Column: The stunning week that sports came to a halt

  • Mike Lemcke, from Richmond, Va., sits in an empty Greensboro Coliseum after the NCAA college basketball games were canceled at the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament in Greensboro, N.C., Thursday, March 12, 2020. (AP Photo/Ben McKeown) Ben McKeown

  • St. Louis Cardinals catcher Andrew Knizner leaves the team’s spring training clubhouse, Friday in Jupiter, Fla. Major League Baseball has delayed the start of its season by at least two weeks because of the coronavirus outbreak as well as suspended the rest of its spring training game schedule. AP

  • Gates to Spectrum Field, spring training baseball game home of the Philadelphia Phillies are locked, Friday, March 13, 2020, in Clearwater, Fla. Major League Baseball has delayed the start of its season by at least two weeks because of the coronavirus outbreak and suspended the rest of its spring training schedule. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio) Carlos Osorio

  • Fans leave the Sprint Center after the remaining NCAA college basketball games after in the Big 12 Conference tournament were canceled due to concerns about the coronavirus Thursday, March 12, 2020, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel) Charlie Riedel

  • An employee of Roger Dean Stadium locks a gate, Friday, March 13, 2020, in Jupiter, Fla. Major League Baseball has delayed the start of its season by at least two weeks because of the coronavirus outbreak as well as suspended the rest of its spring training game schedule. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez) Julio Cortez

  • St. Louis Cardinals third baseman Matt Carpenter leaves the team's spring training baseball clubhouse, Friday, March 13, 2020, in Jupiter, Fla. Major League Baseball has delayed the start of its season by at least two weeks because of the coronavirus outbreak as well as suspended the rest of its spring training game schedule. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez) Julio Cortez

  • A St. Louis Cardinals fan, right, walks by as Roger Dean Stadium employees work on packing items, Friday, March 13, 2020, in Jupiter, Fla. Major League Baseball has delayed the start of its season by at least two weeks because of the coronavirus outbreak as well as suspended the rest of its spring training game schedule. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez) Julio Cortez

  • Pakistani cricket teams practice in an empty National Stadium, ahead of their match in the Pakistan Super League in Karachi, Pakistan, Friday, March 13, 2020. The Pakistan Cricket Board decides the Pakistan Super League will go ahead despite the coronavirus outbreak and the withdrawal Friday of 10 foreign players. The vast majority of people recover from the new coronavirus. According to the World Health Organization, most people recover in about two to six weeks, depending on the... Fareed Khan

  • A few people mingle around inside Rogers Place, the home ice of the NHL hockey club Edmonton Oilers, in Edmonton, Alberta, Thursday March 12, 2020. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press via AP) JASON FRANSON

  • Players with the University of Missouri baseball team wait in the baggage claim area of Chicago's Midway Airport Thursday, March 12, 2020, only to arrive in Chicago and then get notified that the team's SEC Conference opener with Alabama Friday, had been canceled. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast) Charles Rex Arbogast

  • Clemson players leave the floor after the NCAA college basketball games at the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament were canceled due to concerns over the coronavirus in Greensboro, N.C., Thursday, March 12, 2020. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome) Gerry Broome

  • Luis Rivera, left, sanitizes seats in Bridgestone Arena after the remaining NCAA college basketball games in the Southeastern Conference tournament were canceled Thursday, March 12, 2020, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey) Mark Humphrey

  • Basketballs are removed from the court at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, in Indianapolis, Thursday, March 12, 2020, after the Big Ten Conference announced that remainder of the men's NCAA college basketball games tournament was canceled. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy) Michael Conroy

  • The Washington Capitals lineup is displayed on a whiteboard in the visitors locker room, Thursday, March 12, 2020, in Washington. The Capitals were to host the Detroit Red Wings Thursday evening until the league, following the NBA's lead, suspended the season Thursday amid the coronavirus outbreak. (AP Photo/Nick Wass) Nick Wass

  • Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby is seen on the big screen in an empty Sprint Center as he talks to the media after canceling the remaining NCAA college basketball games in the Big 12 Conference tournament due to concerns about the coronavirus Thursday, March 12, 2020, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel) Charlie Riedel

  • Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby is displayed on a monitor in an empty media room as he talks to the media after canceling the remaining NCAA college basketball games in the Big 12 Conference tournament due to concerns about the coronavirus Thursday, March 12, 2020, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel) Charlie Riedel

  • Florida State players from left, Trent Forrest (3), Devin Vassell (24) and M.J. Walker (23) listen as the NCAA college basketball games in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament were cancelled due to concerns about the coronavirus in Greensboro, N.C., Thursday, March 12, 2020. (AP Photo/Ben McKeown) Ben McKeown

