This is an unprecedented time for sports fans.
Come late March, in any other year, we’d be well into both men’s and women’s March Madness, the NBA and NHL would be in their playoff pushes and Major League Baseball on the verge of Opening Day.
Instead, Major League Soccer completed only a fraction of its regular season — 34 games per team — when play was suspended and the XFL got only halfway through its 10-game inaugural campaign when the plug was pulled.
Collegiate athletics were history as soon as the NCAA canceled both the winter sports championships and the entire spring schedules.
NASCAR — excuse the pun — would be in high gear with the IndyCar season having just begun.
By now, the PGA would have completed 11 tournaments this year with the Masters looming just over two weeks away. The LPGA, with five events in the book, would be looking forward to its majors. Instead both tours find their seasons on hold.
Pro tennis has logged the first tourney of its Grand Slam — the Australian Open — but the French Open, in late May, has been suspended and, depending upon the risk, Wimbledon, in late June and early July, could also be affected.
And though it hasn’t been officially announced in New York and Pennsylvania, it seems highly unlikely there will be scholastic spring sports in either state.
Talk about athletics withdrawal.
Still, most sports fans don’t see the bulk of events in person, but rather via television.
And looking at the TH’s daily Radio-TV on the scoreboard page is a shock. Other than Australian Rules Football, the only other live event is the occasional major horse race.
Meanwhile, the scrambling networks, in desperation, are running all manner of replayed games ... but they’re just not for me.
Oh, I’d watch Game 1 of the 1988 World Series between the Dodgers and Athletics that Kirk Gibson won for L.A. via a dramatic homer with two outs in the bottom of the ninth or the Bonnies’ double-overtime loss to Kentucky in the opening round of the 2000 NCAAs. But, in most cases, I’m unenthused about rewatching an event for which the result is already known to me.
The only exception was a couple of years ago when a sports network ran the video of the Buffalo Braves’ 124-123 overtime playoff victory over the 76ers in April of 1976. I covered that meeting, which decided the best-of-three series, at Philadelphia’s Spectrum and knew it to be one of the most dramatic NBA games I’d ever seen.
Indeed, I also covered four Super Bowls in the early 1990s for the Times Herald — Buffalo’s fabled ill-fated run — and never watched a single rebroadcast, other than the occasional brief game-clip that materializes in some ESPN retrospective.
And if this space ever indicates I watched eNASCAR iRacing on FS1, just assume I’ve been kidnaped and that an imposter has taken my place.
For those of us who make our living covering sports, as with everyone else, coronavirus has created an unprecedented work situation.
We’ve endured stoppages as the NFL, NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball have endured labor-related shutdowns … but not all at the same time. World War II came closest to what we’re experiencing now and the 9/11 attacks created a brief shutdown before sports resumed.
But NO sports?
That’s never happened.
Newspapers in San Francisco, Seattle and several other cities have repurposed their sports departments to assist in COVID-19 coverage. And TV stations, all over the country, including Buffalo, are airing news blocks without sports segments.
Until now, it was hard to imagine a world without sports.
It recalls that line from an old song, “You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.”
(Chuck Pollock, a Bradford Publishing senior sports columnist, can be reached at email@example.com)