NORTHWEST, Ohio — As the 2021 edition of March Madness is about to begin, the memories of a lost season the year prior also linger.
On Tuesday, March 10, 2020, I was in attendance of a standing-room only high school boys basketball game between Antwerp and Columbus Grove.
Just a day later on March 11, I was in a near-empty Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse in Cleveland for the Mid-American Conference Tournament. Only the teams, close family members, the media and event staff were allowed inside.
Then on March 12, the MAC Tournament was stopped and then canceled just hours ahead of the Toledo vs. Bowling Green men’s basketball matchup.
I remember this day so well because it was my mom’s birthday and I had forgotten to wish her a happy birthday until late in the day. I know, I know, but my mind was all over the place, as it was for many Americans on this day.
I was packing up a station car to head to Cleveland as news of the now canceled tournament began to surface. Those plans quickly shifted to a trip to Savage Arena as we awaited the return of the Toledo men’s and women’s basketball teams.
Disappointment was the main sentiment shared among the Rockets. The women had just upset the top overall seed Central Michigan to advance in the tournament, but the opportunity to expand on that was stripped away.
This was just one domino of many to fall, and the blow to sports was only beginning.
In the days ahead, we all became accustomed to hearing the words coronavirus, COVID-19, masks and social distancing. What we didn’t get used to hearing was, “this sporting event has been canceled or postponed.”
The Napoleon girls basketball team was in the midst of a dream season. Undefeated and set to appear in their first ever state final four in school history.
The Evergreen boys basketball team was 25-1 and just one game away from advancing to the state final four as well.
Those are just two of the hundreds of teams affected by what would be a tidal wave of tough news to follow in the weeks and months ahead.
As sports would come and go, what never went away was the love for them.
Players couldn’t live out their dreams of winning a championship, whether on the high school or college stage. Some parents had watched their child play for what they didn’t know was the last time.
As we enter tournament time nearly a year later, so many are hoping for the successful completion of the season.
Even though much of the season looks different, what is the same are baskets made, opponents pinned and trophies lifted, even if it is in front of dozens instead of hundreds and thousands.