March Madness? More like March Sadness

For college basketball fans, the arrival of March is always eagerly awaited. The National Collegiate Athletic Association’s (NCAA) annual basketball tournament, dubbed March Madness for its intensity and ferocity, forces fans to the edge of their seats as 68 teams duke it out in a single-elimination format: just one loss, and you’re out. The tournament quickly becomes a fight to survive.

But despite the anticipation surrounding this year’s edition of the tournament, with college basketball analyst Andy Katz predicting a race-to-the-top between probable number one seeds University of Kansas, Gonzaga University, Baylor University, and Dayton University, none of these teams will have their shot at the coveted NCAA National Championship Trophy for one key reason: the tournament is cancelled.

Concerns surrounding the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus, recently declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization, forced the NCAA to cancel the competition and put a stop to this year’s college basketball season less than a week before the scheduled Mar. 17 opening game.

The hastily canned season is one of many top-level sporting events called off because of the coronavirus. Almost all currently running professional sports leagues, from the National Basketball Association (NBA) to National Association of Stock Car Racing (NASCAR), have cancelled events or temporarily suspended their seasons in order to prevent the spread of the virus.

On Mar. 11, the NBA announced minutes before games were supposed to tip off, that it would suspend the remainder of the Regular season after Utah Jazz players Rudy Gobert, and Donnovan Mitchell tested positive for COVID-19. Fans inside the stadium were devastated and players are being quarantined.

The Big East tournament, like all conference tournaments that feed teams into the NCAA tournament, was the only conference still holding games on Mar.12 – before the quarterfinal match between the number 9 seed Creighton Blue Jays and number 1 seed St. John’s Red Storm was cancelled at halftime.

These steps are not limited to traditional sports, with tournaments in the esports titles like Dota 2, League of Legends, and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive having tournaments or leagues played without audience, suspended or even cancelled over coronavirus fears.

The drastic steps to curtail the spread of the virus cap two days of uncertainty surrounding the NCAA’s course in the face of the global outbreak. A statement on Mar. 10 from NCAA president Mark Emmert stated that the neither CDC nor the NCAA’s COVID-19 advisory panel had recommended against holding sporting events and allowing schools and individual regions to use their own discretion.

The next day, Emmert and the advisory panel put out another statement announcing the closure of NCAA events to the general public, allowing “only essential staff and limited family” to attend.

Less than 24 hours later, the season was cancelled.

This has even hit close to home, in a release to students EdCC announced that all sporting events on campus would be played spectator free, Out of an abundance of caution due COVID-19, “Edmonds Community College will host their home athletic contests with no fans or spectators until further notice. Based on recommendations of Snohomish County Health District.” The release said, and on Mar. 13 it was announced that the home Softball games versus Everett would be canceled due to COVID-19.

Sports has a great way of lifting everyone up, but it is at times like these that we remember what is important, and that right now is the safety of everyone. There is currently no time table for when we might see our favorite teams and players back in action, but remembering to wash our hands, and avoid larger gatherings is the most important right now.