We had one more game left in our regular season and then for the real fun. Playoffs. We sat tied for first in our league and were prepared to make a run deep into the playoffs. My family and friends would ask me all the time when I was going to be able to come home and I’d simply respond, “Early May is the Playoff Championship and then I want to travel Europe for a few weeks.. end of May maybe?” Like I said the fun was just beginning. There was so much to look forward to. Germany was starting to warm up, birds were chirping, (almost to the point of annoying in the early mornings) endless nights of team bonding, and my family was coming to visit. My parents, my grandma and my youngest brother. I was counting down the days until their arrival on March 15th. I knew I was going to be making a trip to the airport on that Sunday but what I didn’t know is that I was going to be the one getting on a flight. A flight home.
As it probably doesn’t need much explanation as to why I was the one getting on the flight that Sunday, I’ll explain it anyways. Two words… Damn Coronavirus. The progression went like this.. the week of March 9th my family really began to contemplate their trip. We went in circles over safety and if they should still come. My Grandma became the most nervous, as the Coronavirus is most threatening to the elderly. President Trump made an announcement on March 11th putting travel bans on the US. This made the decision making process rather easy for my family, not because they wouldn’t be allowed in or out of the US but more so because this move by the President solidified the severity of the issue. As a result, March 12th the decision was made and they no longer would be coming. So to say the least, I was pretty bummed about the whole situation. I had really looked forward to sharing my life in Germany with my family but mainly having them meet all the amazing people that I was surrounded by.
I took the afternoon and pouted in the best way I know how, coffee and ice cream with some teammates. Our little afternoon coffee was interrupted by a phone call from my coach. He called me and informed me that our season had been officially canceled. Yeah canceled. Mama Mia. This opened up a whole new flow of emotions. It left me with a rather empty feeling. Like something had been taken from us and we just truly had no control over it. This was something that’s bigger than basketball and the precautions were absolutely necessary but for any and all sports teams that have been affected by this, all I can say is I feel for you.
We battled to finish at the top of the league. And frankly, I don’t even mean on the court. We fought through adversity like I’ve never seen before. Our team seemed to resemble a revolving door at times. We dealt with roster changes up until the very end. Saying goodbye to teammates and welcoming new ones. We fought through injuries. Death/sickness of loved ones. Life challenged us in ways I can’t even explain but yet we found a way to hold together through it all and come out on top. To say I’m proud would be an understatement but it’s also so disheartening that we will never know how it would have all played out.
Professional basketball is different in the sense that when the season is over, you have no idea what your team could look like for the next year.(Who am I kidding.. we didn’t even know what ours would look like week to week) It’s not like college where you lose your seniors but the core of your team remains the same.. this is a business that can have a lot of turnover year to year so it’s not even fair to say, “There’s always next year” because you don’t know what the next year could look like.
So again I pouted, well more sad and disappointed at this point, so we finished our coffee and we exchanged it with wine. We were now left celebrating our season. We toasted to all the memories, the ups and downs, and our last game together. Hell, I think we were even sad we wouldn’t be hearing “Make the layups“ anymore. It had been a crazy week and it only got crazier from there. The world seemed like it was shutting down. Countries were talking about closing their borders. Italy was on a complete lockdown. March Madness, NBA, Euro League. Canceled/suspended. Americans were rushing home. In my mind, there was a sense of safety in the idea of being home. There were 13 airports in the whole United States that were taking flights from Europe. Thankfully, one of those being Chicago. I was beginning to panic a little that Germany would follow suit with Italy and close their borders. So that night, March 13th, I had my club book my flight home. For Sunday, March 15th.
A Rushed Goodbye
Bad Homburg felt like home and these people had become like family and now I had less than 48 hours to say thank you and goodbye to everyone. It felt unfair, as did much of this situation but I was going to have to pack up my life and be on a flight home by the end of the weekend. Even if my time in Bad Homburg started late and got cut short, I’ll never forget it. I loved my experience and the people I met along the way. Let’s face it, I’ve never lived more than 30 minutes from home so when I say I had no idea what to expect in my first year overseas, I mean it. But it was everything I could have hoped for and more.
I lived in the cutest town, yet close enough to the biggest airport in Germany, making travel flawless. I played for the most passionate and resilient Coach. Somehow through every challenge and curve ball life threw at him, he still managed to be the glue that held our team together. I was given a house to live in with a family. What I didn’t know is how quickly that house would feel like my home and that family would become my family. They introduced me to the German culture but so much more. Some people need to travel the world to experience unique cuisines and chase the sweetest wines… I just had to sit down with the Rheins for dinner on Saturday nights. (Did you know Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have a wine vineyard in France.. ya me either) I was always greeted by the cutest dog every time I came home and I even got to feel what it would be like to have a younger sister and it’s really too bad I got a younger brother. (Kidding PJ..love ya) And well my teammates, they were amazing. They too welcomed me from the moment I arrived and they even accepted my senior citizen bed time of 10pm. I’ll miss it all.
It baffles me that 5 months ago I was on google trying to locate Bad Homburg on the map. It was just a city then and now it feels like another home. It’s filled with the most incredible people. So sure, I’m extremely disappointed how my experience in Bad Homburg came to an abrupt end but I smile because I know that those are family, friends, and memories that I will have forever. My “Green Bay Grandpa” (Lee hehe) called me to make sure I arrived home safely.. we talked about the unfair end of my season and just my experience as a whole. He must have been able to tell I was still sad about the whole thing because he reminded me to be thankful for the experience and shared:
“Memories aren’t library books.. you dont have to return them in a few weeks you get to keep them.. And whenever you want, you can always replay them.”
So for now, I’m just going to be thankful for the experience. I’m going to absorb this time I have at home with my family. Maybe I’ll read a few books, write more, try a new recipe, take up running (a bit ambitious) go for walks*… Either way, I’m going to make sure I take advantage of this time and do the things I “never” have time to do. But when this is all said and done, I look forward to replaying those memories over and over again.