  • Fans react after the NCAA college basketball game between St. John's and Creighton in the quarterfinal of the Big East men's tournament was canceled at halftime Thursday, March 12, 2020, at Madison Square Garden in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer) Mary Altaffer

  • Personel remove the balls from the playing court after the NCAA college basketball games were canceled at the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament in Greensboro, N.C., Thursday, March 12, 2020. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome) Gerry Broome

  • The Capital One Arena, home of the Washington Capitals NHL hockey club, sits empty Thursday, March 12, 2020, in Washington. The NHL is following the NBA's lead and suspending its season amid the coronavirus outbreak, the league announced Thursday. (AP Photo/Nick Wass) Nick Wass

Associated Press
Published: 3/13/2020 9:52:27 PM
Modified: 3/13/2020 9:52:11 PM

It was the week the sports stopped.
Basketball. Hockey. Baseball. Golf. Soccer. Tennis. Auto Racing. Even football, which is technically out of season but was still around with the fledgling XFL and spring practice on college campuses around the country.

Over these next few weeks, and likely months, we’ll become painfully aware of how much these games mean to so many of us.

From the communal joy of attending a sporting event in person to the barrage of sports programming that usually flooded our TV screens each night, not to mention fretting over fantasy leagues or filling out March Madness pools or simply all that time spent arguing back and forth about our favorite teams, there is now a huge void in our lives.

This was all understandable, of course, given the rapid spread of the coronavirus to nearly every corner of the globe. One way to contain the pandemic is to stay away from large crowds in tight spaces, which effectively ruled out the idea of holding major — even minor — sporting events until this scourge is under control.

The shutdown is unprecedented, certainly in scope and scale. The only parallel in recent memory is 9/11, which brought the games to a halt for about a week nearly two decades ago.

This time, no one knows how long it might last.

At least a month, for sure. Maybe longer.

The rites of spring have already been snatched away.

The NCAA men’s basketball tournament, which culminates with the Final Four, has chosen not to crown a national champion for the first time since its founding in 1939. The Masters won’t be held on the first full week of April, depriving us of a tradition unlike any other. Opening day in baseball, that eternal source of hope, has been pushed back at least two weeks.

“We recognize this decision will affect many people, including our loyal patrons,” Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley wrote in a statement released Friday morning, confirming a postponement of the Masters, which could now be held when the leaves are turning rather than the azaleas blooming. “We seek your understanding of this decision and know you share our concern given these trying times.”

Trying times, indeed.

Our primary concern is for the victims of this virus — most of whom, thankfully, will fully recover — and making sure we protect those who might be in harm’s way.

But it’s hard not to shed a tear for all those people who felt the wrath of the virus without being infected.

Like the Hofstra men’s basketball team.

Hard to believe, but it was only Tuesday that the Pride was cutting down the nets at the end of the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament, having beaten Northeastern to secure what they thought would their first trip to March Madness since 2001.

“I knew that I always wanted to be there, and I’m glad that I’m going to be there with my brothers.” Eli Pemberton said during the celebration afterward, having scored 12 of his 19 points in the second half to help secure the victory.

Less than 24 hours later, the NCAA announced that its tournament would still be held, but without fans. Before even one more day had passed, the NCAA totally called off its signature event, depriving athletes such as Pemberton of what likely would’ve been the shining moment of their entire athletic careers.

“The hardest thing to explain to those guys was what to do with that feeling that something was taken from you, something we earned,” coach Joe Mihalich told Newsday. “We were robbed of the chance to sit there on Selection Sunday and hear our name get called out, find out where we’re going to go. We were robbed of the fun of this week and wondering, ‘Are we going to play Duke in Greensboro or face Villanova or Seton Hall?’ You don’t have the fun of the preparation, having the police escort on the bus to get you to the game. They earned those things.”

Those at the top of the games will still collect paychecks during this shutdown, but what about all the folks in the background who make the experience so enjoyable?

The man who takes your ticket. The woman who shows you to your seat. The person who hustles up and down the aisles, bringing us popcorn and drinks.

Matthew Kaminski is one of those folks. He’s built a bit of a cult following with his witty selections on the organ, which he belts out during Atlanta Braves games and other sporting events.

Now, he’s struggling to find work.

“Anyone in need of an organist, accordionist, pianist?” Kaminski asked.

Thankfully, as Fred Rogers once said about times of crisis, always look for the helpers.

They are everywhere.

Cleveland Cavaliers star Kevin Love pledged $100,000 to support arena workers thrown out of a job. Mark Cuban, owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, told The Associated Press he will “pay them as if the games happened.”

A lot of people are hurting, and every last one of us can be a helper.

Then, at some point, the games will resume.

And we’ll all realize how much we missed them.


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