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Chuck Burton, ’92, finds his footing in a world without live sports

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The following is a submission by Chuck Burton, ’92, to The Brown and White’s coronavirus community contribution initiative. The initiative allows Lehigh students, staff, faculty and alumni, along with Lehigh Valley residents, to share the ways in which the pandemic has impacted their lives and offers an opportunity for those stories to get published in The Brown and White. Help us document history. You can submit your story here

Chuck Burton, ’92, lives in Pennsylvania and is an avid sports fan. Despite the NCAA’s cancellation of spring sports, he said he has found ways to connect with other Lehigh sports fans through social media during the coronavirus pandemic. (Courtesy of Chuck Burton)

Like pretty much every sports fan on the planet, I miss sports. Though this is a small thing in the grand scheme of things, the interruption of spring sports, the cancellation of spring football, and the cancellation of winter NCAA championships is a big disruption to my day-to-day life in the sense that my circadian rhythm is hardwired to the sports calendar. You see, I run the accounts of Lehigh Football Nation (@LFN on Twitter), and when sports stopped, it was somewhat of an untethering event. What do you write about instead? The bread you baked? Whether you put ketchup on your hash browns? (Note: These may have been things I have indeed tweeted about during home quarantine.)

Make no mistake — I don’t wish to take away from the student-athletes in winter and spring who have seen their dreams unplugged due to no fault of their own, who have worked harder and suffered more than me. As a person who has been writing about Lehigh sports online for nearly 20 years, however, losing sports as a whole is a lot like flying across the international dateline. Your mind and body are completely out of sorts and your brain is missing its regular markers of the passage of time.

I feel a great compassion for those student-athletes that have seen their athletic opportunities go away this spring, especially the senior class. To see something many students have spent most of their lives training for, competing at a Division I school, is heartbreaking. So many hours away from cameras and social media were spent to get to this pinnacle, and through no fault of their own it’s been taken away. As most student-athletes understand, it’s not about the retweets or even necessarily being NCAA Champions but it’s more about finding out how far you can take your athletic abilities and work ethic. I really ache for those seniors that had the big payoff taken away.

Rapidly, I discovered that I wasn’t alone — most people, including many Lehigh alumni, are going through their own rhythmic disruptions and seem to be looking online for a way to reconnect and to remind them of happier times. When Justin LaFleur of Lehigh Athletics did a “live tweet” of a broadcast of Lehigh beating Duke in the NCAA Tournament, I happily and eagerly played along with my own comments on the “action.” I thought it wasn’t only a good way to celebrate being a part of Lehigh online, but it was a worthwhile escape for Lehigh folks for a short time during this unprecedented moment. After all, every Lehigh fan of a certain age has a “where were you” moment when Lehigh beat Duke. It was a positive rallying point for many people (well, if you are a Lehigh fan or a Duke hater, anyway).

That encouraged me to seek out full broadcasts of Lehigh football games to “live tweet” and for people to share their experiences online. A surprising number are on YouTube already, but some have approached me and made some full games available to me that were not online before. Normally, I wouldn’t have time to ask people whether their have full game broadcasts of, for example, Lehigh traveling to Penn in 2016, but we’re all stuck at home, right? That means there’s no excuse to not send that email to the Penn archivist to see if there’s a digital or VHS copy of that game somewhere.

“Rapidly, I discovered that I wasn’t alone…”

-Chuck Burton, ’92

Once I got some of these games or files, on Saturday afternoons I’ve “live tweeted” them, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the positive response I’ve gotten — not only from the extra memories I’ve been able to get from those who played and experienced them, but also by the comfort it gives people during this time. It may seem like a small thing, but it is a good feeling to be able to share something fun when people are experiencing anything but fun. It is rewarding to be able to share a bit of joy to people during a rotten time for many, even if it’s in just a small way.

Here we are still baking our homemade bread and eating our leftover hash browns, wondering if we’ll have enough eggs to get through the week without having to make another run to the store. But we’re managing to get through this time and hopefully be able to spread a bit of cheer to people while doing it. That’s not a bad place to be. Stay safe, everyone.

 

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