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Back in late 2014, sports writer Adam Himmelsbach had a good situation.
"Yeah, I was a columnist and kind of investigative reporter at the Louisville Courier-Journal," he says.
The Courier-Journal is Kentucky’s biggest newspaper, and Adam could usually set his own schedule.
"If I wanted to wake up early on a Sunday and spend 12 hours on an investigative story and really make good progress and then pretty much do nothing the next two days, I could," he says.
But about two and a half years into his stint at the Courier-Journal, Adam thought it might be time for a change.
A friend told him the Boston Globe — which is widely believed to have one of the best sports sections in the country — was looking for a Celtics beat writer.
"Could you just tell me about the moment that you found out that you got it?" I ask.
"Oh, it was not very, like, exciting or romantic," he says. "The editor just called me and was like, 'Yeah, I'd like to offer you the job.' "
"And what was going through your head?" I ask.
"Um, to be totally honest, I thought it was cool, but I was like, 'Do I really want to be a beat writer?' " Adam says.
Adam knows a lot of sports writers would’ve probably said 'Yes' on the spot. But he understood taking the job would mean following the Celtics all over the country and always being on call to cover a trade or breaking news.
"I was like, 'I have a pretty good setup going right now — a nice, like, work-life balance,' " Adam says. "Beat writings’ a lot more work-work balance. So, yeah, that was certainly a concern.
"But ultimately, obviously, I decided it wasn't that big of a concern."
A New (Busier) Life In Snowy Boston
Adam took the job and moved to Boston in early 2015.
"Right when I got here, the Celtics were still in the process of kind of their rebuild, and it felt like there was a trade, like, every two weeks," Adam says. "That was also the worst winter in Boston history — a record snowfall record, all these trades, that was the point where I'm like, 'What am I — ? Like, I could just be chilling in Louisville right now, like, going to the Kentucky Derby.' "
"Her face just kind of went blank, and she looked kind of like a sad puppy dog, and she's like, 'You're not going to marry the NBA, are you?' "Adam Himmelsbach
About a year into his new job, Adam visited his parents. His mom had some questions.
"She's kind of asking me about how social life’s going, 'How's dating going?' " Adam recalls. "And I was like, 'Well, it’s a little challenging.' And she said, 'Well, there's other NBA writers, right?' Like, 'How are they dating and meeting people?'
"And a couple were married, and they were married before they even took their jobs. And there were a few who are older than me who were also single. All of them have, like, a real passion for the NBA. And I said, like, 'Mom, in a weird way, it almost feels like they're married to the NBA.'
"And her face just kind of went blank, and she looked kind of like a sad puppy dog, and she's like, 'You're not going to marry the NBA, are you?' Her visions of grandchildren just disappearing. And I said, 'Of course not.' ”
Adam meant it. He really didn’t plan on marrying the NBA. But the NBA was going to make it hard for him to meet someone else.
Dating As An NBA Beat Writer
"Without question the hardest part is just time," Adam says. "For a typical game I finish filing my last story around midnight or 12:15. So, it's like, you're not gonna go out and meet somebody at that point. And then when you're on the road, you're just on the road. On average, I'm in a Marriott 100 nights a year."
Adam says sometimes he’ll try to make plans for the night he’s back from a long West Coast road trip. But by the time he lands in Boston he’s exhausted.
"So, sometimes I just bail," he says. "And then the next day there's a home game again, and then, a lot of times a woman will be like, 'All right, you seem like you don't really ever have time. So I think maybe this isn't the best idea.' And I understand it. I'm like, 'Yeah, I understand.' "
"A lot of times a woman will be like, 'All right, you seem like you don't really ever have time. So I think maybe this isn't the best idea.' And I understand it."Adam Himmelsbach
Sometimes the women Adam matches with on dating apps are excited about his job, but sometimes they’ll have the wrong idea.
"They'll think, like, because I'm an NBA journalist that right now I might be hanging out with NBA All-Stars. Like, 'Oh, so do you guys, like, hang out after the game?' I'm like, 'No, that, like, literally never happens.' Or like, 'Oh, can I meet LeBron James if we hang out?' Like, 'No, like, that's not how this works either.' "
(Thankfully, Adam says no one has yet called for the check after he’s broken the news that LeBron isn’t waiting for them at the next bar.)
