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David Schmalz here, thinking about sports, as I often do, because there are few things in life I enjoy more than watching a good game.

Last night I attended my first-ever Warriors game at their new San Francisco waterfront arena, Chase Center, with tickets my older brother paid a king’s ransom for. (My grade for Chase Center: solid A). The whole experience was wild: Thankfully, all attendees had to show proof of vaccination to get in, but once inside, many people—and there were 18,000-plus in attendance, a sell-out—maybe had their masks on half the time, if at all. 

I kept my KN95 mask flush across the bridge of my nose and tried not to think about it—I was there to watch what is arguably the greatest basketball team on earth play some ball. 

While living in Monterey County, I haven’t watched many pro sports games in person—it’s too long a haul up to the Bay—so it was a treat, and I had hoped that I’d even get a chance to witness the return of the Warriors’ star shooting guard Klay Thompson, a future Hall of Famer, fan favorite and key contributor to the Warriors’ recent championships (2015, 2017, 2018) who has been out the last couple of years due to injury. 

But Thompson’s return was not to be. And not only that—there were other key Warriors out on the Covid reserve list, most importantly forward Draymond Green (another future Hall of Famer, and arguably the greatest defender on earth), who is the motor and field general of the squad. 

Yet, the team—coming off a long road trip that included a game on Christmas Day—still had the ability to beat anybody, because the Warriors still had a lot of talent on the floor, including all-time shooting talent Steph Curry, who broke the record for most made 3-point shots in NBA history a few weeks ago at 33 years old. (Having grown up in the Bay Area, I sometimes have to remind myself how lucky I’ve been as a sports fan: I’ve seen multiple championships from all of my favorite teams—the 49ers, Warriors and Giants.)

However, perhaps because of a hangover from the road trip, or perhaps because they missed Green, the Dubs came out flat and couldn’t hit a shot, or a free throw. The team finished the first half down 24 points. 

The Dubs (as Warriors fans call the team) are feisty though, and clawed their way back on the shoulders of the some clutch 3-point shots by Curry—and when he drained a deep three late in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 84, it was pandemonium in the arena. Just minutes before that, Curry achieved another statistical milestone: he sunk his 3000th (!) 3-point shot.

But it was not to be—the Dubs got edged out in the final minutes, losing 89-86, a profoundly deflating outcome. 

Did I have a good time? Yes, I did. Would I do it again as Covid continues to spread rapidly throughout the country? No, definitely not. I appreciated the safety protocols the Warriors have put in place, but let’s face it: Friendly ushers aren’t going to be able to enforce a mask mandate in the arena for anyone not eating or drinking, and worrying about Covid aerosols just made the whole experience feel dicey. 

Are we ever going to get back to some semblance of normal? I don’t know, though I sure as hell hope so. Until that happens, I don’t think I’ll be going to any more indoor sporting events—another disappointing consequence of this pandemic.

But I’m still going to keep doing everything I can to keep myself and others in my community safe, and I hope you do too. Like many sports, it’s a team effort.

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