Sports | Crooked Media
A BOOK FOR YOUR EYES AND EARS! PRE-ORDER THE DEMOCRACY OR ELSE AUDIOBOOK NOW A BOOK FOR YOUR EYES AND EARS! PRE-ORDER THE DEMOCRACY OR ELSE AUDIOBOOK NOW
April 23, 2020
Six Feet Apart with Alex Wagner
Sports

In This Episode

Sports and athletic performances of all kinds are on hold indefinitely as the global pandemic continues to play out. While stadiums and auditoriums sit empty, what’s happened to the athletes who once used them? Alex speaks with an Olympic hopeful, a prima ballerina, and a WNBA star to see how elite athletes are keeping their minds sharp and muscles strong in a moment of social isolation and deferred dreams.

 

 

Transcript

 

Alex Wagner: Hi, welcome to Six Feet Apart. I’m Alex Wagner. It’s hard to pinpoint one singular moment when Americans began to realize that the COVID-19 pandemic was about to reshape all of our lives. But for many of us, the cancelation of our favorite pastimes: basketball, the Olympics, the performing arts—that was the inflection point, the beginning of a very different era. And that’s what we’re talking about today. Sports, or sport, if you prefer to be a little more highfalutin about it. What’s happened to America’s finest athletes in a moment when games and performances are all on hold indefinitely? How do you maintain peak physical condition when the arenas and stages are closed and your coaches are nowhere near you? What happens to team players when there’s no team? We’ll be talking to people who’ve trained their whole lives to perform under pressure and now find themselves with nowhere to go and nothing to perform. First, we’ll speak to Christian Coleman, one of the great track and field hopefuls for Team USA in the 2020 Summer Olympics, which are now the 2021 Summer Olympics. Christian was widely expected to beat Usain Bolt’s 100 meter dash Olympic record. He just might be the fastest man alive, but for now, he’s back at home living with his parents. Then we’ll talk with Isabella Boylston, a principal dancer at the American Ballet Theater in New York City. Because of the pandemic, Isabella has lost an entire season in a career that is by nature, fairly short. Instead of pirouettes at Lincoln Center, she’s now live streaming ballet classes from her kitchen in Brooklyn. And then Nneka Ogwumike, a WNBA player on the Los Angeles Sparks. While the NBA was the first major American professional sports association to cancel its season due to OVID-19, the WNBA hasn’t even started its games for 2020. While the WNBA aims to get its players back on the court sometime this year, for now, Nneka and her teammates are in isolation. She’s been at home waiting to shoot hoops since March 8th. And now here’s Christian Coleman.

 

Alex Wagner: So, Christian, I think a lot of people expected they would next hear from you while you are on the the medal stand in the Tokyo Olympics 2020. But of course, circumstances have dictated that that is not going to be happening this year. Where are you right now?

 

Christian Coleman: I’m back home in Atlanta. Back home in Atlanta, Georgia. My, my parents’ house.

 

Alex Wagner: Are you sleeping in your childhood bedroom?

 

Christian Coleman: I am sleeping my childhood bedroom. There’s a lot of stuff in there that, I kind of use it for stores, just stuff that I’ve gained and gotten over the years. So it’s a little bit crowded.

 

Alex Wagner: What are your days like? What time do you get up? How do you find time to work out?

 

Christian Coleman: I get up like Monday, Wednesday, Friday, I go up to the gym and lift weights, and then in the afternoons I’ll, you know, go to the track to do the workouts that my coach sends. Like sometimes it’s not a track workout, sometimes, you know, just some stuff we can do around the house like a circuit.

 

Alex Wagner: What track are you using? Because most of the high schools are closed, right?

 

Christian Coleman: Yeah, the high schools are definitely closed but I just hop the fence.

 

Alex Wagner: You’re hopping the fence. You’re hopping the fence?

 

Christian Coleman: Yeah, I hop the fence. I don’t want to say the name, so if somebody like hears it and like come over there and catch me.

 

Alex Wagner: We don’t want to see you get arrested. You just trying to work out.

