Thursday, March 12, 2020 should be known as "The Day the Games Stopped."
Seeing the cascade of suspensions and cancellations at the high school, collegiate and professional level Thursday was nothing short of stupefying.
The sheer amount of cancellations had sports fans wondering "What’s next?" only to have something bigger happen.
First, the NBA suspended operations, followed by Major League Soccer, then Major League Baseball and the NHL.
Then, after several conferences cancelled their basketball tournaments, the NCAA dropped its bomb: Not only will there be no March Madness, but all NCAA winter and spring sports championships have been cancelled.
Closer to home, the Ohio High School Athletic Association had to make its choice as well.
My boss, Record-Courier sports editor Rob Todor, was on the floor at St. John Arena in Columbus to cover West Branch’s Division II girls basketball state semifinal with Dayton Carroll.
The two teams were warming up to play when they received word what was happening: The OHSAA had suspended all winter sports tournaments, effective immediately.
Less than two hour later, another shoe dropped when Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine noted all Ohio schools would be sent on an extended "spring break" for three weeks.
The OHSAA followed up that move Friday by instituting a mandatory contact period from March 17 to April 5, which also included a mandatory shut down for all athletic facilities.
If there are no further extensions — and that "if" is about as big as it gets — practices may resume April 6 with the first day games being allowed as April 11.
The OHSAA also reminded student-athletes they should not play with AAU or other non-interscholatic teams, lest they risk their eligibility.
Basically, Ohio high school sports are on lockdown until Easter weekend.
All these moves signaled the most significant disruption of the American sports calendar since the aftermath of 9/11.
It also signals something else: America is getting serious about dealing with the coronavirus outbreak.
Of course, the pandemic represents a threat that dwarves the world of sports.
Health officials have been saying for months that larger public events can accelerate the spread of communicable viruses. DeWine’s proclamation to ban "mass gatherings" of more than 100 people would include just about all interscholastic events.
To put it in perspective, there are 672 state qualifiers in the state wrestling tournament alone.
Faced with all this, the prevailing thought seems to be suspending events was the right thing to do.
There are a lot of people who are deeply upset, however.
Even before the state wrestling tournament was postponed, petitions were circulating to allow the full public access to the tournament. "Let us decide" was what the petition said.
It’s become clear over the last week, however, the risk is simply too great even with limited fan participation.
Some of this, of course, is due to the myriad of misinformation about the virus. Some of it, however, is genuine concern about the kids.
The NCAA moved Friday to offer "eligibility relief" to seniors who will not get to spring sports on the college calendar.
High school seniors don’t have that option.
It should be noted the OHSAA has not cancelled its remaining winter sports tournaments. It’s entirely possible that around Easter, the winter tournaments will come back.
In the meantime, though, who wanted to tell those West Branch players?
As a wrestling writer, I always look forward to the state tournament. I wholeheartedly understand why there are some wrestlers who are fuming right now.
How about the story I heard about Twinsburg first-time state qualifier Aidan Corrigan? He was literally getting a send-off parade through the school when the OHSAA made its decision to suspend.
This year’s state meet had a lot of great storylines.
Could Aurora’s Dylan Fishback get redemption after losing in the state finals? Could Nordonia’s Sal Perrine join his brother as a state champion?
Could Crestwood’s Brett Szuhay or Rootstown’s Caleb Edwards claim gold after two All-Ohio finishes? Could a CVCA or Walsh Jesuit super freshman win a state title?
Could Aurora break through and win the Division II state championship?
Now all those storylines are on hold at best and possibly in danger of not happening.
ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt may have said it best: "But the games are on hold. And that sucks. And it’s not an eloquent way to say it, but it’s OK to say it, isn’t it?"
Yes it is.
I look forward to the state wrestling tournament as much as anything in my professional life. From my inner fan’s perspective, not watching March Madness or seeing the Columbus Crew play is going be a shock to the system.
Personally and professionally, there’s simply not going to be much to cover or watch at least until April.
Maybe that’s the jolt society needed to realize the hard truth: We’re dealing with a global pandemic with the potential to have millions die.
Against that backdrop, the world of sports is of tertiary concern at best.
The oft-repeated phrase the sports holds a mirror up to society carries more weight at this moment.
The games have ended, for now, and perhaps that’s best. The primary concern for the world now is staying healthy.
Reporter Michael Leonard can be reached at 330-541-9442, email@example.com or @MLeonard_GHO