My Two Cents: 2020 is Halfway Over, But Can We Get a Refund?

Tom Brew

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — I remember waking up on New Year's Day morning in my hotel room just north of Jacksonville, Fla., thinking this was going to be great year. The calendar was like an eye test — perfect! We all had 2020 vision.

January was fabulous. Indiana's football team was playing in its first-ever Florida bowl game the next day in the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl, and starting the new year there was a ton of fun. Indiana lost late to Tennessee, but that didn't diminish the fact that Indiana had won eight games for the first time in 26 years and the future seemed very bright. The fall of 2020 was going to be awesome.

Indiana basketball was in high gear too, all set to jump into the Big Ten schedule. January had its ups and downs, but there were home wins over ranked teams Ohio State and Michigan State, and Assembly Hall was, as it is most every winter, the place to be.

February gave us Bob Knight's return to Assembly Hall for the first time in 20 years, and that was an all-time great day. I don't ever recall seeing so many people in tears where it didn't involve someone dying. The place was full of Indiana legends, who weren't about to miss this day. Feb. 8 will be celebrated every year now.

The rest of February and early March were so much fun, too. We learned all about the best chewing gum from Archie Miller, and we learned about Sesame Street, too. Indiana won 20 games by the time it was over, and at the very least, they were very entertaining. Thank you, Devonte Green, for some epic video clips.

But then March 11 rolled around. 

It was the first night of the Big Ten basketball tournament in Indianapolis, and I was sitting on press row, about five feet away from Nebraska coach Fred Holberg most of the night. During the second half, he started sweating through his shirt. He was sick, and had to sit down. Late in the game, he literally had to leave the bench and go to the locker room.

A few minutes later, he was rushed to the hospital for an immediate COVID-19 test. 

And the sports world stopped.

Waiting for test results from the hospital, Nebraska's entire basketball team was quarantined in their locker room and no one could come in or out. Fans left Bankers Life Fieldhouse, wondering what would come next. Media members, some of whom had been in contact with Holberg throughout the day, wondered if they were exposed — and were exposing the rest of us.

They next day, of course, the tournament was shut down. A week later, the NCAA tournament was cancelled. All sports, major and minor, was basically dry-docked.

It's been a long, long, long three months and change.

For me, Jan. 1 seems like an eternity ago. It really is hard to believe that was only six months ago, because it seems like six years. Today is July 1, and now we're halfway through 2020. It's been the strangest year I can ever remember, first with the virus and what it's done to our economy, and then with a month of violence and unrest of racial issues. 

The world, without question, has been turned completely upside down.

Can we get a refund? Because this year isn't at all what we signed up for. 

Now, of course, we have to worry about what comes next. When July starts, Indiana football and basketball players are back on campus and going through voluntary workouts. That brings hope. Around the country, Major League Baseball is restarting spring training today and will be playing real games again in their home stadiums — but without fans — in a few weeks.

The NBA is trying the bubble approach, with 22 of its 30 teams teams about to head to Orlando to finish the season at Disney, for however long that lasts. The NFL is going full steam ahead, too, almost flipping their collective noses at the disease and saying their season is going to start on time.

The first half of this year has been crazy, but will the second half be even crazier?

We sit here on July 1 with a plan to start the college football season on time. For Indiana, that means a road trip to Madison, to take on Wisconsin on Friday, Sept. 4. Will that happen? We have no idea.

There's supposed to be a home football game a week later, and we don't know yet if that will happen at Memorial Stadium, either. And even if it is played, will there be fans in the stands at all? No idea. It could be zero, it could be a few thousand scattered about, but it's not going to be a full house, with everyone sitting side-by-side and sweating and coughing and sneezing all over everyone.

We care a little about the status of college football, but let's be real. This is still Indiana, and it's still a state whose heartbeat stays steady when basketball is being played. Will we have Hoosier Hysteria in the fall? No idea. Will practice and then the regular season start on time? No clue. Will the Hoosiers play their season in an EMPTY Assembly Hall? Maybe, and the idea of that happening is sickening to me.

Sickening because this Indiana team is going to be pretty good. I desperately want to see a full season, as do you.

We already know that Indiana's students will be long gone for most of the basketball season. Indiana is welcoming its students back to campus in August, but at Thanksgiving break, they are sending them home and finishing the last three weeks of the fall semester online from home.

The spring semester will start there, too, with three weeks of classes being taught remotely after a long holiday break. Students will be gone for 79 days, and on the basketball calendar, that covered 18 games a year ago.

So these next six months are going to be weird for sure. Can we handle it? Well, we've certainly had a lot of practice these past few months, so the optimist in me says we can. What's hardest to figure out, though, is if it's going to get worse or not. 

I'll be honest, I'm a people person and I miss people. When I went up to watch some Indiana baseball players last week in the summer league up in Westfield, I loved every single minute of. Games were cool. People were cool. Even my hot dog and pop really hit the spot.

And talking to players afterward really was nice. That's my job, I love that, and I'm Zoomed out since March.

So let's just brace for the ride and see what happens. Our world has changed in a lot of ways, none for the better. 

No refund? No re-do either. We'll just have to make the most of it and do the best we can.