 

Christian Coleman: Yeah. But I mean—

 

Alex Wagner: Don’t you think that there’s some high school out there that would be happy to have you training. I mean really, given who you are and what you may become, I think that that would be a badge of honor. They’d love to know that Christian Coleman was hopping their fence.

 

Christian Coleman: Definitely. But I mean, the, I mean, the school I’m going to it’s up the street and I know the coach and, you know, we’re pretty cool. We’re pretty close. He’s like, he can’t, like, technically, legally open it for me but was just staying like, nobody’ll be up there so it’s cool if, you know, go out there and still, you know, get on the track and do my workouts that I need to do, you know, not get out of shape during this time. So it’s kind of crazy.

 

Alex Wagner: I mean, it is crazy, right? Like given where you thought you were going to be, you know, on New Year’s Day, right? Nobody in the world thought Christian Coleman, this young athlete who a lot of people are saying it’s going to beat Usain Bolt’s record, fastest man alive, that you would be hopping the fence at a high school and working out at a gym by yourself, then sleeping in your childhood bedroom in Atlanta, Georgia, come April

 

Christian Coleman: Yeah, I never would have, I never would have thought. I mean, and then it, it kind of all just happened so fast, like, you know, we were just going through our regular routine, like I was training and we were going through the indoor season and I ran in one meet and we were supposed to have the indoor world championships in China. And so that was kind of strange that, you know, I feel like over here in America, it wasn’t being like taking as serious or broadcasted how serious this pandemic was about the coronavirus, but they canceled that meet which was going to be in March but they canceled it back in February over in China. And so at that point, I don’t know, like the news over here wasn’t like making it seem like, you know, the virus would reach us and it would be a big deal so we just kind of keep going through our regular, you know, training and routine. And we were at the NCAA championships and then they started, different teams started to drop out and different conferences started to say that they weren’t going to allow the athletes to compete, and then they just cancelled the whole league, and then like NBA canceled, and it was just kind of like a whole crazy like week in that time span, where like things started to, like, unravel.

 

Alex Wagner: Yeah. You know, it sounds like from the athletes I’ve been speaking with, the athletes that were involved in international competitions or international performances, they sort of had a sense earlier than I think a lot of American athletes did, or athletes that only compete in the U.S., they had a sense earlier in this cycle that something bad was coming down the pipe because they were talking about people who were overseas, they knew what organizers in Asia or in Europe were beginning to grapple with. And so it sounds kind of like that was the case with you, that that you had a sense that this could be a problem earlier than a lot of folks, I think, in America did.

 

Christian Coleman: Absolutely. Because like when they canceled the Indoor World Championships back in February and I thought it was just kind of strange but a couple more weeks went by and things just started to get way more serious in way more countries. And obviously things started to transpire.

 

Alex Wagner: When they canceled that international meet in Asia, did you start thinking, uh oh, what about the Olympics? Or was that still too far down the line?

 

Christian Coleman: Yeah, not immediately. I didn’t start to think about that because I wasn’t being affected in terms of, like, my training. And neither were, you know, my competitors, you know, because most of the people, even if they’re international athletes, they, you know, train over here in America. And so everything was just kind of the same. And I wasn’t even, you know, thinking that, you know, this could last for the next few months and, you know, they could possibly cancel the Olympics at that point. That, you know, definitely wasn’t my thought process because I had no like news or knowledge about it. I thought that it was just a situation going on and, you know, they’ll get it under control in the next few weeks and we’ll be good to go this summer. But obviously, that wasn’t the case. I guess it was just getting started.

 

Alex Wagner: Can you talk to me a little bit about how you’ve dealt with all of this psychologically? I mean, I know physically you’re trying to keep your strength up, you’re trying to stay in shape. You’re continuing those secret workouts on that high school track. But, you know, given the expectation around your performance, given the hopes that a lot of people had for you being a medalist in the games, you know, how have you dealt with the fact that you’re not going to be competing for another year?

