Today’s been vast in terms of the range of emotions that it’s brought on.
First, we waited on tenterhooks after the deluge of announcements last night — the NBA being postponed, Trump announcing the travel ban to Europe, and the news that the SEC Tournament would be played without fans, just like the NCAA Tournament — not knowing what the final result of all these changes would be.
Next, we woke up with hope that maybe the people in charge were doing the right thing. The proper precautions had been taken. If the necessary people were careful, the virus wouldn’t spread and we’d still be able to enjoy March Madness, even if it was going to be markedly different. We’d still get the games.
Then, it started to turn. It’s hard to say which conference was the first to flat out cancel their tournament, maybe the Big Ten around lunchtime today. In quick order, pretty much everyone else followed suit. Finally, the Big East was left hanging on before they canceled a game at halftime and moved everyone out of Madison Square Garden.
Okay, no conference tournaments. Let this blow over. Give everyone a week at home to lay low and then we get to play the NCAA Tournament. No fans, whatever. We still get to watch our seniors play basketball for at least a little while.
Then, at 4:18 EST, the announcement came down. Goodbye, NCAA Tournament.
That wasn’t all. Goodbye everything for further notice. All spring sports and championships were now gone. Auburn would not get a chance to defend its run to the Final Four. Auburn would not get a chance to defend a College World Series berth. Heck, students wouldn’t even be going to class until almost mid-April. Nice spring break, I guess.
At first, I didn’t know exactly what to do. Was this real? Somehow it was. We were living in an unprecedented time. You know when sports get canceled? Monumental events. September 11th. JFK. World War II. That’s about it. Now we can add COVID-19 to the list. Basically these things are happening once a generation. Events too big to ignore. This time, however, it’s not a time of national mourning, or grief. It’s national panic. It’s national action.
You’re dazed. It’s a ringing in your ears. You’re sitting at work, still needing to get some real world stuff done, but there’s a movement that’s impossible to ignore going on around you. There’s no warning. There’s no real chance of foreseeing this. Sure, some people said “Oh, LOL, what if we have to cancel the tournament ROFL,” but we didn’t actually believe that would be the case. Here we are.
You drive home and the realization starts to hit you. Maybe you turn on sports talk radio. You should’ve heard play-by-play on the radio. Not this day. Instead it’s shocked, dismayed, hurt voices. Something we love is gone. How long? Don’t know. Sports will come back, yeah. We’ll inevitably get this thing figured out, and then there will just be another vaccine you get each year. Prevent the spread of the virus, like the flu. Maybe some people still get it. I mean, people still get Ebola, and Zika, and H1N1, and all that. They’re just small percentages. This’ll become like that too.
After working in sports broadcasting for a decade, I thought about people I knew whose jobs were suddenly meaningless for the next several months. Are we going to return to the fun when football season rolls back around? I don’t know. It would be nice, I can’t imagine what happens if we get robbed of football season...
However, I don’t know if that would hurt more than what I saw earlier.
Man, this isn’t fair. That’s it for Anfernee McLemore, Danjel Purifoy, Austin Wiley, Samir Doughty, J’Von McCormick, and maybe Isaac Okoro as well. We didn’t get to see the swan song. We didn’t get to see a hungry team trying to defend a magical run. These guys deserved to have that shot. Especially this year, when there were no standalone teams. Anything could have happened.
And while it’s not fair that we got robbed of the chance to watch this group play together a couple more times, it’s totally necessary. It’s the right thing to do. I know that every single one of those guys would’ve played in a dang pool of that virus if it meant getting out on the floor again, but they’re not given that chance.
It sucks, and it’s almost going to let the legend of what happened last year in the tournament grow even more. We’ll never know what could’ve been with this group. I have faith that it would’ve been special.
Maybe it’s a good thing that Auburn isn’t playing anymore. We didn’t exactly like to make it easy on ourselves this year, and my heart (in addition to everyone else’s) could probably use a break of several months before being subjected to a classic Auburn game again. That doesn’t mean that we won’t all miss the thrill and the magic of pulling for the Tigers with everything that you’ve got.
So, now what do we do?
Well, we literally don’t have any sports to talk about until maybe spring practice begins after April 10th. That’s a huge maybe. No baseball. No softball. Basketball’s done. Equestrian got canceled. It’s all done.
We’ll figure out what to bring you in the meantime. Netflix show reviews, cooking advice, and of course we’ll look back to great Auburn games, maybe some random ones, and curate some content from the past.
It’s a weird time for everyone. We may need a couple days to adjust, but we’ll figure it out. We always do. War Eagle, everyone. Talk soon.