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With no live sports being played during the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a significant void in the lives of millions of American fans.
Enthusiasts in eastern and northern Maine are trying to make the most of the situation. They’re watching games from past years, checking out movies or TV shows they had never seen before, or spending time being active outdoors.
“The Last Dance,” a 10-part documentary on the career of NBA legend Michael Jordan, has been one source of viewing pleasure. The show focuses on the 1997-1998 season, his last with the Chicago Bulls.
“I remember idolizing Michael Jordan when I was a kid and now I get to go back as an adult and watch what he went through with management and how the league worked at that time,” Old Town High School softball coach Jenn Plourde said. “You didn’t think about that as a kid.”
Jessica Witham, the former Orono High girls basketball coach, said it was “really neat to see all the behind-the-scenes stuff.”
“The Last Dance has been huge,” ABC 7/Fox 22 TV sports director Andrew Badillo said. “It is cool to re-live that and see how great he was.”
Former UMaine goalie and Orono High hockey coach Greg Hirsch is a diehard Boston Bruins fan. He is frustrated because the Bruins have the best record in the National Hockey League this season and are a favorite to win the Stanley Cup.
But the season is on hold.
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“It’s disappointing because you are only going to have so many [legitimate] runs at the Stanley Cup,” Hirsch said. “This team isn’t going to get any younger and it was jelling and clicking at the right moment.”
At this point, Hirsch would rather the NHL cancel the season than have the teams play without fans in the seats.
“You can’t have the Stanley Cup playoffs without the fans, the atmosphere and the home-ice advantage,” Hirsch said.
Hirsch has been watching a lot of old college hockey playoff games, including some involving his former UMaine teams, and he has been texting with his former teammates.
“It’s good to catch up with them,” he said.
Badillo, a New Yorker and a Yankees fan, said the biggest hole in his sports viewing is the baseball season because he believes the Yankees could have “rolled through the American League East.”
He said not having the Masters golf tournament was another blow.
“Everybody likes the Masters, even if you don’t love golf,” Badillo said.
WABI-TV 5/CW sports director Eric Gullickson said it has been difficult not being able to watch the Red Sox, Bruins and Celtics. He also is saddened that high school seniors are unable to conclude their spring sports careers.
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“I’ve been watching a lot of sports documentaries to try and learn some things. And I’ve gotten a lot more active,” Gullickson said. “I love the outdoors. I’m teaching myself how to fly-fish. I’m working on turkey [hunting] season now.”
Golf is another of his favorite activities.
Badillo plans to be more active by hiking and playing more golf. And he has returned to a hobby he enjoyed as a youngster — collecting baseball cards.
Cliff Urquhart, the girls basketball coach at Southern Aroostook Commuity School in Dyer Brook, has spent more time fishing than he normally would. He also has been exploring the woods.
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“I’m trying to stay busy,” said Urquhart, a San Francisco Giants fan who misses watching live major league baseball games.
Plourde, whose favorite TV sport to watch is college softball, has been getting outside as much as possible by checking out hiking trails in Bangor. She has also picked up fly fishing.
The biggest absence in her life has been not being able to coach her Old Town High softball team, she said.
Urquhart, who is a baseball umpire, and said not being able to work games has been disappointing.
“I really miss being out on the diamond with the coaches and kids,” Urquhart said.
Bangor High girls basketball coach Jay Kemble and Calais girls basketball coach Bill McVicar miss being able to watch their schools’ spring teams compete.
Kemble was the announcer for the Bangor softball team and has been spending some family time playing toss with son Peter, a pitcher for the UMaine baseball team who is recovering from a shoulder ailment.
“It’s a difficult time for everybody right now,” McVicar said. “We’re also missing out on AAU basketball.”
McVicar’s daughter Sophie plays for the Maine Surge AAU team.
He has been watching some ESPN game replays such as the 2004 American League Championship Series between the Red Sox and Yankees.
McVicar also has done some early preparation for the 2020-2021 high school basketball team by watching games from last season. He doesn’t think there will be high school summer basketball due to the pandemic.
Witham’s situation is different. She hasn’t had the luxury of controlling her TV remote much of the time.
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Witham and husband Ryan have three children 8 years of age or younger, including an 8-month-old son. She said the TV is usually tuned to the animated series Paw Patrol or the Food Network.
“But the kids have also been watching a lot of Olympic gymnastics including Kerri Strug’s landing,” Witham said, referring to the vault by Skrug on an injured ankle that earned the U.S. gymnastics team the gold medal in the 1996 Summer Olympics.
Witham was planning to coach her daughter’s youth softball team, but said they have instead created their own basketball and Wiffle Ball competitions in the yard.
“The kids have really had a chance to spend some quality time with mom and dad,” said Witham, who said there has been one benefit of not having Red Sox and Celtics games on TV.
“We have been getting more sleep,” she said.
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