 

Christian Coleman: Yeah, I mean, honestly, I feel like track and field is more of a mental and emotional sport than it is physical. Like, obviously, you train your bodies and you put the work in and hours and hours on on a track, but mentally like going into competitions, knowing that everything is going to be on the line and you get one shot. You know, you don’t get four quarters to go out there and, you know, put together a good performance, or you don’t get another game six to another game seven, you know, like you do in the NBA or or in baseball or something. You know, you get one chance, you know, as soon as the gun goes off, that’s your opportunity. And mentally, I feel like that weighs a lot on you, I mean, it could stretch you out, but then also just the pressure, you know, the whole situation. So I just, over the years I’ve gotten better and better at just controlling the things that I can control. And it’s so it’s kind of thing that you just have to teach yourself to just not be anxious, you know, not be stressed out about certain situations, just whatever you can control, like whatever’s on your plate, that’s what you deal with. And so I think as track athletes, we’re kind of used to wait for opportunity, wait for our chance and just stand ready for that, that one. Obviously, we’ve waited four years now and we’ll just have to wait one more and so I think it’ll just make it that much more special. You know, if you were to go out and get an Olympic medal or make that Olympic team knowing that everybody had to go through these type of circumstances and everybody had to be faced with these type of obstacles to be able to get there.

 

Alex Wagner: Yeah, I think there’s some global unity and all that, right? The games, when they do happen, aren’t going to be a real high point for Earth.

 

Christian Coleman: Absolutely.

 

Alex Wagner: Given what the globe will have to grapple with between now and then. Is it good to be home with your parents? Is it does it make it easier to be surrounded by family at a time like this?

 

Christian Coleman: Definitely. Definitely a good time to be around your family, by around your people. I think hearing about how so many people have died and are being affected and displaced by this, it puts in perspective that, you know, life is short and you definitely should not take it for granted because, you know, life can just obviously change within a week, within a day, within an hour, you know, things can be totally different. And so, you know, just taking it to, you know, be around my people and around my family and cherishing it. You know, you definitely don’t want to take these opportunities for granted, even in the midst of a, you know, global pandemic.

 

Alex Wagner: Thanks a lot, Christian. We’ll see you in Tokyo.

 

Christian Coleman: Thank you. I appreciate you guys so much.

 

Alex Wagner, narrating: So it’s a lost year for many athletes, which is an issue when many of their careers are relatively short to begin with. Isabella Boylston is a principal dancer at the American Ballet Theater in New York City. But for now, she’s doing what she can to keep her calluses tough offstage.

 

Alex Wagner: So, Isabella, on April 8th, which actually in the grand scheme of this was not that long ago, the American Ballet Theater, ABT, where you’re a dancer, canceled their season. That was later than a couple other major U.S. dance companies. What were you supposed to be dancing in the season?

 

Isabella Boylston: So basically, I was just going to be revisiting all of my classical roles: Swan Lake, Giselle, Romeo and Joliet—Juliet’s definitely one of my favorite roles, so—Jane Eyre. Every week we do a different ballet and there are several casts of principal dancers. So you can see like a bunch of different interpretations of each ballet.

 

Alex Wagner: Do you remember when they closed the dance studio?

 

Isabella Boylston: Yeah, it was, the last day of work was March 12th. And it literally, it was so crazy because we were supposed to tour to Chicago like five days later. And it wasn’t until then that they canceled our Chicago tour. And we’re supposed to have a tour to China in the fall and my thought was like, oh, well, I hope we can still do our tour. Just so ignorant, not even thinking like, oh, soon this will be in the States and we’ll be dealing with it here.

 

Alex Wagner: Well, I think there are a lot of people that thought exactly along the same lines as you.

 

Isabella Boylston: It’s just scary how, I guess ill-informed we were about it. Like even a week before they canceled our last tour, like it still seemed like a possibility. Honestly, like we were thinking maybe even just like a few weeks. So I’m so glad I, like, got, horded a bunch of my point shoes because I’ll need to keep wearing them so my toes don’t get completely raw.

