Just four weeks have passed since our standard way of life was turned upside down.
It’s probably been the three longest weeks of most people’s lives, and for many it was the sudden shutdown of the world of sports that first thrust us into this strange, new reality.
Basketball provided the starkest example of just how quickly everything came grinding to a halt at every level.
The NBA played its last games on March 11, before putting the brakes on the remainder of its season.
The Big Ten men’s tournament got two first-round games out of the way that same evening, but that was it. The top-seeded Badgers didn’t even get a chance to put on their uniforms again.
Women’s college hoops followed suit the very next day, closing up shop for good after canceling all but three conference tournament games.
The WIAA girls state tournament also managed to get underway on March 12, but only the Division 3 and 4 semifinals got in the books before the rest of the winter sports season was scrapped later that day. Those four state finalists, in particular, will always wonder what might have been, forever one game away from a possible state title.
Fortunately --- or not --- none of the high school teams from this area were directly affected by the abrupt shutdown of the sporting world.
The Mellen boys basketball team was the last one standing in our neck of the woods, and played its final game on March 7, so it’s been about a month since any high school sports have taken place in Ashland or Bayfield counties.
That in itself is not unusual for our region, of course, with the way winter hangs on for as long as possible around here. There is always a weekslong gap between winter and spring sports as we wait patiently for the snow to melt away and the grass to dry out.
But it’s obviously a very different situation this year, and we’re now starting to feel the impact of the novel coronavirus pandemic on the local spring sports season.
The Northland College baseball, softball and men’s lacrosse teams had already played a number of games before the school decided to cancel the remainder of its spring athletics schedule way back on March 13.
The high school track and field season was supposed to begin on St. Patrick’s Day this year, and local softball, baseball and girls soccer teams should also have started their seasons late last month.
Ashland’s boys tennis team would have opened its season yesterday, but the courts remain empty.
The boys golf team would also be practicing by now under usual circumstances, but none of these teams are allowed to convene and begin preparations for their seasons while schools remain closed across the state.
The WIAA hasn’t officially canceled the spring season at this point, but it seems like it’s only a matter of time. The longer this indefinite hiatus continues, the bleaker the outlook for any semblance of a normal spring season.
But we’re all adapting as best we can in the meantime.
Several local teams have produced their own versions of the Toilet Paper Challenge, for example, to help pass the time and keep their skills sharp. Kids have been cruising up and down the streets on their bicycles. Plenty of people are still getting outside for some fresh air and exercise.
It’s hard to know exactly what to expect going forward, but as we all do our part and work to “flatten the curve,” this is a good time to take stock and embrace the important things in life.
Change is inevitable, to be sure, but change is also normal, and whatever it looks like, things will return to some kind of normal, eventually.
And when they finally do, hopefully we’ll all have an even greater appreciation for what we have, as well as what we’ve been missing.