March is a special time of year for this part of the world. Of all the millions of eyeballs that are glued to televisions during this period, a good chunk of them sit in Louisville heads. And more often than not they are watching some local teams playing deep into the tournament.
Now no teams are playing anywhere and no one seems to know what to do.
One can not help but despair for those involved in all this. The victims of this disease first and foremost, and their families. But also those forced into isolation who can’t afford to miss work and the medical professionals being asked to go to work and potentially expose themselves to COVID-19.
Compared to those folks, inconvenienced sports fans are pretty far down the list. It’s still okay to feel bad for the players who’ve gotten their playoffs taken away. The coaches, fans, marching bands, cheerleading squads, etc. who look forward to this few weeks every year. Local economies all over the country who rely on The Big Dance for a good chunk of their income. And countless others.
This is just another chapter in a recent Louisville basketball history that has been marked by events just vanishing into thin air. Whether it was the 2016 postseason we voluntarily yanked out from under us. The 2012 Final Four and 2013 title that didn’t happen but totally happened. Even the 2017 season, although led heroically by freshman head coach David Padgett, seems now a little tragic, something that could have been if not for mistakes made by former coaches and the whims of fate.
The NCAA, Chuck Smrt or infectious diseases can take those games away. But they can’t take the memories and emotions away.
What makes this season so tragic is this postseason being cancelled was entirety justified and objectively the right thing to do. The qualities that make March Madness so special, so endearing, are also a epidemiological nightmare. Tens of thousands of fans from across the country converging on one place all breathing, coughing, sneezing and high-fiving and then returning to the populations from whence they came are great sporting events but also virulent goldmines.
I must confess myself pleasantly surprised when the NCAA didn’t act like the sanctimonious money-grubbing hypocrites they usually are and chose people over dollars. If only they could show such consideration outside of a pandemic.
What happens now? When will sports be played again? Will seniors who had their final postseasons so untimely ripped from them be granted an extra year of eligibility?
No one knows. But I believe it’s safe to say that arenas will echo with the sound of dribbling basketballs and cheering crowds again. Brackets will be filled and busted. Illicit gambling money lost and won. One day this will all get better.
These last few years of scandal, betrayal, hope and heartbreak will eventually seem like barely a memory.
We may despair now, but we must never forget who we are. We are Louisville. College basketball is what we do.
We just wash our hands more now.<