Sports are meant to bring us together, whether it’s in the stadium, at a sports bar, or among family.
But what happens when the time comes when we are told to distance ourselves from one another?
Sports are where we come together for our team, where we wear the colors, the logo or the mascot with pride while we watch the games.
But what happens when there are no games? What happens when we don’t know when the games will be played again?
Sports are supposed to be an escape from real life. However, what happens when the thing that we try to escape is the thing that takes away the games?
We are about to find out.
In an unprecedented week in the sports world, concerns over the coronavirus changed sports not week by week or day by day, but hour by hour.
What we thought to be an overreaction on Tuesday by the Ivy League to cancel its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments turned out to be the new norm by Thursday, when the other conferences canceled theirs.
The idea of games being played without fans was reportedly the “behind-the-scenes” plan for the NBA on Wednesday afternoon. By that evening, when it was determined that Rudy Gobert had tested positive for COVID-19, those plans were scrapped for a suspension of the league.
What ensued were the suspensions of the NHL and MLS seasons, the MLB and minor league baseball season being pushed back, and the eventual cancellation of the NCAA tournaments along with all winter and spring championships.
On the verge of our favorite time in sports, the plug is pulled. What about the season the Richmond Spiders men’s basketball team was having? Right there on the NCAA bubble with their best chance to make the tournament in a decade?
What about the Dayton Flyers? Could they have won it all? Are they the 1994 Montreal Expos of March Madness — the best team in a sport in a year where there will be no playoffs?
What about our brackets or office pools?
And what about those stadium workers, vendors, parking attendants, and game-day employees who rely on the income of games to feed their families?
It all seems unfair.
Yet, what happened this week needed to be done by those in charge: Common sense prevailed.
Sports are an escape. It’s why some people don’t like it when an athlete makes a political statement on the field, discusses equality in a postgame interview, or shares their personal beliefs on a global matter.
We just want them to “play the games” and entertain us.
Well, the athletes, the coaches, the student-athletes of the NCAA are people too and deserve the utmost in concern and safety.
One NBA player with a positive test forced the league to an indefinite suspension. What about the players and people we don’t yet know about, just as we found out on Thursday about Gobert’s teammate Donovan Mitchell and later in the day a Colonial Athletic Association official who had tested positive for the virus but did not exhibit symptoms until 72 hours after the game he worked?
Some this week on my radio show have described this story as media hype, overblown or an overreaction.I see what has happened this week as simply a reaction.
When the head of the National Institute of Health testifies to Congress that we shouldn’t gather in large groups, and if games aren’t played, so be it. I know he’s a smarter man than I, as well as most of the so-called medical experts who continue to tell me this is just a media-concocted story.
This week was surreal. What felt in some ways like a scene from a Hollywood movie about a pandemic virus was too real.
We don’t know what’s next. We don’t know who has contracted this or how many will.
For those who scream it’s overblown or an overreaction, this isn’t about freaking out or a soft society, this is being proactive. This is about trying to avoid what happened in China or Italy.
I have no political agenda. I’m the least political person you’ll hear on the radio.
I wanted the games and the tournament and to win the office pool. But there’s so much we still are trying to figure out.
Sometimes in life, you have to take a step back. Other times, you push forward. Then there are times when we need to pause and collectively figure out what happens next.
It’s OK to be disappointed that the tournament won’t be played this year, or that when you get home after a lousy day, there’s no game to watch while drinking a cold one.
But remember, some things are bigger than sports, and we are all going through one of those times together.