that gets to wear the cap “hero.”
His name? Barclay Goodrow.