Just a few months ago, Ben Buchnat was on the field of Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, Fla., celebrating the Kansas City Chiefs’ Super Bowl win. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Journalism and Mass Communications alumnus said he felt that he was at the “apex” of where he could go working in sports at this point in his career. But like others in the sports media industry, the COVID-19 global pandemic has left several without jobs. Buchnat now feels like this is the most uncertain he has ever been about his life and the direction of his career.
After the news of sports cancelations, Buchnat was first disappointed about not getting to enjoy the March Madness tournament but soon the realization of how he would be spending the foreseeable future set in: he was going to be unemployed. Buchnat now understands that he may be back home for the time being.
“It was a really like that first week of realization where everything was kind of going to hell really negatively impacted my mental health,” Buchnat said. “I was like, ‘Wow, I really made the wrong choice,’ and I was questioning my career, even though it’s such a dumb thing to do.”
After his internship with the Chiefs came to a close at the end of February, Buchnat was expecting only a small gap before he would start his next opportunity. His job search started out with several online postings, but his search results started to decline as the coronavirus became more prevalent across the country. While he is hoping to find a job in the coming months, the absence of sports is unsettling. Buchnat believes that the upcoming NFLand college football seasons will not be what we are used to and will either be delayed or operate differently.
“A big part of what I was doing with the Chiefs involved getting the crowd excited and working on the stadium presentation,” he said. “If we can’t have fans, what are we going to do about that? It’s just really uncertain.”
With the absence of sports, Buchant has grown a greater appreciation for sports. He found himself watching more of the NFL draft and other sports he wouldn’t regularly tune in to.
“[Sports] was definitely something that I think all of us took for granted … it is clearly like a big part of American society, and a lot of our societal fabric is on these kinds of communal events like sport,” Buchnat said. “I think everyone’s just kind of like me. I’m just going to consume it more and just be more appreciative when I’m consuming it.”
Along with sports, Buchnat has had a growing appreciation of other parts of his life while practicing social distancing. Most of his free time is filled with activities and his daily routine.
“I wake up and play Animal Crossing for a few hours. I go eat. I go run. And then I eat. And then I go play Animal Crossing for a few more hours,” Buchnat said.
He also fills his time with watching Jeopardy and Survivor, playing guitar and relaxing. What is most important to Buchnat is doing his part to stop the spread of COVID-19.
“It doesn’t really feel like I’m doing much because I’m playing video games all day, but that’s helping our healthcare workers; that’s helping the essential workers who have to go out and it’s helping people like my dad who still have to go to the office,” he said. “So, it’s OK to be at home. It’s OK to not do anything … That’s what we’re supposed to be doing right now is staying home.”
As a recent UNL graduate, Buchnat is sympathetic toward the soon-to-be graduates looking for a career in the sports industry.
“I would say, first of all, I’m sorry. Especially, I am so glad I graduated last year and had the experience that I did,” he said. “You guys lost all of that — graduation, the Spring Game, the last couple of months with your friends, like, I apologize.”
While he feels he has not been in the industry long enough to give advice, his biggest encouragement is to manage stress levels and focus on yourself.
“Don’t stress … don’t feel the need to compare yourself to either like your siblings who have jobs or your classmates and other majors that have jobs because it’s a different market,” Buchnat said.
He encourages graduates to relax and enjoy the break while practicing social distancing.
“Don’t beat yourself up. Just staying home and like playing Animal Crossing or playing Call of Duty … you’re saving lives,” Buchnat said. “The important thing right now is just making sure that everyone’s safe. Things will happen when they’re meant to happen.”