FRIEZ COLUMN: Inside a sports department during the absence of sports

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Red Lake fans cheer on the Warriors in the Class A quarterfinals against Minneota on March 12 at the Maturi Pavilion in Minneapolis. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

Playoff basketball coverage had taken me all over.

On a Thursday in early March, I drove to Detroit Lakes for a section championship game. On Friday, I was back in Bemidji for a semifinal game. By Monday, Thief River Falls. Wednesday, Red Lake. Thursday, Minneapolis.

And then it all just stopped.

It’s been a month since the coronavirus pandemic caused the Minnesota State High School League, the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference and the Western Collegiate Hockey Association to lock their doors and throw away the key. We haven’t covered a live game since.

It’s so weird.


Our newsroom and our sports department certainly aren’t immune to the ripple effects of COVID-19, but like many others, we were left with trying to figure out what to do next. How do we cover sports without sports?

It certainly starts with a bit of creativity. We’ve also had more time to devote to human interest stories that simply slip between the cracks during a hectic season of game coverage after game coverage. While we haven’t chronicled a play-by-play or a final score lately, we’re still sharing the stories of our area’s athletes and teams. That’s what sports coverage should truly be, anyway.

We’re no longer producing the sports section from arenas and gymnasiums; it’s from separate living rooms and home offices. At least for now.

Tough to beat the commute, though.

Truth be told, this is an unnerving time for our community much more than as it relates to not having a game in town to go watch. But I’ve covered a lot of losses over the years, and I know what that feeling is like.

This isn’t it.

Losses carry a weight of inescapable desperation; that no matter what you do, the other team is one, two, three steps ahead. Losses expose the worst in teams: the weaknesses and flaws overlooked in practice. And losses cause divisiveness among teammates if you’re not careful.

Winning, of course, feels a lot different. There’s a calmness through adversity; a unified trust in the game plan. Patience prevails over instant gratification every time, and successful strategies are built on as much. And, more than anything, a common goal unites every individual in pursuit of something far greater than themselves.


No, this isn’t a game, but I’ve seen enough in my life to recognize that the lessons they teach extend far beyond the playing field.

Our newsroom has felt an unrivaled sense of urgency to deliver the news during this time, and we’re doing our best for our community. If you believe we can do better, engage in conversation with us. We need your support, both through your voices and through your subscriptions.

We’re going to keep writing stories. And soon enough, we’ll report a final score again.

Micah Friez is the former sports editor at the Bemidji Pioneer. A native of East Grand Forks, Minn., he worked at the Pioneer from 2015-23 and is a 2018 graduate of Bemidji State University with a degree in Creative and Professional Writing.
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