The St. John’s University, Jamaica, men’s basketball team had to be feeling pretty good in the moment.
The Johnnies led No. 1-seeded Creighton University, Omaha, by three points at halftime on March 12 during a Big East Conference Tournament quarterfinal matchup at Madison Square Garden.
Yet something just didn’t seem right.
One by one, other collegiate conferences around the country all canceled their tournaments amid the ongoing coronavirus outbreak. To make things even stranger, the Red Storm played at a basically empty Garden – since the NCAA did all it could to limit crowd size in an attempt to contain the virus.
Sure enough, during the half-time break, the announcement was made that the Big East Tournament was canceled, effective immediately. Soon after, the NCAA Tournament and the entire collegiate spring sports season were no more.
Talk about “March Madness.”
These are truly unprecedented times. While we all feel horrible for the student-athletes whose season – and even collegiate career in some cases – has been cut short, it’s the right call given the public health risks associated with COVID-19.
“This is a situation that I have never experienced before, and I know our team has never experienced,” said St. John’s head men’s basketball coach Mike Anderson.
“Our guys are very disappointed, but this is bigger than basketball. This has a worldwide effect, and that’s a game of life.”
“The health and well-being of these individuals will always be our priority,” said St. John’s athletic director Mike Cragg. “While this is a challenging time for all of us, I firmly believe it is important to take action, despite the unfortunate impact it will have, in order to help ensure the safety of everyone involved with Red Storm Athletics.”
In addition to college sports, all professional sports leagues are on hold for now,
and the local CHSAA and GCHSAA have postponed the remainder of their basketball postseasons, including the boys’ annual city championship game that had been played continuously for 92 years.High school spring sports seasons will be delayed as well.
I think back on my limited life experience and arrive back at Sept. 11, 2001. Of course, I understand the circumstances between then and now are completely different. More so though I’m comparing the overall feeling in the nation in both instances.
The nation was reeling from the terrorist attacks, and it seemed no one knew where to turn. The same could be said for now. What’s next? When will this end? Will it be weeks, months? Will this be the new normal?
I was only in eighth grade in 2001, so I didn’t fully grasp what was going on. I just knew that things were far from routine and the country needed something to rally around.
That something was sports. I will never forget Sept. 21 of that year, when my childhood hero Mike Piazza, catcher for the New York Mets, lifted a city and a nation with a clutch go-ahead home run during the first game back at Shea Stadium following the attacks.
‘In the scheme of things, a round ball was hit by a wooden bat over a wall 400 feet away. No big deal, right? But this moment – later called “The Healing Power of a Swing” – meant so much to a city that desperately needed a boost.
It was a show of strength and a sign that America’s pastime could help Americans power through a tragedy.
At this moment, we unfortunately can’t even turn to sports as a necessary release from the wall-to-wall coverage of the coronavirus. The important thing to remember though is that soon – whether it’s a few weeks or a few months – we will be able to watch our favorite sports once again.
Though challenging, patience right now is essential. Priority No. 1 is keeping as many people safe as possible. We can do it, and we will do it.
Who knows if the 2019-2020 St. John’s men’s basketball team would have been able to pull off the major upset of running the table as an underdog in the Big East Tournament?
I’m sure though that the student-athletes, coaches and the most devout Red Storm fans can live with the uncertainty surrounding that question, knowing that the world made it through the coronavirus pandemic.
Contact Jim Mancari via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.