When all is said and done this 2020, we’ll look back at this year in sports as the Year of the Bubble.
Leagues around the world had their own protected environments where they were shut out from the outside world, shacking it up with teammates and adversaries in an ultra-competitive summer camp for grown-ups.
In sports, it has also been the great year of sacrifice. Athletes and staff each gave up some of their freedom so we could play on – away from their loved ones, in their own little planets as life continued in the world around them each day. Birthdays, weddings, first steps, even deaths.
This is what we saw. But to many inside that bubble, this year has been about those who sacrificed at home so they could sacrifice for their craft.
“The first two weeks back home, I did everything wrong around the house. I would take cups from one place, put it in another place. They kept telling me, ‘no, the ketchup doesn't go there.’ Or ‘take that back because those bags are for this,’” shares Marc Dos Santos.
Such was life in quarantine for the Whitecaps FC head coach, who spent around a hundred nights on hotel beds this year.
“There was an adjustment for me after being away for two months, and when you're back, you shuffle things around that you shouldn't,” says Dos Santos.
The good thing is while the skipper was away for months at a time, the real manager of the Dos Santos household kept things running back home.
“Marie does a great job with the kids,” says Dos Santos about his wife. “The only way you survive when you're a wife alone with three kids for so long is having a very strict schedule with the kids. It's a little bit like an army. It's the only way you could get things done when you're alone with kids that go to school.”
So as Marc guided the ‘Caps to a gradual improvement that saw them playing their best football towards the end of the season, it was Marie juggling different roles at home – the mom, the dad, the teacher, the cook, and many more all rolled into one.
“I feel a lot of guilt. There's always guilt for so much time you've been away. And for me, it's not only the two months in Portland, it's an accumulation of a career where there's a lot of distance between you and the family,” confesses Dos Santos.
You won’t be seeing the elf sitting on any shelves in the Dos Santos living room this year.
“The elf was phenomenal, he was very involved in our house for many years, he did a lot of great things, but I think his magic is wearing off for the kids,” says Dos Santos. “I think they’re starting to find out.”
It’s not the only thing different at home this time around. Like most, they usually take the time to be with their extended family but that won’t be happening this year due to the pandemic.
The original plan was for younger brother and assistant coach Phil and his family to come over, but gatherings beyond your household are now restricted through the holidays in British Columbia.
Spending the holidays in Vancouver for the first time, the family will stick to some of their favourite traditions – though it could be a challenge for the parents.
“The thing that doesn't change is the presents on Christmas morning. That's the fun part,” says Dos Santos. “Traditionally though, that’s a tough morning because usually, we would have a little bit too much wine on the 24th. And then the kids wake you up at 5 a.m. because they want to open presents. For our family, that tradition is going to be there all the time.”
It’s a different time, but still a special time.
Marc, the loving husband and doting dad, is home. And he knows where things go around the house again, and when to put the kids to bed.
“The first two weeks, I messed everyone’s schedule up. I kept the kids a little bit too late which changed everything with Marie’s plans for the kids. But I’ve adjusted to everything,” says Dos Santos.
Things will ramp back up eventually – players might start to report to camp as early as January 25.
The season will start again, and with it, Marie will have to play double- and triple-duty again at home, like for many wives and husbands whose partners have devoted their lives to this game. Wives and husbands who are living a dream they never had.
But for now, Dos Santos is making up for lost time.
“I’ve been busy with the family – preparing lunches for the kids before they go to school and all the little things at home,” says Dos Santos. “I’m playing catch up because I know that the season will eventually start again.”