SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- It certainly wasn't the bubbly, energetic and spirited flight I'm used to taking every March, that's for sure.
I flew to Arizona on Wednesday morning to participate in the three Giants spring training broadcasts that NBC Sports Bay Area and NBC Bay Area had left. The coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak had caused cancellations and rampant repercussions everywhere, but there were no updates on what Major League Baseball planned to do when I woke up at 5 a.m. and checked my phone.
I checked it again after my shower at 6 a.m. Nothing. Checked it again on the Lyft ride to the San Francisco airport from 7:30 to 9. Nothing. And there still was no word when I got on my 10:20 flight.
At that point, I boarded alongside cautiously optimistic baseball fans thinking there was a slim chance these spring training games might happen. The plane wasn't full, but it was full enough that the two seats next to me were swooped up by Giants fans.
"I'm going to fan-girl out for a minute," the woman next to me said as she scooting in.
"Hi," I replied.
"You going to work the games?"
"I hope so."
"Do you think they're going to cancel them?"
"I hope not," I said. I couldn't help but feel empathetic.
Her nails were painted orange and black. Her purse was made with Giants material, and her husband had his Giants cap on.
"We're meeting our friends in Scottsdale for their first spring training game," she said. And then the plane took off.
The majority of the passengers on board were Giants and A's fans, donning their respective teams' gear. Two-plus hours later -- almost at the exact time the plane's wheels touched ground in Phoenix -- the announcement came from MLB that the remainder of spring training games had been canceled and Opening Day would be postponed at least two weeks.
My neighbor turned to me and said, "I guess we made the trip for nothing."
The disappointment was palpable. The groans were unanimous. It was a very good reminder of just how much sports mean to people.
I've been doing this long enough to be able to compare this day to when baseball halted for a week after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. In a time like this, the coronavirus is bigger than all of us, and much bigger than these games.
But when people say, "It's just a game," no -- it's not. It's an outlet for so many, and a source of income for some. It's an escape. It's fun, competitive, social, uniting ... and it's understandably disappointing to see it come to a halt, even though it's the right thing to do.
However long the hiatus lasts, it will feel even longer than that. But it will be so, so sweet when sports returns -- and they will.
To the nice woman sitting next to me on the plane: Continue to paint your nails with your favorite team's colors and proudly carry your Giants purse. I'll be looking for you at the yard when baseball comes back.