readv3, v3, jim alred, for the love of the game

The other day I stopped in a local grocery store, took a few steps back and let out a long, slow whistle at the empty shelves. An acquaintance happened to see me and my reaction and mentioned the toilet paper aisle was much worse. 

He then made a half statement half question that I agreed with at first, but now I’m not so sure.  

“Aren’t you glad you’re not a sports writer at this time? I don’t even know what they would cover.” 

I laughed and agreed with him as we made our separate ways while observing the correct social distancing standards. 

The comment stuck with me. I planned for this column to be a tribute to my grandmother, who passed away in late February roughly a week and half before her 100th birthday. But that column has to wait.  

I truly hope by the time you read this column, the worst of the COVID-19 outbreak has passed and our lives are entering a state much closer to what we know as normalcy.  

I’m already crafting the outlines for SEC West football predictions that I’ve done for this magazine for the past few years. Ian Griffin handles the SEC East predictions, while I take the West. Now, the faint rumors and talk of a delayed college football season or even a season played in front of empty stadiums swirls. 

For the moment, I’m putting those previews on hold. I prefer to get reports from spring football and spring football games before finalizing those previews. Those particular things are on hold indefinitely. 

Speaking of sports at this moment seems a bit off. There are far bigger issues. However, during my lifetime sports have helped serve as an outlet in so many ways. As a high schooler, sports were one of the ways I attempted to fit in, although I’m not sure that ever worked well. It allowed me a way to channel energy and brought me some of my best memories. 

My heart aches now for every high school senior who may not get a chance to play one final spring season. Because for almost all of them, this is their last go-round. My spring season brought me big highs and a realization that I might be good enough to run collegiately. Without that spring season, most likely I never would have walked on the cross-country team at West Georgia and eventually walked on at Auburn.  

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For all those athletes aiming to compete beyond high school, have faith. If you continue to work hard, there are going to be chances. It might not be a full ride to a Division I powerhouse, but I promise you that there are schools all over the country looking for athletes. 

A few weeks back, we had to cancel the Leprechaun-a-thon road race. Just a reminder, I work at Parks and Recreation and serve as the race director. The decision was brutal. At the time, I thought it was the right decision. I still think it was the right decision. The best news is we have a brand new race in October that everyone who registered for Leprechaun gets to run and walk.  

For all the runners and walkers, use the time between now and October to keep striving to get in shape so that when it’s time to toe the starting line, you have a chance to do better than you ever have before. 

At a time when there are no sports to be seen other than classic reruns or random videos of sports announcers commentating on everyday life events, find time to spend with your family. I wrote a column in this magazine a while back about enjoying every moment you have with your kids because it’s fleeting and one day you’ll blink and realize it’s gone. 

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Spend time with them. Enjoy them. Help them through this time. When everything returns to normal, I’m guessing taking them to practices, tournaments or events will take on a far different meaning.  

We often take for granted what life offers us. We are so focused on the future that we forget to stop and take time to enjoy the moment. There are days as I head to soccer practice that I think about how tired I am and that maybe I should skip this practice. 

Now, I would give so much for the opportunity to spend two hours with the group of players I’ve been helping coach and manage for the past half decade 

So if I still made my career as a sports writer, I would focus on the positives of the downtime and find the local athletes and coaches giving back to the community. I would sing the praises of our healthcare workers, who are truly going above and beyond to help fight an enemy we can’t see. 

I would boast about the response to everything I’ve seen in our town with people helping other people and others making sacrifices so that hopefully in the near future our routines can go back to normal. 

In the meantime, please stay safe. Enjoy your family and look forward to the day that this space returns to SEC previews, debates about the Hall of Fame merits of Pete Rose or Dale Murphy and celebrating the athletic achievements of those around us.   

An injury while running at Auburn ended Jim Alred’s long-shot hopes of possibly competing in the Olympics, so he turned to writing and has been crafting award-winning stories across multiple mediums ever since. Along the way he’s been chased by a grizzly bear, worked as Goofy at Walt Disney World, been nominated for two Emmys, interviewed celebrities like Tiger Woods, Bo Jackson, Bill Clinton, coaches his daughters in cross country and soccer and can often be found running with his wife, Tara, around Rome.