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Scott Baker’s Walkin’ The Sidelines: March Sadness

March is an exciting time of year for amateur athletes and fans…state playoffs and tournaments, NCAA wrestling tournaments and championships and March Madness.

Oh yes, March Madness.

Actually because of all the hardware that gets handed out at the high school and national levels this time of year it truly is all madness in March. This year however, things that we have come to expect as normal are no more. Like dominoes, we watched the cancellation or postponement of professional, collegiate and high school athletics. Within less than a 24-hour period, March Madness turned to March Sadness.

This year there will be no office-polls, no-one shining moment, no NCAA wrestling or basketball national champions, no high school basketball champions, and no thrills caused by the No. 16 over No. 1 seed upset. Truly, a sad time for sports fans.

However, while it is sad for the fans, it is tragic for the athletes and coaches who’ve been denied opportunities to compete.

Now before I begin to sound like I’m taking this coronavirus (COVID-19) thing lightly, let me assure readers that I completely understand and support the decisions made by interscholastic associations and the NCAA to cancel their events. Well, at least to a degree that is as I badly want them to search for solutions to hold their events at a later time while recognizing the many obstacles that they face in doing so.

Yes, I truly understand that they could not continue to have athletic events go on in light of the seriousness of the health pandemic. Health should always take precedent over athletic contests. Now some might say, “well, this is all a media thing or it’s not as bad as they are making it out to be.” Personally, my thought on that is that it is like a snow day decision for schools. School officials in conjunction with I would assume weather experts and transportation authorities are tasked with making a decision that affects many people. If they call for a snow day and the storm and or roads are not bad, they will hear complaints that it was stupid to cancel. If they decide that school will go on and the roads suddenly and unexpectedly get bad, you guessed it, they will hear complaints. You don’t believe me; refer to social media on such occasions.

Everyone is an expert once they have all of the information after the fact. Simply put, when it comes to snow days, decision makers have a difficult decision to make and likely will face criticism one way or the other.

Similarly, with the cancellation of sports and events, PIAA and NCAA officials face similar scrutiny. Yes, there are some who feel this whole virus thing is no big deal and the events should have gone on. They do not support the cancellations. They might even say, hold the events without fans. I disagree. Similar to the snow day decisions, PIAA and NCAA officials had to make the calls that they did for the safety and well being of both the athletes and fans alike. To not do so would have sent a message that sports are more important than health and safety. True also is the fact that decisions made by the national and state governments would have ultimately forced cancellations anyway.

So with an understanding that the events would have been cancelled regardless, let’s get back to the sadness. As fans, we are saddened that we don’t have our favorite sports to watch for the next few weeks. Believe me, as a basketball junkie, I’m feeling a little lost without conference tournaments and the big dance that I’ve become accustomed to this time of year. I really do love that one shining moment song and video at the end of the NCAA basketball tournament each year.

However, I don’t want to be too selfish here. Yes, I, like many fans, have sadness but it is a sadness that will dissipate and disappear with time. I will get over it and look forward to next season. The real sadness that I feel is for the coaches and athletes who have been denied the opportunity to compete in that one last game or match or to compete for a state or national championship on last time. To someone who does not place a high value on or understand sports or the process that goes into getting to this time of year this might not be a big deal.

However, those who have participated in and understand sports value this time of year above any other. March is the time of year that wrestlers and basketball players at the high school and college level play for. It is the time of year that they train for. Frankly, it is the time of year that many live for.

To have that taken away is like a punch to the gut. It literally makes you sick.

Understand that this is an opportunity that for many will never come again. It has not just been put on hold. Rather, it is over. Seniors will never again put on their school uniform. They had no choice in that and that is indeed sad. We can all live with the fact that at the end of every tournament there can only be one winner. Therefore, all of the other athletes and teams will end on a losing note.

However, at least they had the opportunity to determine the outcomes in action. Just as it was meant to be and as it has always been. Not this year though. Not in the year of March sadness. Now the sports world is faced with a Major League Baseball season that is unlikely to have an opening day until at least mid-May, a Boston Marathon that will not be held until later in the summer, and an NBA season whose end of season is up in the air to say the least.

More importantly, though, we are faced with spring sports at the collegiate and high school level that have been postponed or canceled before many had even gotten started.

Will they ever get started?

Some have already been canceled. I pray that those which have been postponed do resume.

However, whether or not they do, there is surely to be lost opportunities and experiences for both athletes and fans. For those athletes there will be opportunities and experiences that can never be replaced.

Is that sad?

Indeed it is.

Is it necessary?

Most likely so.

However, that does not change the fact that for many this truly is the year of March Sadness that threatens to become April and May and,… let’s just hope not longer.

While all things can never be made up, let’s hope that governing bodies do their very best to provide opportunities for athletes that will help to minimize the sting and frankly, for many, pain March Sadness has brought. There’s no one praying more for that to happen than this writer.

Until those sports and events can safely resume, we should all just step back, reflect on and appreciate how lucky we are to be able to enjoy the madness that sports create in our lives. May we never again take that for granted. May we also remember the athletes that lost memories and opportunities that can never be replaced. That is where the true sadness lies.

Let’s also be willing to step outside of our sports-thoughts and remember those who are being directly impacted by the pandemic that brought us to this point.

Stay safe everyone and when our sports resume let’s be sure to remember what it was like not to have them as well as the athletes that give us the joy and memories that we have grown to cherish during March Madness.

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