By R.V. Baugus
Seems like either yesterday or a year ago (depending on my frame of mind any given day) that I blogged about the unheard of move of the Ivy League canceling its 2020 spring sports schedule. That announcement in early March seemed like the most radical, extreme idea I had ever heard of until … a couple of days later when the NBA postponed its regular season, as did the NHL, and then the cancelations of NCAA spring sports, the Final Four, etc.
Looking back, the Ivy League — in what should be no surprise — was the trendsetter and the prudent home of wisdom about what was looming on the horizon with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now, the Ivy League just announced it is canceling all fall sports including football as the pandemic blazes on with no apparent end in sight. This time, I reacted to that news in all candor and honesty with a nod of approval in the league doing what just seems the right thing to do.
I awoke this morning to news that the Big 10 would play a “conference-only” football schedule, thus eliminating three non-conference games. In the conference’s official statement, even that announcement came with the caveat of “should the league be able to participate in athletic events in the face of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.”
The first domino has been somewhat toppled, and which are to follow among the other Power 5 conferences on the college landscape? What about high school sports? What about professional sports?
I view all this was a hint of sadness. There is no greater sports fan than yours truly. I have held NBA season tickets for the Dallas Mavericks since 1984-85 and NCAA football tickets for the University of Texas since 1996. I do public address for high school football for the Irving Independent School District and PA for Irving Nimitz High School basketball. I contribute a high school basketball section for Dave Campbell’s Texas Basketball magazine as a fun hobby to keep my “basketball Jones” happy.
But something strange has happened to me since sports went dark back in mid-March. I have missed it but I haven’t missed it. Don’t worry, dear venue professionals, I am not saying that I am not coming back, because I am. I need my fix! What I am saying is that I, like you, have a greater appreciation for safety first and a healthy respect for the coronavirus.
I read comments from many websites and the debates rage on from those wanting to be out and about RIGHT NOW versus those who with or without government mandate believe it best to stay at home. But, folks, we won’t get better until we … get better. If we are out, let’s be sure to adhere to the protocols set in place and designed to get us faster through the pandemic. It CAN be done.
I highly recommend for reading the most recent issue of Sports Illustrated and an article written by Tom Verducci that has to be the longest article to ever appear in the magazine. Tom writes about a relative a century ago who covered the Boston Red Sox in 1917 and 1918 at a time when World War I was claiming lives but not as many as a pandemic sweeping the United States that came to be known as the Spanish Flu. The deadly virus would take the life of the relative at the young age of 31 just mere months after his bride of less than two years died from the virus. As awful as COVID-19 is, this virus claimed three times more people than the current pandemic, as of right now.
It is difficult for us to imagine fighting an invisible enemy and just how dangerous that enemy can be. For those of you who have had or know someone who is fighting the virus or has lost their life to it, you know what I am talking about. But position a person in front of me with a weapon and I know the enemy because I can SEE the enemy. Tell me there is an enemy floating in the air and I have a much more difficult grasp of it. But to say it is not real? Numbers do not lie, friends.
So here we are today with Major League Baseball getting ready to PLAY BALL! Not far behind, 22 NBA teams are under a “bubble” in Orlando ready to finish out their regular season and move on to the playoffs. Colleges and high schools are still figuring things out for football but must do so quickly. As of right now, the NFL is still a go with a shortened exhibition — oops, pre-season — schedule. We don’t even want to get into the tricky situation of fans in or not in the stands.
Come back to me in a month and decisions will have been made and they may not be too surprising either way, depending in part of where the COVID statistics line up.
As for me, yes, I have already paid for my 2020 football tickets and my 2020-21 basketball tickets. If those seasons end up not played, I will feel for our member venues and the economic impact that seemingly never stops hitting them. At the same time, this guy who could not live without sports will continue to find out that he can until we are safe to resume such activities.
But can we please hurry it up? Asking for a friend …