After the third quarter and before the start of the fourth quarter at Tuesday’s Class 4 boys’ semifinal game between Millbrook and Woodrow Wilson at Sherando High School, Warriors announcer John Minteer was asked to read a directive from the Virginia High School League.
The gym was silent as Minteer read the announcement. Paraphrasing it, the VHSL was asking that teams in the semifinals (and also the finals) refrain from the traditional postgame handshake as a precaution to spreading the coronavirus.
The announcement was met with a resounding chorus of boos from the large crowd prompting Minteer to say, “Hey, don’t shoot the messenger.”
Honestly, you could understand the fans’ response. By the conclusion of the game, the players from each team had spent 32 minutes handling the same basketball and sweating and pushing all over each other. A handshake probably would have been some of the briefest contact that the players had. After the contest, Millbrook and Wilson players bumped fists.
It would be the last time that many of the state’s high school basketball fans got to see their teams play, regardless of the outcomes.
On Thursday morning, the VHSL announced that the general public wouldn’t be allowed to attend the last two days of the state finals, which were scheduled for Thursday, today and Saturday. Just a few hours later and with Class 2 teams already playing in Richmond, the VHSL called off the Class 1 games for Thursday night, and the Class 3, 4, 5 and 6 title games for Friday and Saturday. The VHSL declared the semifinal winners as co-state champions.
“After continuing to assess the impact of COVID-19 and the recent cancellations throughout the sports world, we felt it was in the public interest to cancel our championship finals for Friday and Saturday,” VHSL executive director Billy Haun said in a news release. “While we understand how disappointing this is for all fans of our teams, we feel this decision is in the best interest of public health, including that of, most importantly, our student-athletes, coaches, administrators, families, and fans.”
The VHSL is not alone.
College and professional leagues are making unprecedented moves as panic spreads maybe quicker than the virus itself.
On Thursday, all five men’s power conferences in college basketball canceled their postseason tourneys. Later in the day, the NCAA Tournament was canceled, along with all of the remaining winter and spring championships.
The NBA, which had two Utah Jazz players test positive for the virus, has suspended play indefinitely. The NHL suspended play on Thursday. NFL teams, including the Redskins, are shutting down their facilities. The NFL offices closed later in the day.
Major League Baseball teams have shut down spring training and will postpone the start of the season. NASCAR and the PGA Tour will hold events without fans. The ATP has suspended tennis events for six weeks. There are plenty more.
No, the sports world is not immune from what is gripping the nation — and that’s a shame.
Right now, we all could use some distraction from the news and that’s something sports do best. As we watch our retirement savings tumble and scour for a bottle of hand sanitizer, it certainly would be nice to get lost in a game for a couple of hours.
The crazy thing with this outbreak is that we did none of these measures with the swine flu pandemic from around 10 years ago.
According to the Centers for Disease Control’s website, from April 2009 to April 2010 there were an estimated 60.8 million cases, 274,304 hospitalizations and 12,469 deaths in the U.S. from the swine flu.
As of Thursday afternoon, there were 39 deaths in the U.S., with 23 of those coming from a nursing home in Washington, where there are 31 deaths in the state. There were more than 1,300 cases reported in the U.S.
Ben Franklin said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
Certainly this virus is lethal and you don’t want it to spread. Hopefully the many preventative measures enacted nationally and by these sports organizations will help.
Or could some of these directives be a little over the top, a different form of March Madness?
We’ll let you decide whether to boo them or not.
Just don’t shoot the messenger when you’re done.