As I write this on March 13, 2020, the past 48 hours have seen the entire sports world come crashing down.
As one longtime Pioneer fan (who went to DU in the late ‘60s) texted me: “Today is the worst sports day in my lifetime.”
Indeed – mine too, and while I am younger than he is, I have been a Pio fan for nearly 40 years and have never seen a cascade of sports closures like this one.
It’s no exaggeration to say that no less than five DU teams had serious chances for NCAA hardware this year, before the NCAA (and its conferences) ended all remaining competitions out of concern for the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
Consider the facts:
-DU Hockey was sitting 5th nationally in the pairwise, had already clinched an NCAA berth, and was licking its chops at the prospect of hosting the NCAA regional in Loveland, Colo. in front of local fans for the first time since 2004.
-DU Skiing was sitting in second place at the NCAA Skiing Championships in Montana at the halfway point of the four-day meet, with three NCAA Individual Champions already and its best team events still in front of the Pioneers.
-DU Gymnastics was ranked #7 in the country, with their NCAA regional scheduled for Magness Arena in early April.
-DU Men’s Lacrosse was ranked #10 and had just upset then #10th ranked rival Notre Dame on the road.
-DU Women’s Lacrosse was ranked #16th and had lost just once this season so far, hoping to improve on an NCAA final eight appearance last year.
And that doesn’t even count DU Swimming, who had already qualified several swimmers for the NCAA Championships, as well as both DU Tennis and Golf teams, who likely would have also qualified for their NCAA Tournaments this season, with some amazing performances already.
For these athletes, the COVID-19 virus has crushed their hopes and dreams and all that they had worked so hard to attain. Some athletes may have another chance for NCAA glory. But for the seniors and some pro-bound DU athletes, their collegiate careers came to an abrupt end — not on the field of play, but simply as a bunch of pixels on a computer screen. It’s both deeply sad and terribly aggravating, to be sure.
And while the DU community mourns for what might have been, similar scenes are playing out for all the other fans of other schools and pro teams, who also have suddenly lost their dreams of sports glory for this year.
And yet, as sad as these lost dreams are, remember that thousands of people have already died from this virus and that many more may yet be infected. As a country, we are struggling against this invisible monster — with no vaccine, little testing and relatively little experience in pandemics. There is also economic fallout as markets plummet, jobs are lost and society copes with quarantines, travel bans and other potential chaos to come. These are scary times, and we no longer have live spectator sports to engage and distract us. Indeed, for many true fans, sports act as milestones of the seasons and of our lives. They become our memories, shared experiences, markers of time, and stones in the towering walls of tradition.
Still, while we grieve for what might have been, remember to focus on what matters more — taking care of ourselves and of each other.
Puck Swami is the Internet moniker of a long-time DU fan and alumnus. He shares his views here periodically at LetsGoDU.