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Column: A farewell to sports...

For now.

Big Ten Championship Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images

Wow. Thank goodness last week is over. An abrupt end to sports for the foreseeable future, and now I’m eating hoarded mac and cheese on the couch and trying to figure out if I want to watch Schitt’s Creek for the fourth time through on Netflix, because what else am I supposed to do?

This week has to be better, right? Here I am, social distancing in our condo in Chicago during what’s been, in the past, the most wonderful time of the year: March Madness. But alas, there will be no brackets, no office competitions, no Cinderellas and no Thursdays and Fridays filled with general lacks of productivity at my day job as I keep one eye focused on the early games and hope for upsets. At least my boss will be happy.

Yeah, this is a weird time. COVID-19 is changing what feels like every aspect of our lives. In the past, it’s been in times like these that sports have brought us together and provided comfort, camaraderie and companionship through uncertainty. Now, though, we couldn’t even gather if sports did happen to be on.

Alas, there is no madness to be had this year, and in my desperation for sports in my life, Cody Zeller’s suggestion of following athletes around while they learn new skills has become all the more appealing.

Frankly, I was looking forward to a heck of a lot more than basketball, and that’s when the true tragedy of no sports comes to its grim reality. Westling, for example, was set to open its own NCAA Championships at US Bank Arena this coming weekend. Ohio State crowned two individual Big Ten Champions at the conference championships earlier this month in Luke Pletcher and Kollin Moore. The pair of senior captains earned the top seeds in their respective divisions for the NCAAs as a result, but neither will have a chance to compete for a national title.

The NCAA has stated that “eligibility relief is appropriate” for Division I athletes participating in spring sports. It’s definitely the right move, as many sports are just entering (or haven’t started) their seasons. These sports include baseball, softball, rowing and lacrosse. Moreover, the NCAA made the announcement pretty quickly, so at least the major bummer of this news didn’t sit for too long without a resolution for these thousands of athletes across the country.

However, that announcement, once again, applied to athletes in spring sports. For now, then, it would seem the collegiate careers of Pletcher, Moore and many other winter sport athletes ended abruptly last week.

I’m not saying the NCAA or the Big Ten made a bad decision. Frankly, I applaud new Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren who, just a couple months into the job, had to make this choice. In that horribly depressing press conference, Warren stated “If it comes down to if I overreacted, or we overreacted, I’m comfortable with that.” It’s nice to see that our new commissioner has student-athletes’ best interests at heart. And for those who would rather see these 18-22 year olds play and risk infection and death for your entertainment, I’m guessing you’re the same ones who threaten kickers on Twitter when they miss extra points.

No, this decision was the right call, even if it hurts, most importantly, student-athletes, and secondarily, us as fans. This choice protects athletes, families, media, fans and campus communities.

In the opening moments of the chaos that capped last week, we all knew there wasn’t going to be a good resolution coming out of this situation. As my colleague, Connor Lemons, shared Friday, “It sucks. It isn’t fair. But it had to be done.”

Sports will be back. We don’t know when, but they will be someday. Until then, take a minute to cuddle with your pets, call a friend, read a book or, if you (I) must, watch Schitt’s Creek all the way through again.

Bye for now.