That’s the only way to describe what has happened over the past week with our part of the world.
COVID-19, aka coronavirus, has achieved something that nothing else has done by cancelling sports.
Professional sports carried on through World War I, World War II, the Great Depression and every disaster before and after.
Only player strikes and natural disasters have been able to halt the games for long amounts of time.
But now, we’re dealing with something completely different.
COVID-19 isn’t the Black Death. But, steps being taken should prevent it from approaching these levels. That includes stopping leagues and games to keep the disease from spreading.
We saw things turn bleak in Italy, one of the first epidemic areas outside of China. In infected regions, games were either called off or played without fans. This was carried over to European competition and has spread from there.
Playing without fans is a way to get the games finished, but economically, it’s a killer for the teams. With players testing positive, calling off the games was the only option there.
The NBA was the first to halt games. Players have tested positive, so the league was quick to halt in place.
Here, we’ve seen everything called off and pushed back. The only thing to stop Major League Baseball has been player strikes and the Earthquake of 1989, which halted the World Series. This has frozen play.
The NHL has paused its season, although we’re hoping it’s just a pause. If not, remember that the St. Louis Blues are the defending Stanley Cup champions until play does resume.
The NHL has been here before. In 1918-19, the Spanish Influenza Pandemic caused the halt of Stanley Cup finals between the NHL champion Montreal Canadiens and the Seattle Metropolitans of the Pacific Cost Hockey Association. The series was tied 2-2-1. The whole Montreal team caught the flu and Seattle players became sick as well. Joe Hall, a Montreal forward, died. It led to the death of Montreal Owner George Kennedy as well.
The NHL was in turmoil that year. It was the league’s second year and only three teams were entered. One, Toronto, folded before the end of the season, leaving the Canadiens and Ottawa Senators. With World War I ending early in the season, players who had been in the military were only starting to come back.
Additionally, the league was only in its second season and was still in war with former National Hockey Association teams.
The NCAA Tournament had never been called off before. It went on through World War II.
In an attempt to keep some form of normalcy, we’re going to simulate an NCAA Tournament. That project can be found elsewhere in this section and is expected to carry through with the finals in the April 8 paper.
War has called off the Olympics in the past and I wouldn’t be surprised if this year’s games were halted as well.
Other major spring sporting events have been altered as well. The Masters and the Kentucky Derby are among those traditional events.
Through everything, MSHSAA has continued its championships. While high school sports at a state level don’t go back as long as some of the professional leagues, they’ve always gone on.
Every once in a while, we’ve had titles vacated due to rules violations with player eligibility, but this is the first time anyone can remember a championship being called off (Class 4 and 5 basketball).
Not even the Jefferson City tornado last spring could stop the MSHSAA Class 3, 4 and 5 track championships. After the venue at Jefferson City was damaged, the meet was sent to three different locations, one for each class, and it was able to take place.
That won’t be the case for basketball. All four state qualifiers in each class will get trophies and medals.
Classes 1, 2 and 3 took place last weekend with restricted numbers of fans. Third-place games were deleted, but it’s not the first time that’s happened. We had that in baseball last year due to weather.
Sullivan’s girls were the last area team left in the tournament and they played a Class 4 quarterfinal in Bolivar Saturday.
The event had limited access with only 60 fans being allowed in from each school. Both schools made it a deal where families got first priority for those spots.
It was surreal to see a big facility like the Southwest Baptist gym with so few fans. We see a lot of games during the season without many fans, but a quarterfinal was different.
The game was live-streamed for fans who couldn’t get in.
As the game went on, the fans made considerable noise and you gradually forgot the gym was mostly empty, until there were free throws. It was so quiet that you could hear the radio announcers throughout the place.
While Sullivan lost, it played hard the entire game. We didn’t know it at the time, but that could be the last prep game for quite some time.
Hopefully, we’ll be able to get back to being able to report on games sooner, rather than later, but only when it’s been deemed safe.