 

Alex Wagner: Wow. And one never thinks about the fact that you have to keep your calluses up, that that sort of wear and tear actually is is necessary for peak performance.

 

Isabella Boylston: Totally. Like when I get a pedicure, I won’t let them touch my calluses. I’m like, you have no idea how hard I’ve worked to get these. The second I don’t wear my point shoes, like I lose the calluses and the toughness and my toes that I need to be able to go on point.

 

Alex Wagner: Because the season was canceled relatively late, have you been trying to keep up with your rehearsals? Tell me a little bit about how you sort of continued to train through this first phase of the isolation of the lockdown?

 

Isabella Boylston: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, we are used to rehearsing for up to nine hours a day, and I usually only take one day off because our bodies are so, like, finely tuned, I guess that—

 

Alex Wagner: Yeah. I would day finely tuned. I think that that’s fair.

 

Isabella Boylston: Even after a few days off, you feel it. Just in order to, like, not have my, you know, muscles start atrophying I’ve been doing class in my kitchen every day. And then my best friend, James Whiteside and I—he’s a principal dancer in ABT as well—we had the idea to basically start live streaming classes. And our first live stream, like over 15,000 people took our class. We were so overwhelmed. We were like, OK, 15,000 people, that’s more than four times the capacity of the Met Opera House, our biggest theater. But I literally just hold on to the kitchen sink.

 

Alex Wagner: But I mean, I think of ballet is one of those things that uses like a large range of movement and a full stage. So when you were trying to keep up with your routines for the performances, like how do you do that in a Brooklyn living room?

 

Isabella Boylston: Yeah, I mean, honestly, it is impossible to do the full range of motion that I would do in my typical rehearsal day at the studios. But you can still like target specific muscle groups to just like keep your strength going. You know, I know the, what the dance community is going through right now is very difficult, but at the same time, we are fortunate to, like those of us that are healthy, are very fortunate, and we’re fortunate to just still be able to move in our kitchens because not everyone has that luxury right now.

 

Alex Wagner: Yeah, that’s definitely true. There are a lot of people that wish they could be doing plies by the sink.

 

Isabella Boylston: Totally. So, yeah, things, things could be worse.

 

Alex Wagner: At this point, you know, as you try and keep your calluses calloused and you keep your muscles from atrophying, what does that practically mean? We’re all sort of in quarantine, social distancing, people can go outside—how do you do that within the sort of space you’ve been allotted?

 

Isabella Boylston: Well, what I’ve started doing is just to stay motivated, because the first week, I didn’t really have a routine and I was like getting super depressed, so I, I have a like notebook and every night I write my schedule for the next day and it’s literally like  9a.m., wake up, 9:30, drink coffee. Just various things to give my day structure.

 

Alex Wagner: I think of ballet is one of those particularly regimented careers, right? I mean, just the fact that you guys are rehearsing so many hours a day, your bodies are finely-tuned instruments, I sort of imagine that ballet dancers are really disciplined just because how could they get to be principal dancers at companies like yours without a fierce amount of self-control and discipline? Is that accurate or am I just, like, just stereotyping?

 

Isabella Boylston: No, I would say that’s extremely accurate. I feel like every professional ballet dancer that I know has had to have a ton of discipline in their life. And not only discipline, but grit, just the ability to, like, push through a lot of physical pain and also deal with setbacks, disappointments, injuries, rejection, like tons of criticism. So, yeah, I think, like I would just say, grittiness and toughness is probably, it’s not what you think of when you think of like a little girl tiptoeing around in a pink tutu, but all the ballet dancers I know are extremely tough.

 

Alex Wagner: Yeah. I mean, I know what happens underneath those pointe shoes and it is not pretty.

 

Isabella Boylston: Totally. It’s not cute.

 

Alex Wagner: But I also wonder, like, I have a box of Entenmann’s donuts that sing to me every morning and I’m like, this is the quarantine life. Do you guys, I mean, has there been any sense of giving in to what is an insane moment in humanity?

