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I had planned to rise Monday morning and immediately begin bragging about my March Madness bracket.
Of course, I did ridiculously well during the first two rounds last week, and among the 15 teams I had advancing to the Sweet 16 was America East champion Vermont.
The 13th-seeded Catamounts defeated both No. 4 Louisville and No. 12 Cincinnati — because No. 12 seed always beats the No. 5 in the first round — in the West Regional at Omaha, Nebraska.
Coach John Becker’s club also topped No. 4 Wisconsin and No. 12 East Tennessee State in the Midwest Regional at Spokane, Washington.
Doesn’t make sense? Exactly.
The problem is there are too many choices out there, and none are real.
The Louisville-Cincinnati sweep came from Sports Illustrated’s fictional bracket, the Wisconsin and East Tennessee State wins from the New York Post.
This year, when sports fans around the country suddenly need a distraction, like March Madness, more than ever it has been replaced by a March Sadness of sorts. People are forced to turn inward to protect themselves against a coronavirus for which there is no developed vaccine yet.
How this all turns out is uncertain, but one thing that makes it just a little more difficult to cope with is the lack of escapism sports at all levels provides.
A month-long delay in the start of high school preseason practices, the shutdown of the biggest college sporting event of the year and the suspension of play by nearly every professional sporting entity may not have been life-or-death decisions individually. They are symbolic of the gravity of the United States’ effort to minimize the human toll — or “flatten the curve” — of this mysterious contagion.
People are working out of their homes in record numbers and, save for the Florida coast during spring break, gatherings are being kept to a minimum. Weekend recreation now includes brisk walks, free fishing days, casual drives — I recently bought gasoline for $1.63 a gallon — and even old-school board games as the phrases “quarantine” and “shelter in place” cramp the style of more popular playtime routines.
As for sports on television, viewers were treated last weekend to classic NCAA basketball games, a virtual NASCAR race, a Tom Brady’s Greatest Hits marathon and a replay of Wrestlemania XXX from 2014.
As someone who doesn’t particularly care for sporting events for which I already know the outcome, my social distancing plan was to watch movies and crime dramas while trying to maintain an optimistic outlook on the battle against the coronavirus.
It isn’t that easy, because while certainly “big business” in its own right, sports at all levels also is usually one of the first retreats from life’s harsh realities in modern America. The Super Bowl is the biggest example.
In other perilous situations at this time of year we might have not only March Madness and the start of baseball season among our sporting diversions with the Masters golf tournament, Boston Marathon and Kentucky Derby on the horizon to pique our interest.
This year we’ll just have to tough it out amid all the uncertainty, for no one knows for sure when the sports world will resume play.
There will be no March Madness this year, while Major League Baseball, the NBA and the NHL have suspended play indefinitely.
The Masters has been postponed and not rescheduled yet, and while the Kentucky Derby (Sept. 5), Boston Marathon (Sept. 14) and French Open tennis tournament (Sept. 20) all have new dates. At this point it’s all wishful thinking more than any dates definitive.
Then there are this summer’s Olympics in Tokyo which, according to reports on Monday afternoon, have been postponed.
Here’s hoping the second half of 2020 is one of the busiest sporting times in American history, because it will mean the coronavirus has cleared and my only lingering concern from the early stages of the year will be the remains of my 401(k).
In the meantime, play it safe in these strange days indeed.