Imagine being locked inside a bomb shelter for the last three weeks. Imagine walking out this past week to the world we know today, much less the sports world we know today.
Just think of all the dramatic changes that have occurred just since the end of last month.
Well, that happened to me. Call me Rip Van Winkle.
(Now, while I’ve heard of Rip Van Winkle all my life, honesty compels me to report I only knew it meant someone woke up after a long sleep to find a very different world. I looked it up, and it is a short story by author Washington Irving, first published in 1819. It follows a Dutch-American villager in colonial America named Rip Van Winkle, who falls asleep in the Catskill Mountains and wakes up 20 years later, having missed the American Revolution.)
Well, I missed the coronavirus revolution – most of it, at least.
I knew of hardly any of what happened in the sports world until I learned the Thursday games of the SEC basketball tournament were canceled.
Not postponed. Canceled.
It reminded me of what happened after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. I was handling the baseball page at a Montgomery newspaper, and when I was processing the major league standings day after day, every game in the schedule said, “ppd., terrorist attacks.” It was surreal. I remember thinking then that one day I’d tell people about that.
Today is that day, I guess.
It’s just so hard to believe what’s gone. The NBA. March Madness. The start of the MLB season. College spring sports. Probably high school spring sports (more on that later).
The Masters and Kentucky Derby won’t occur in the next few weeks. It won’t be the same when they do. The Masters, combined with the Final Four and the start of the major league season, has been my favorite sports week for as long as I can remember.
What’s a sports fan to do?
It’s not just the big events that have been affected. It’s all the other routine things on our schedules every year. Memorial Day stuff. End of school madness.
The annual Alabama Sports Hall of Fame Induction Banquet originally scheduled for May 2, has been postponed to Saturday, June 20. Fantasy baseball drafts have been postponed (hey, it’s a bigger deal than you might think). Spring football may be interrupted, both college and high school.
Check the news later today and there’s likely another postponement to absorb.
And what else did I miss? Michael Pruitt, Arab’s legendary wrestling coach, retired. Three times he told me he was retiring this year, and three times he asked me the next day not to report it.
Now, he sends out a text while I’m out of the office (but good luck to him anyway – he’s a champion.).
Brandon “Hammer-Head” Henry continued his remarkable 2020. On his alleged first swing of boys golf practice on March 4, he aced the 145-yard No. 10 at Twin Lakes.
The “alleged” part is that it was his first swing. There’s no doubt he made the hole-in-one.
Scott Cochran left Bama and Nick Saban to go to Georgia, and he took a pay cut, no less.
Tom Brady is leaving the Patriots.
What will happen next?
Hopefully, a resumption of high school spring sports. The AHSAA announced on March 17 that all spring sports would cease on Wednesday for two-and-a-half weeks. After that, a decision will be made on or about April 6 as to what will happen next.
As we’ve seen, things can change from hour to hour. However – and this is everyone’s deepest fear – things have been developing rapidly but rarely in a positive way. It seems every news report brings more bad news, nationally and locally.
It’s a shame, too. Not only are senior spring athletes on the verge of losing their final high school sports opportunities, they may not even get to participate in other special activities, like the prom or even graduation.
I ran into Brindlee Mountain football coach (and former Arab coach) Keith Garner at the post office on Thursday. Instinctively, we shook hands, despite warnings to the contrary (I’ll pray for him).
He mentioned the unfairness of it all. He’s trying to stay optimistic but he’s a realist, too.
“We’re supposed to play (a spring game) at Coosa Christian on May 15 and I have serious doubts it’ll happen now,” he said. “Of course, that’s a low priority at this point.”
Garner metioned senior spring sports athletes who perhaps are on the cusp of getting some kind of athletic scholarship for college.
“This is the time college coaches are looking at players,” he said. Not playing, he said, could mean the difference for a player who needed to prove something in his final season.
And what about young football players? They need spring practice more than anyone.
“We can’t just throw these kids out there in the fall with just three weeks of practice,” he said.
That’s especially true at Brindlee Mountain with its limited number of athletes.
It’s a different time, for sure. Stay safe.