 

Isabella Boylston: Definitely. Like every time I go to the store, I buy Ruffles potato chips. I like love Ruffles and I drink wine at night. Of course, I do worry about like staying in shape and staying strong, but more than that, I just worry about people’s mental states. And our routine is so structured like in a way, I feel like this is the first time I’ve had a break since I went to boarding school to study ballet when I was 15.

 

Alex Wagner: Wow.

 

Isabella Boylston: And I’m 33 now, so it’s bizarre.

 

Alex Wagner: Are there are economic like implications to the season being canceled, to the tours being canceled? I know that there are some refunds being offered. I mean, does that affect you guys? How does that work?

 

Isabella Boylston: Absolutely. I mean, it’s a huge loss financially for ABT because the Mets season is, I don’t want to misspeak, but it’s a very significant part of our annual budget, our annual revenue, if not the biggest part. So, yeah, the dancers are laid off for now. The company is definitely extending themselves to offer us benefits and I think there’s still a lot of questions that need to be answered, but I mean, it’s definitely, it’s clear to me that upper management at ABT is working their asses off to support the dancers financially as much as possible.

 

Alex Wagner: Yeah, but I mean, at a certain point, or at a certain number, people are going to have to find other ways of bringing an income, at some point I would assume.

 

Isabella Boylston: Totally I mean, it’s, you know, ABT is a not for profit and I don’t think most ballet dancers go professional to make money. It’s not like playing in the NBA or something. Even if I believe ballet dancers should be making those kind of salaries because of their incredible athleticism, it’s just not part of it.

 

Alex Wagner: Do you foresee a world in which you can make, I mean, I guess I just wonder if this is the lost year. Your season kind of is what it is. It’s not like they can push it till the fall, right?

 

Isabella Boylston: No. Especially because theaters are booked up like I mean, everything’s so planned so far ahead in in ballet. Like, I know my show dates for the next year. Like, it’s not really like you can just slide in some extra shows here and there, unfortunately.

 

Alex Wagner: It’s also, ballet is not known as the career choice for people who want to work as dancers for like 40 years, right. I mean it’s a pretty finite, each year really counts.

 

Isabella Boylston: Yeah, it really is. And I feel like once I hit 30, then it really started to occur to me the ephemeral nature of this career. And I, I like treasure each opportunity to perform because I know I can’t do it forever. But I, I do believe that the hardship that you experience off stage obviously, like the difficulties that you go through in life, they give you richness and depth as a performer. So I think maybe we won’t have the experience of developing on stage this year, but I think we’ll continue to grow as people and artists and have something to bring with us to the stage when we finally do get back out there.

 

Alex Wagner: Isabella, thank you so much for taking time to talk with us.

 

Isabella Boylston: Of course.

 

Alex Wagner: You know, we wish you all the, well we wish you all the thick calluses in the world through this tough time.

 

Isabella Boylston: Thank you so much.

 

Alex Wagner: I mean, I will say the quarantine is building emotional callouses, if not physical ones.

 

Isabella Boylston: Definitely.

 

Alex Wagner: Good luck keeping all of them up.

 

Isabella Boylston: Thank you so much.

 

Alex Wagner: And good luck with everything.

 

Isabella Boylston: Thank you. Bye.

 

Alex Wagner, narrating: And now we’ll hear from Nneka Ogwumike, a WNBA star on the Los Angeles Sparks.

 

Alex Wagner: So, Nneka, where are you right now?

 

Nneka Ogwumike: Right now, I am in Texas, my home state.

 

Alex Wagner: How long have you been in Texas, and where were you when all the news of COVID-19 first started breaking nationally?

 

Nneka Ogwumike: Well, I’ve been in Texas kind of in and out since the end of last season, so since November. But I was also participating in the USA Travel Squad. So after the end of last season, I went to Spain and then we had another segment in Serbia in January, and then we had the Chicago All Star. And I’m huge into podcasts, so, like, I listen to everything. So I had been—.

 

Alex Wagner: That’s good.

 

Nneka Ogwumike: I had been very much aware of of, you know, the coronavirus well before people thought it was a concern, I guess on the Western Hemisphere. I started quarantining, I guess, quarantining, social distancing, staying at home, since March 8th.