Anyways, occasionally Adam will have to cancel plans at the last minute because of breaking news.
"And this isn't always just, like, going on dates," Adam says. "I don't want to make it sound like I'm just like constantly dating. I feel like this is coming across like I'm dating, like, hundreds of women. That's not the case at all. But in general, yeah, if you have plans with your buddies, too — there's certainly been times where some news will break in the NBA, and you've just gotta handle it."
A Sudden Change Of Pace
So to quickly recap: Adam’s on the road more than a quarter of the year. He’s working 'til midnight another 50 nights a year. And his social life isn’t getting an assist from any NBA All-Stars.
So, yeah, dating as an NBA beat writer can be really hard. But Adam really loves a lot of things about his job. He loves covering a league that’s growing in popularity. And parts of traveling the country are really exciting.
So this past October, Adam Himmelsbach — still a bachelor — began his sixth season covering the Celtics.
And through the first two thirds of the season, his dating life proceeded as it had in previous years.
Then this past March 10, Adam was in Indianapolis to cover the first leg of a two-game Celtics road trip.
"And that was the first game the NBA had social distancing for the media in place where we basically had to stay six feet from players. We couldn't go in the locker room or anything like that," Adam says. "So the next morning, flew to Milwaukee, was in my hotel room kind of saying, 'There might not be any fans at this Bucks game,' 'cause you could tell kind of the tide was shifting a little bit."
The Celtics-Bucks game wasn’t until the next day, so that night Adam was in his room. And that’s when he saw on Twitter that something was up at the Jazz-Thunder game in Oklahoma City.
"There was commotion, and no one knew what was happening," Adam says. "So at that point I turned on NBA League Pass. And I was like, 'What is going on here?' And then pretty much it all just happened real fast in terms of, 'OK, they're telling the fans to go home. OK, [Jazz center] Rudy Gobert has tested positive [for the coronavirus]. OK, the NBA is done.' "
That night, March 11, 2020, the NBA season was suspended. Adam quickly booked a new flight for 7 the next morning — and then he was back in his apartment.
"And then pretty much — aside from grocery store trips and occasional walks outside, I've mostly been here ever since," Adam says.
"Basically the exact opposite of what your life is normally like," I say.
"Yeah," he responds. "For me honestly it's been nice to just kind of be home and reset. Not having to worry about catching flights or working til 1 a.m. And it's been nice to have like a little bit more of like a normal life in that sense, which is crazy cause it's not normal at all, really."
Adam continued reporting and writing from his couch, but life was suddenly calmer.
"So at what point did it cross your mind to open the apps up and, like, see what was going on?" I ask.
"Yeah, I mean it's not even that it crossed my mind," Adam says. "There's only so many times you can, like, Zoom call your buddies and talk to your parents and talk to your friends about college memories."
So, like a lot of single people these days, Adam’s been exchanging messages on dating apps. And he’s talked to a couple people via video chat.
"Is it easier now in certain ways?" I ask "Like, are you getting to connect with more people than you would have before?"
"It does seem like there are a lot more matches," Adam says. "And the communications are a little stronger, it feels like. Typically, you might send a few messages, 'Hey, where are you from?' Blah blah blah. 'Want to go grab a drink?' 'Sure.' And you find out if you hit it off. Now obviously you cannot go grab a drink. So people just are sending messages, and you're, like, taking the time to get to know the person a little bit. So that part actually has been sort of refreshing actually."
'Score One For Mom'
Eventually the NBA will return, and Adam will go back to the late nights filing stories and the early mornings catching flights.
Still, he’s not putting too much pressure on himself during this rare period of relative down time.
"I personally don’t feel like, 'I’m home now. This is a real time to find the one!' "
Instead, Adam says he’s focused on getting through this pandemic.
And without basketball games to cover, he recently wrote about his experience dating as an NBA beat writer — and he opened the piece by talking about that time his mom asked if he was going to marry the NBA.
On a recent call, Adam and his mom revisited that conversation.
"I said, 'Do you remember that?' " Adam says. "And she goes, 'Yeah, and now you're five years in and still not married. So maybe I had a point.' Fair point. Score one for mom."
Check out Adam Himmelsbach’s recent Boston Globe story “Swiping right with no place to go: app dating during COVID-19, an awkward but more authentic quest.”
This segment aired on May 16, 2020.
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