(Editorial note: Even though there was no 2020 Final Four, we ran the series. All 10 parts.)
Georgia guard Anthony Edwards (5) drives against Mississippi's Breein Tyree (4) in the second half of their SEC Tournament game Wednesday, March 11, 2020, in Nashville, Tenn. Georgia won 81-63. (Mark HumphreyAP)
Credit: Mark Humphrey
Credit: Mark Humphrey
You wrote something about the SEC cancellation and checked out of the hotel posthaste. For one thing, you didn’t want to get charged for another night. Mostly, though, you wanted to get out of town. The story of the Utah Jazz being quarantined in their locker room in Oklahoma City after Rudy Gobert tested positive the night before was fresh in your mind. If there was going to be a lockdown, you wanted to be locked down at home.
“To call it the most incredible day in the annals of American sports is an understatement,” you wrote. “It was among the more dizzying days in the history of this nation.” And that was before the NCAA got around to its full-blown cancellation, which happened just after you’d crossed the state line. (Whew. No being locked down in Tennessee.) You stopped at Shoney’s in Calhoun to write something about that momentous new development. By then you were numb.
And then you were home, wondering a million things. Might you have been exposed to the virus on your 30-hour trip? Should you isolate yourself in an upstairs bedroom? Oh, and this, too: With sports shuttered, how might a sportswriter earn his keep?
There was so much unknown as of March 12, 2020, but this you knew: What was happening would be the biggest story of your life. We weren’t sure where we were headed, but it was clear we were bound for a place we’d never been.
One year later, you look back in wonder: Was there really a shortage of toilet paper? (Yes.) A political divide over masks? (Oh, yes.) Were there days when you weren’t sure anyone would make it through? (Absolutely.) But here our world sits, having completed a full trip around the sun and developed several vaccines en route, and it’s now possible to envision life after COVID-19. It’s also possible — and fitting — to say a Hail Mary for those 528,000 Americans who died.
The pandemic isn’t over. Grim numbers, however, have become less grim. You still wear two masks when you go out, and you still don’t venture out often. But you’ve been vaccinated, and you’re not as scared as a year ago, when nothing seemed to be working and it was unclear if anything would.
You’ve continued to write about sports, all of which shut down, all of which are up and running again. A year ago, you wouldn’t have characterized sports as an essential industry. Today, you just might. The world is a better place when our diversions actually divert us.
As a society, we began to take the virus seriously March 11 and 12, 2020. When sports began to return — the NBA and NHL in bubbles, baseball without fans, football with a few fans — it seemed the end of a bad beginning. Today the prospect of March Madness reclaiming its hold on the USA heralds the beginning of an end. We might just make it after all.