Aidan Champion, MSU junior journalism major, experienced transitions in sporting event phases throughout the pandemic while reporting for Impact Radio.
For a few months, there were no sports. My desired profession seemed to hold no purpose, as athletics around the world were on pause. No March Madness. No Master’s. No NBA Finals. No Opening Day for baseball. The sporting events I looked forward to most all year were either postponed or cancelled, in turn, a part of me felt a little lost.
Slowly, but surely, sports began returning over the summer. Sure, it wasn’t nearly the same without fans in attendance and artificial crowd noise used as an alternative, but it was enough.
I have the honor of serving as a member of the sports department at Michigan State’s student radio station, Impact 89FM. Writing for Impact is one of the things I love most about MSU. I get to go out into the field to carry out what I’ve learned in the classroom — or Zoom meeting — and at the same time, experience the various teams that play for my school first-hand.
This school year, the privilege was even more special. I didn’t even know if I would be able to cover many games going into the Fall semester. But it was when I found out I would be covering MSU women’s basketball games, the uncertainty had washed away.
There were, of course, a limited number of fans allowed inside the Breslin Center at home games, which was disheartening to see, considering the arena atmosphere I had been used to in the past. Every time I sat there in the hushed building, though, it was a reminder that what I was doing was a unique opportunity that my student peers could not benefit from. It was a perk that — at that time especially — I did not take for granted.
March rolled around, and my beat was given the green light to head to Indianapolis to cover MSU women’s basketball in the Big Ten tournament. This occasion was even more special, not only because it was my first time traveling as a student sports journalist, but it was the first chance of the school year that members of the station were allowed to travel for a sporting event.
I was able to walk the streets of downtown Indianapolis the week before the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. Knowing that after not even being able to watch the tournament just a year prior, and to now be up close to the anticipation for one of the nation’s biggest sporting events, the trip was all the more special, as it was a memory I will cherish for the rest of my life.
The first sense of normalcy I felt since sports had been shut down was when MSU played Indiana in the women’s Big Ten tournament. Given that we were in the state of Indiana, there was no surprise to see a vast turnout from the Indiana crowd. But still, the chants, the cheering and the sight of faces all around the arena was a scene that almost didn’t seem real.
Though, nothing compared to Saturday, April 24, the day of the MSU football spring game. I was fortunate to cover my first football “game,” and given the circumstances, there couldn’t have been a better one to serve as my first.
It was said that the event would host up to 6,000 fans. I couldn’t really comprehend what seeing that would feel like until it actually happened.
I sat in the press box a little while before the practice started, watching as more and more fans took their seats. The band was there to play the fight song, fans were there to sing along and coach Mel Tucker was able to see the excitement that a Spartan crowd could bring up close.
There was no feeling like it. I’ve been taking classes online for over a year now. Seeing campus has been merely a rare treat for me at this point. But seeing a Spartan community back in Spartan Stadium like it had never left — that was the best assurance that maybe I will get a more “normal” senior year.
That’s one of the great things about sports. Sports can give you a temporary out from the world around you. They bring all different types of people together to support the same cause.
We’ll have to see what the future holds, but for now, I’m grateful for the opportunities to do what I love this school year: covering sports.