April 22, 2020

Overcoming Cough, Fever, and Body Aches, PU Hoops Broadcaster Savage Beats COVID-19

SPEAKING OUT: Noah Savage provides analysis courtside as part of the ESPN college basketball broadcasting team during the 2018-19 season. Savage, a former Princeton University men’s hoops star who also works as a color commentator on Tiger broadcasts, recently contracted COVID-19 and recovered from the virus after a two-week battle.

By Bill Alden

Noah Savage has gone through a tough 2020 health-wise.

The former Princeton University men’s basketball star and current color commentator on Tiger hoops and ESPN broadcasts has suffered a broken thumb, a stomach flu, and Rhabdomyolysis, a breakdown of damaged skeletal muscle, in the first few months of the year.

But on March 15, those ailments paled in comparison when Savage learned the scary news that he been caught up in the coronavirus pandemic, finding out that he had tested positive for COVID-19.

Living in New York City, the U.S. epicenter of the outbreak, Savage was not surprised that he was diagnosed with the virus after feeling ill in early March.

“I had that persistent cough that wasn’t like a productive cough; the urge to cough was there all the time but nothing was happening,” said Savage, 34, who suffers from asthma.

“I work in pharmaceutical sales in New York, I go to offices to see people. I have all of the symptoms, I checked all of the boxes. I am not interacting with the patients but I walk in the waiting room and then I meet with the doctor. Then I started feeling chest tightness all the time that I haven’t had since my asthma. I used to use an inhaler every day when I played and now I really don’t use it. I had to start using it again for the first time in five years. This was worrisome so I called up my doctor.”

As a result of his preexisting condition and constant chest discomfort, Savage was able to get a COVID-19 test through his physician.

“They have you do telemedicine and then they bring you in,” said Savage.

“They don’t have you sit in the waiting room. I got in the lobby, they gave me a mask and gloves and swabbed me. They stick the swabs way up there. It is brutal.”

Living in an apartment in the West Village with his wife Alyssa, Savage self-quarantined immediately upon feeling symptoms.

“I probably stayed in the house like a week past my last fever and I stayed in until I didn’t have a cough anymore,” said Savage. “I was in the house without going outside, other than on my fire escape, for 12 days. It is like that Goodfellas scene where they are in witness protection but it is not that bad.”

Things were bad for Savage as he battled the virus. “I was so tired and the sweating and the fatigue; I went from bed to couch for four full days,” recalled Savage. “I was so tired, I would be like ‘I am going to lay down for a second,’ and I would take a huge nap. I would go bed earlier than I usually do and would sleep 10 hours. My body hurt really bad too, not only the soreness you get with the flu but these random sharp pains. The fever and sweating were bad; I would wake up and I would be freezing. I would have to get into the shower at 4 in the morning and I would put on a bunch of sweatshirts. I would fall asleep and wake up and be sweating.”

Working through the symptoms, Savage started feeling better around March 23 and has fully recovered. “I took Tylenol for the first part of it and this is before there was this article about not taking ibuprofen, so I got a bunch of Advil too,” said Savage. “When I started taking Advil and Tylenol, that is when I started feeling better. When I get a normal cold, I have a pretty strong protocol where I get a ton of Gatorade Zeroes and waters. I was constantly drinking, especially because I was sweating so much. My wife is here with me and she was taking great care of me. She was like get some water, get another one. I have actually been exercising a good amount even when I was only inside and I started doing pushups when I started feeling better.”

In Savage’s view, opening up about his experience serves a dual purpose.

“I have no problem telling people this because I think there are a lot of people that are thinking this is a hoax; that is crazy,” said Savage, who provided updates on his progress through his Twitter account, @yoitsthesav. “There are also people who think if I get it I am going to die, so I wanted put it out there to share. It is not pleasant, it is not great but if you look at the numbers, most people don’t need to be hospitalized. Most people come out of it, so it is do the right thing. Even if I hadn’t tested positive at that point, in New York we were already social distancing and staying home. It really didn’t change much.”

Not having access to gyms and the opportunity to broadcast the college hoops postseason does really hurt Savage.

“I play a couple times a week in a men’s league and not being able to play sucks,” said Savage, a former Princeton High and Hun School standout who scored 873 points in his college career, earning second-team All-Ivy League honors in his senior season as a 6’5, 220-pound forward. “If you think about the way this news hit, the Ivy tournament was one of the first things that was canceled. One of the worst things was for whoever was going to make the NCAA tournament and play in the big dance.”

Recalling the spring of 2008 after he had finished his Princeton basketball career, Savage feels sorry for the program’s Class of 2020.

“The senior spring, especially when you have handed in your thesis, are some of the most fun two months of your life,” said Savage. “You still play, but it is just on your time. You don’t have anything required. You can go down and play pickup with the guys. You hang out and you actually get to be like normal student at Princeton. It is awesome, I feel bad for those guys especially.”

Having overcome COVID-19, Savage is primed to resume his busy life.

“I always hear people say you are going to live your life to your fullest after this,” said Savage, whose hosts a podcast, “The World According to Noah Savage,” and is a veteran standup comic.

“But what else can I do? I do everything I want all the time — comedy, broadcasting, and sales.”