I was overwhelmed by March Sadness

The week of March 9 was the worst of my life as a sports fan. 

As a high school senior, I had already braced myself for a March filled with uncertainty and anxiety regarding college admissions decisions. But I never envisioned COVID-19 disrupting my life. Now, college admissions sit much lower on a long list of worries.

The week of March 9, all U.S. professional sports leagues postponed, canceled or paused their seasons. The NCAA also canceled the conference tournaments and March Madness for both men and women. 

As a diehard Sacramento Kings fan, I was hit hard by the news of the NBA suspension on March 12 for “at least 30 days,” according to Commissioner Adam Silver.

The Kings trail the Memphis Grizzlies by 3 1/2 games for the eighth (last) playoff spot in the Western Conference with 19 games to play. 

Sacramento was scheduled to host the New Orleans Pelicans, another team in the playoff race, on March 11 on ESPN.

I was at Golden 1 Center when the NBA suspension news broke. The Kings were supposed to play the Pelicans, and I was excited to see New Orleans’ Zion Williamson rock the rim in person for the first time. Unfortunately, the game was postponed because one of the refs had been exposed to Rudy Gobert, a Utah Jazz player from France who tested positive for COVID-19 two days prior. The Kings players were warming up with less than five minutes until game time, but I noticed none of the Pelicans had come out of the locker room. Fans booed the PA announcement as the surrealism of the situation set in: The Kings wouldn’t be playing. 

Depending on how long the season is suspended, the NBA could skip straight to the postseason. Or the league could cancel the rest of the season. Either way, the Kings would miss the playoffs for the 14th consecutive year. 

The following day, the floodgates opened: March Madness was canceled, and I had tickets for the first and second rounds at Golden 1 Center on March 20 and 22, which I’d been looking forward to since the fall.

I feel for the NCAA student-athletes, especially the seniors who were going to make the Big Dance and play their final collegiate games. Luckily, there are discussions about flexibility for seniors to extend eligibility.

Beyond my concern for basketball, I’m worried about my college applications. I was hardly surprised to hear that school’s been closed through April 13. Seniors are probably the least academically affected. However, with the mass closing of universities across the country, deciding where to attend by May 1 seems nearly impossible, especially for students who were planning visits in March and April.

In all regards, the first three months of 2020, especially last week, have seemed unreal. It’s hard to quiet the voice of uncertainty and instability in my head.

We are navigating uncharted territory, so making assumptions about when everything will go back to normal is pointless, especially when I can’t even keep up with the constant updates and notifications on my phone.

I was looking forward to a month of madness in March, including an exciting NCAA Tournament and increasingly competitive NBA season. Instead, all of the above have been postponed or canceled, and I’m stuck at home with no live sports to pass the time. Playing games without fans seemed like a great option.

Originally published in the March 17 edition of the Octagon.