Sportsnet’s Jim Hughson will be reduced to play-by-play of his son playing on the backyard trampoline. In mid-April, Jim Nantz of CBS will say “Hello Friends” and the only responses will be from the medical-mask-wearing neighbourhood couple he’s invited over for a cocktail and cookout. TSN play-by-play man Rod Black’s surname represents the colour of today’s sports world.
The haunting news came quickly on Thursday, March 12 — news that might have been more appropriate 24 hours later, Friday the 13th. Utah Jazz forward Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19, the official name for the worldwide pandemic, coronavirus, and while the Jazz-Thunder game was immediately cancelled just prior to tipoff, NBA commissioner Adam Silver almost simultaneously announced the postponement of the entire schedule.
The first domino had fallen.The National Hockey League did the same the next day, as did Major League Baseball with its spring training and regular season schedules. The NCAA’s biggest event, March Madness, was another virus victim and while basketball fans across North America lamented the loss of their favourite tournament, operators of Las Vegas sports books wept. The PGA Tour was the only thing operating on that fateful Thursday, but after one round of the Players Championship and a Tour statement that the final three rounds would be played without fans, commissioner Jay Monahan changed course later that day and said the tournament had been cancelled, as well as the next three events. Masters officials waited 24 hours to use Friday the 13th to say their tournament — the first major of the season — would be postponed.
It was an Apocalyptic period in the world of sports. Gatherings of people in large, or even semi-large groups was not only being discouraged, but the sports world was prohibiting it.
Billions of dollars is or will be lost as the world of sports ground to a halt. TV networks have no live product for who knows how long. Players will still be paid, in most cases, but popcorn sellers or ushers likely won’t. Revenues from a multitude of ancillary avenues immediately stopped.
It’s unprecedented. The resumption of play is unknown. Will there be league champions declared? Or will the history books show the 2020 season to be a washout, just like the list of Masters’ winners jumps from 1942 to 1946 — Second World War bringing a halt to three years of competition.
Sports fans will survive. Let’s just hope everyone who contracts the coronavirus does too.
• NFL Memes, on Twitter: “ALERT: CDC officials have advised that wearing a Philadelphia Eagles jersey could protect you from coronavirus after noticing last season that players wearing Eagles jerseys couldn’t catch anything.”
• Alan Shipnuck of golf.com, on the debate surrounding the Players and whether it should be accorded ‘fifth-major’ status: “Alas, some things are immutable: There are four seasons, four Beatles, four horsemen of the apocalypse, and only four major championships.”
• Norman Chad of the Washington Post, suggesting Tom Brady could do anything he wants in the world of commerce, or football: “He could make Ben from Ben & Jerry’s an offer he couldn’t refuse and recast the ice cream powerhouse as Tom & Jerry’s. He could revive ‘The Brady Bunch’ on ABC, getting Gronk acting work as the crazy neighbour next door.”
• Reader Kim Hemphill, of Virginia, with a question for Norman Chad: “Do you think the Astros have developed a way to tip their batter off that he’s about to be hit by a pitch?”
• NOT SportsCentre, on Twitter: BREAKING: The NFL has announced it is cancelling the Detroit Lions. Roger Goodell: “It’s nothing virus related, we just felt it was a good opportunity to put them out of their misery.”
• Headline at TheOnion.com: “Orioles suggest that MLB maybe consider cancelling entire season just to be totally safe.”
• Janice Hough of leftcoastsportsbabe.com: “Now March Madness is cancelled. No, let me rephrase that: The NCAA basketball tournaments are canceled. We’re LIVING in March Madness.”
• Comedian Argus Hamilton, on Twitter, on why Tom Brady might as well keep playing football at age 42: “He’s 35 years too young to run for president.”
• Omaha comedy writer Brad Dickson: “I was watching TV tonight and it was nothing but disease, viruses, quarantines — and that was the sports news.”
• Comedy writer Jim Barach: “The NBA has suspended its season because of coronavirus. This would really be a bad time to bring back the old slogan ‘NBA fever…catch it!’”
• Mr. Anonymous on Twitter: “The National Lacrosse League joins the shutdown party. Sports networks furiously looking for taped darts and bowling matches to fill time slots.”
• From the New York Post: “The Braves pulled off an epic troll on the Astros; when the Astros took the field for spring training, the Braves played Ace Of Base’s ‘I Saw The Sign’.”
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