 

Alex Wagner: That’s very prescient and responsible of you. Yeah. The NBA was the first professional sports league to say we’re going to suspend games. And I think for a lot of Americans, that was the alarm bell. They still have games left in their season. The start of your season has been pushed back and right now there’s some optimism that the WNBA is going to be playing this summer, right? Yes. Am I getting that right?

 

Nneka Ogwumike: Oh yeah. Yeah, yeah. There is certainly optimism.

 

Alex Wagner: Do you imagine that there is going to be an audience in the stands?

 

Nneka Ogwumike: To be honest, it’s, you know, I guess, I’m manifesting that there’ll be an audience, but to be real, you know, I’m more concerned about safety and health of not just our fans, but the players, the staff, you know, and I think at this point we have to think outside the box. We really have to shift our mindset and what this summer can look like. You can’t follow in lockstep with the NBA because not only are we different, they were in the middle of their season and ours hasn’t started. And I think in a lot of ways that gives us an advantage because we can start from scratch and we don’t necessarily have to figure out how a season has been disrupted and then creating out of that.

 

Alex Wagner: I know you’re trying to manifest people on the people in the audience, but it sounds like you probably won’t have fans in there. And I guess I just wonder from you know, from a player’s perspective, if that does come to pass, what do you think that might be like to play just with your fellow players, your adversaries? Do you think the game becomes more intense because it’s just about the game, there’s not the crowd, or is it less intense because you don’t have that reaction, the thrill, the like emotional pitch of people in the audience?

 

Nneka Ogwumike: I think that in my opinion, it would be more intense. I think it would, it may even be more meaningful because the stoicism of that can contribute to a different type of competition. So I guess we’re also banking on this kind of contributing to a new wave and a new age of broadcasting the WNBA, you know, in ways that people haven’t seen before, in ways that are more accessible to fans. You know, making us more available on a social media and a digital platform for people to be able to consume, consume sports. Because at the end of the day, whether you’re watching at home or whether you’re in the arena, sports is something that really brings people together. And I’m hoping that that’s what happens no matter who is in the arena.

 

Alex Wagner: You are an athlete. You are an elite athlete. And, you know, I would assume you are, you’ve been playing throughout the beginning of the year, but I assume as you gear up for the start of your official season, the training regimen becomes more intense. You’re doing a lot of drills on and off the court, et cetera, et cetera. None of that would seem to be happening if you’re not, you know, playing with your teammates. So how are you approaching training at this moment on your own?

 

Nneka Ogwumike: This is probably the most interesting question you could ask any athlete right now, not just because we’re having to do home workouts, but everyone lives in a different space. So I’ve realized, too, that there’s different types of resources available for different types of players. And it’s funny because I would even pay attention on social media and there are NBA players who are worried about their skill level and their stamina coming back compared to some NBA players that have homes with courts, you know? And in the same goes, yeah, the same goes for WNBA players. You have players that are living in flats and apartments. You have players that have condos. You have players that have full houses. You have players that are living alone. You have players that are living with kids. I have my own home. And I had actually, I bought my spin bike a week before I even realized it, like I would need it. The first place I went to was Dick’s Sporting Goods and so I got all of my weights, I got all of my bands—which are sold out right now. But yeah, I’ve been getting very creative. I live in a townhouse, so I have three sets of stairs. So I’ve been doing stair sprints. It’s been very different.

 

Alex Wagner: Wow. I mean, I’m particularly interested and understanding how, you know, athletes who are on teams manage a moment—you know, because you can obviously stay fit, but I would assume there’s something about playing with other people, your teammates in drills and practice and then in the game itself, that keeps you sharp in a way that no Peloton or Keiser bike or, you know, resistance band can.

 

Nneka Ogwumike: Oh, yeah. I mean, even not even just the team sport aspect, but playing, I guess, like being a part of a team sport that requires, you know, a court and a ball and a hoop, that is already hard because none of us, very few of us, as far as I know, are even able to shoot right now.

