TIME OUT with Joe Flanagan

Sports, Life, Caution, Patience

March Madness indeed.
Sports fans have long been accustomed to ‘March Madness,’ the annual NCAA Mens Basketball Championship Tournament.
The clamor. The excitement. The stars. The unsung heroes. The champions. The upsets. The utter chaos.
In Nebraska, the state wrestling and basketball tournaments at this time of year have long seemed the conclusion of winter, ushering in the beginning of a welcome spring.
It’s usually a time of cheering, and good cheer.
This year? It’s more the Sound of Silence.
Sports, around the country and around the world, have basically been shut down as the result of the emerging Coronavirus crisis. As with the overall interruption of life in general, it’s been a shock.
Where do we go from here? No one really knows. It seems we’re in uncharted waters.
Perhaps, rather than evoking Simon & Garfinkal, George R.R. Martin’s House of Stark is more appropriate … “Winter is coming.”
Indeed, winter has come.
A dark period has enveloped the sports world, and who knows how long it will last, or what the eventual ramifications will be.
In a situation such as we’re currently in the midst of, sports are certainly a minor consideration. But their absence leaves a large void.
Athletic competition is ingrained into our society. From youth, through high school and college, to the professional level, sport is a prevalent part of our daily lives.
It’s great exercise and social growth for youngsters, a learning tool at the high school level, wonderful entertainment by college and professional athletes.
It’s also a huge economic vehicle at those upper levels, with many individuals deriving their livelihoods from our games. Not just the well-compensated athletes and coaches, who can afford to weather a work stoppage, but large numbers of overall team personnel, and countless stadium and arena workers.
Where does a vendor vend without an event?
Just consider, I found that there are some 1,487 hourly employees toiling at Chicago’s United Center for a typical Bulls or Blackhawks game. Wow! That’s startling!
It was heartwarming to see a number of wealthy NBA and NHL players immediately pledge monetary assistance to these team/arena employees following the suspensions of play. That also goaded some of the billionaire owners to announce that they would also compensate affected workers.
This is certainly a time, and situation, where people helping people is important.
Locally and statewide, we are as uncertain as the nation and the world about the immediate future, even though we have not yet been affected to the degree more populated areas and the coastal regions have.
This is a time for concern, without panic. For caution and cautionary measures. For people to help people by being responsible.
I don’t envy our government leaders and public officials, our school boards and activities directors. Tough decisions have already been made, and more will be needed in the days, weeks and, possibly, months ahead.
Patience and diligence are necessary. There will be a day when the pandemic is behind us. We can’t know how serious consequences will be at this time, but as a nation, a state and local communities, we’ll get through it.
Athletics will return, as well. As much as we miss the competition and excitement, the absence of our sports is really just a minor inconvenience.