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I can use a hug.

Given the state of our industry, and the world for that matter, my time for reflection and self-examination continues each day.

I assume this may be the case for many of you. Good thoughts and prayers are going out to everyone as better days are ahead.

I’ve got a personal confession to make given these moments of deep contemplation. Plain and simple, I’m a hugger. And I really miss hugging people.

See ‘It’s time for Nevada to have a lottery”

Yes, I’m fortunate to have a wife and two children at home. But even with all of this “together time,” hugs aren’t at a premium. This is certainly a product of 20-plus years of marriage and two boys ages 18 and 16.

In the sports world, a physical embrace has become commonplace in every aspect of both the contests, and the business. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has created a permanent tradition by hugging the newly drafted players that stroll across the stage. This started in 2010 when the third selection Gerald McCoy, whom was thrilled to be called, shocked Goodell by bear-hugging him for more than six seconds. The crowd reaction was overwhelming and thus it began. Sadly this string of squeezes will end next week.

Up until recently, the hugs were everywhere. If you went to an NBA game, there’s an initial hug at the shootaround. Then we see another embrace before the jump ball. And at the end of the game both hugs and jerseys are exchanged by everyone. There are hugs every time a hockey player scores a goal.

Is it overkill? Some may think so. When they embrace, are they saying “Can you believe we get paid this much money to play a game?”

For the younger folks (I’m not that old) reading this, hugging in sports was not a regular occurrence when I was a child and even a young adult. There was no way iconic Pittsburgh Steeler linebacker Jack Lambert was ever hugging an opponent before, during or after a game. Neither was Oakland Raider defensive lineman Lyle Alzado. When John McEnroe won or lost one of the many epic Grand Slam tennis events vs. Bjorn Borg, they merely shook hands.

The hugs would come when a team won a championship and they celebrated both right after the game or when they popped the corks of champagne in the locker room. My most vivid sports hugging memory is that of Magic Johnson in his rookie year. The team captain and star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had been injured and Magic had to basically play every position at different times of the series.

After beating the mighty Philadelphia 76ers, there was a poignant scene captured on television. Magic the kid was embracing Kareem the legend.

From a sports betting perspective, think about the countless hugs that weren’t available for March Madness this year. Those social media videos of dudes at the Westgate embracing after Belmont covers against Kansas are always hilarious. Or when a group at Aria goes nuts because they had Winthrop plus 250 to get to 15 points before Kentucky?

These events always have people hugging. And many times it is strangers hugging whom have come together to revel in the joy of winning sports bets. It makes you wonder if we will ever return to those days. Or will the practice of social distancing forever change our hugging culture?

It will certainly be interesting and very strange when we return to life as we knew it. I relished embracing people I know in the industry. This includes both longtime relationships, and newly cultivated colleagues.

When I would see John Avello or Jay Rood, guys I’ve known for over 20 years, there was an automatic hug. Same goes for more recent friends like Art Manteris, Vinny Magliulo, and Jay Kornegay along with Michelle and the advertising team at the Westgate or Kelly Stewart. No hug bias from this guy.

I can’t precisely explain my proclivity for hugging. Maybe it’s because I’m an only child and also the rare child of only children? We always hug both before and after visiting each other.

I still maintain friendships with people I attended elementary school with. None of them live in Las Vegas and given our busy lives, we eagerly attempt to see each other at least once a year. The first order of business is always a hug. It’s a formality and an ice breaker.

The situation in the world will certainly have me shelving hugs for a while with those I mentioned above. But if we could give virtual hugs it would be to all of those who are engaged in the fight against COVID-19. From first responders to those responsible for maintaining the supply chain and everyone in between, this hug of thanks is for you.

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