 

Alex Wagner: Wow.

 

Nneka Ogwumike: I can can dribble outside with my ball but, my outdoor ball but, you know, I think right now, outside of even just practicing with other people, we’re trying to keep our skills sharp and we can’t even do that. We can’t, we can’t do any workouts with balls right now, which is really challenging.

 

Alex Wagner: That’s crazy to think about, that the NBA and the WNBA, you have players who cannot work out with basketballs.

 

Nneka Ogwumike: Yeah, because you can’t, all the courts are closed, even outdoor, here in Houston they’ve taken down all the hoops on all the outdoor courts. So in the beginning of March, I was at least able to do like dribbling work work on the outdoor court. But now they’ve taped it off and they take the hoops off, so we can’t even do that. I am dreaming about practicing because it’s almost as though we might have to relearn each other, relearn, you know, the game a little bit, again.

 

Alex Wagner: When you think about going back on the court beyond just the questions of skill and so forth, do you have any fear about contracting the virus, given I mean, when I think basketball, I think close contact, I think sweat flying, people, right, breathing in each other’s faces. I mean, does that concern you? Is that something that, you know, you spend any amount of time perseverating about?

 

Nneka Ogwumike: Yeah, you know, I definitely pondered about this in the beginning, but I think now as we combat this with our different methods, I’m less worried. I think you’re going to, you’re going to see in sports maybe the first implementation of, like, maybe widespread periodic testing simply because of what you just mentioned. You know, I think it, it’s very obvious that you can contracted with sweat and breath and just being, just guarding someone, being in close proximity, you know, with that happening. Which is, it’s actually interesting because once this virus kind of started creating its wave towards the West, a lot of players were overseas and there were times when the players said, oh, yeah, they said that the that the fans can’t come in and that after the game we can’t shake hands. And I’m like, so after a game of you guys sweating on each other and touching each other, you can’t shake hands? And touching a ball. I was just kind of like, what is happening? But, yeah, that’s, it’s less of a concern for me now as the methods to prevent it and to combat it in the future I think are made.

 

Alex Wagner: I think there are a lot of people that are going to find your attitude towards this pretty inspiring. I got to ask you, on a question of discipline—because clearly you have a lot of it—have you let anything go. Have you given yourself an out, an extra donut, or a donut?

 

Nneka Ogwumike: So I don’t tell you this. I am managing my character, because, you know, the first week I was like, OK, you know, I can do this, I have all the stuff that I need here in my house. And then the second week rolled around and I was just like, OK, let me just turn my alarm off, I’ll wake up, workout and, you know, go about my day. And that was by far my worst week because I would just wake up, take my time, and then my days were so short, and I was just like, I can’t do this. So I committed myself to regimenting, you know, back to what I’m used to. I wake up, I either wake up at six or seven. I gave my, myself like two times. I’m like, if I’m ready to go, I can wake up at six, otherwise I can snooze till seven. I have let myself go, but it wasn’t the best thing for me. So I—

 

Alex Wagner: And then you got yourself back.

 

Nneka Ogwumike: I got myself back on the track. [laughs]

 

Alex Wagner: You let yourself go, and then you got yourself right on back up, back on track.

 

Nneka Ogwumike: Oh my gosh.

 

Alex Wagner: Well Nneka, may your days continue to be long and may they soon be filled with basketball. We can’t wait to see you back on the court.

 

Nneka Ogwumike: Thank you so much. But in the meantime, we’re working on getting as much NBA on TV, on social, on digital, as much as we can, so hopefully people are still encouraged by seeing us out there and whatever way we can be. And I appreciate talking to you, Alex.

 

Alex Wagner: Thanks, Nneka.

 

Alex Wagner: That’s all for this episode of Six Feet Apart. Our show is produced by Alysa Gutierrez and Lyra Smith, Lyra Smith is our story editor. Our executive producer is Sarah Geismer. Special thanks to Alison Falzetta, Stephen Hoffman and Sidney Rapp. Thanks for listening and stay safe.