This is a special time of year for sports fans. Hope springs eternal as your favorite baseball team gears up in Florida or Arizona. The NBA season is in its stretch run as teams fight for playoff positioning. And the NCAA Tournament, arguably the grandest spectacle of them all, is on the horizon. Even passive fans complete multiple brackets in pools with friends and co-workers and enjoy watching young student-athletes strive for “One Shining Moment” during March Madness.
But now, the games have stopped for the foreseeable future.
We’re hopeful that the NBA season will resume play after its 30-day stoppage. Commissioner Adam Silver did use the word “suspended” as opposed to “cancelled.” MLB did cancel Spring Training games and its regular season is delayed by a minimum of 2 weeks. However, MLB is a marathon with games scheduled through September. So there remains hope that we’ll see some baseball. NFL is contemplating options for its draft.
However, the NCAA’s cancellation of March Madness probably stings the most. Right as teams are either securing NCAA Tournament bids, preparing for conference tournaments, or striving to keep their postseason hopes alive, the college basketball season comes to an abrupt end. While fans are disappointed, think about the student-athletes. March Madness is their ultimate goal and now there will be no shining moment for any player or team.
And look no further than the state of Ohio for those thinking about what could have been. High-flying Obi Toppin and the No. 3 Dayton Flyers had won 20 games in a row and were tabbed as a Final Four or National Champion favorite. The UD women’s team had clinched an automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament after winning the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament.
Also, after a mid-season lull, Ohio State was trending in the right direction with solid play heading into the Big Ten Tournament. Cincinnati was poised to make a postseason run as the No. 1 seed in the American Athletic Conference Tournament. Xavier had work to do in the Big East Tournament, but the Musketeers are always a threat this time of year. And don’t forget a 24-7 Akron Zips team as it rolled into the MAC Tournament. Also, 25-win Wright State would have been a solid NIT participant.
So yes, it is a tough pill to swallow for those of us who relish the Madness and perhaps the most enjoyable month of the sports year.
However, even the most rabid sports fan can’t lose sight of what is important.
When health and lives of human beings are at stake, all precautions must be taken to keep us as safe as possible. And while sports fans are disappointed, the league commissioners and leaders of sports organization acted appropriately.
So the games had to stop while this country strives to get a handle on the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Bringing big crowds together for these events would have been irresponsible under these circumstances. Because this condition and its symptoms are no game.
And it’s nice to see that professional athletes and teams understand this point. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban stepped up right away and said a program would be in place to support hourly workers. I’m particularly appreciative of star athletes like Kevin Love, Giannis Antetokonumpo, Zion Williamson, Blake Griffin, Steph Curry and Rudy Gobert among others who have pledged to help pay workers, too. Remember, this goes beyond the athletes and coaches. Many arena staffers and vendors depend on these events to support their families.
Many things are bigger than sports. And you don’t have to be a star athlete or team owner to help out. We all need to pull together and lead by example. Be careful, encourage others to do the same and act in a fashion that is in the best interests of everyone around you.
We all love sports. Now, it’s time for us to demonstrate teamwork, leadership and unselfishness ourselves.