COLLEGE STATION — It had to be done. Whether the fans, the crowd or teams feel different, it was the right call.
With the rising spread of concern surrounding COVID-19 across the globe, the sporting world closed its eyes for a well-deserved rest. Following the suspension of the NBA, other groups began to lay down their arms and follow the same protocol.
Balls will no longer bounce off nets. Bats won't echo into the sound of the night sky. Pucks will no longer reach the back of the net as the buzzer begins to illuminate its mellow neon glow.
Wednesday, March 12, 2020, will go down in history as the day sports took a breather from its frantic never-ending schedule of pleasing the patriarchy of fandoms. And while the world will mourn the loss of their favorite escape from the outside world, the decision to let this virus consuming lungs and television screens, nothing will matter more than the long-term health of players and personnel.
Even the thing that helps the everyday fan unwind from the outside world.
"We knew at 5:45 Central that they were going to adjust our attendance for the following day, and today I think we had a call at 10:30 this morning knowing that we had a noon tip-off and we needed to move quickly to make this decision today," SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said. "That was our independent decision, but the ability to collaborate is the kind of work that leaders should do at this level."
So, the world will wait. Wait for news of promise, news of doubt, news. Any news to answer what will happen next is better than waiting in the long latency of what could come.
But much like the world wondering what is next, the world of sports will always remember 2020 of the world of "what ifs" that could have followed around the diamond...or the court...or the beam.
With the NCAA tournament electing to close down, one will always question what could have happened if they received their shot. All Power 5 programs said goodnight before tip-off could begin, leaving the teams on the bubble to be popped before even exiting the blow-stick. And those Cinderella teams that break brackets or keep moments alive late into the evening, well they left the ball early.
Midnight will never strike for those who thought their chance at a happily ever after would come true on the court.
And for schools like Texas A&M, who battled adversity under a new season with a fresh face at the helm? Was it all for nothing? Is there anything left to prove?
Mainly for those who said goodbye to the game before the clock flashed the triple zeros or the final out could be recorded.
“I haven’t had a chance to really interact with a lot of players, but I saw a few of them getting off the (hotel) elevator,” Texas A&M Athletic Director Ross Bjork said Thursday in quick presser in Nashville, Tenn. "We were doing the elbow bump. They were like, ‘It’s the right decision, let’s move on and work together on this.
“I think they understood it. I think the NBA was a reality check for the sports world, and then you saw a lot of things happen in the aftermath of all that.”
The Aggies battled back to finish as the No.7 seed in the SEC, despite finishing last in a majority of categories on the court. For seniors such as Wendell Mitchell and Josh Nebo, who knows what their future holds outside of the realm of sports? A trio of wins over Tiger teams in the Music City would have sent them dancing.
Aggies Defense Bends Too Far In Loss To Razorbacks
No. 16 Arkansas bullied No. 7 Texas A&M to a 20-10 final, beating its old SWC rival for the first time since it joined the SEC in 2012.
Aggies Offense Needs To "Grow Up Real Fast" After Arkansas Loss
Texas A&M may have struggled to move the ball against Arkansas, but those issues were visible from Week 1
Even one win would likely put them in line for a date with the NIT in the Big Apple next week. Instead, like many other athletes, the question will always be on the shots that weren't made.
Not because they missed, but instead never had the opportunity to beat the buzzer before it sounded off. They still wanted to be Aggies one final time. They weren't done playing.
And now, that answer, like many others, will always live in a world of doubt and a revolving door of what could have been.
"Not at this point," Sankey said when asked about extending eligibility. "That would be one of those issues on a long list of additional items to consider, and I don't think we have to come to that conclusion right now."
Sports will return, but when is the question. According to Sankey, the SEC will reevaluate the situation following March 30, hoping to regain some form of normality. It won't be for now as classes have been advised to computer screens rather than live interaction.
That's likely to be the case when a player is hopefully able to look at the stadium filled with silence rather than cheers or boos. Also, its one conference's decision on the events that are to come. Who's to say what others will report on the overall approach.
Sports will return, but also will it? Part of the game is the sounds made from the stands. The ones player's use as fuel to give the crowd the joy they so desperately deserve or silence the critics for another minute or inning. The normality that comes with sports is like the virus that is spreading like wildfire throughout the country.
I try to never write in first person if necessary. It was a trait my professor, Lars Anderson, an alum of Sports Illustrated, taught me during my days at Alabama, learning to hone my craft of writing. But pressing times call for moments to break the rules and speak from the heart.
I'm a sports writer living in a world without sports. How does that make any sense?
There are moments the world will always remember exactly where they were when something significant has occurred. On September 11, 2001, I was sitting ins Mrs.Dezic's second grade class before being picked up by my mom, wondering why she was crying. Growing up in an airline family, it effected both my parent's livelihood. And I pondered the thought if my father would ever be able to fly a plane again?
People talk about the day President John F. Kennedy was shot. While I wasn't alive, my dad still remembers leaving Mrs.Osbourne's third grade classroom just after 12:00 p.m. that day. That weekend, a movie about Kennedy's role in World War II was being played at the Art Theatre in the quiet downtown of Hobart, Ind.
Earlier this year, when the world of basketball shut down for the first time due to the tragic loss of Kobe Bryant, I was eating pho at a little shop with my girlfriend, trying to slurp the noodles in a broth that usually fills me with warmth, felt cold that afternoon. Nothing was going to bring the joy back on that day.
And when the world of sports said its quiet, yet necessary farewell, I was on the phone, working on a preview for when the Aggies would tip-off later that evening against Missouri with a friend from Columbia, Mo. As more news spread, I took my dog for a walk along the riverfront, just wondering how many people would be affected by what is to come.
But throughout the tragedy and turmoils of yesterday, I thought of those who wouldn't have the chance to chase a title. To hoist a trophy and feel the pure euphoria of being kings and queens of the world. Those who will always think of 'what if I had the chance to change history?'
'What if COVID-19 didn't kill March Madness? Or any sport for that matter?'
Instead, most of them will remember that day as the one they were told to say goodbye before it was time.
Their stories forever left unwritten. Just a locker to clean out and one final trip home.