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A different type of March Madness

The first NCAA men’s basketball tournament was held in 1939.

In 1939, much of the world still struggling to claw its way out of the Great Depression. A couple of madmen in Europe, Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini, were plotting the attacks which would ignite World War II. There was no television, at least in the United States and Canada. Radios were luxuries many couldn’t afford. Franklin Roosevelt was giving thought to running for a third term as President of the United States, breeking the two-term limit tradition began by Washington, adhered to by Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Jackson and Cleveland (non-consecutively), and imposed upon Grant (due to party rejection following two corrupt terms) and Wilson (due to debilitating illness).

Since 1939, there has been a world war and numerous lesser wars (Korea, Vietnam, two in Iraq, Afghanistan). Tornadoes have decimated two communities in Kansas 42 years apart (Udall and Greensburg) and caused billions of dollars in damages to larger cities (Topeka, Tuscaloosa and Joplin). Hurricanes wiped out the Mississippi Gulf Coast twice and flooded New Orleans twice. There have been numerous scares from diseases (Ebola, H1N1, avian flu, Zika, SARS), and the war on cancer may never be won.

None of it affected what came to be known as March Madness.

Until now.

This afternoon, NCAA president Mark Emmert announced the NCAA was cancelling all championship events sponsored by the organization through the end of the 2019-20 academic year.

The biggest loss, of course, is the Division I men’s basketball tournament, which is the NCAA’s biggest money maker by far.

Revenue from March Madness finances just about every other NCAA championship. The Division I women’s basketball championships and Division I baseball championships, which include the College World Series, have turned small profits from time to time, but usually are in the red, although far less than the deficits run by lower-level events and Division I championships in lesser sports.

Yesterday, the NCAA planned to go on with March Madness in mostly empty arenas. Attendance would have been limited to the immediately families of players and coaches, support personnel from the competing universities, arena staff and media members.

Social media exploded. Fan after fan threw hissy fits complaining about conducting March Madness without fans.

My response? TOO FREAKING BAD.

The NCAA tournament is for the PLAYERS. The players are the ones competing for championships. They are the ones who put in the work day after day in practice and perform at games. They are the most important figures in any sports tournament.

After the players, the coaches are next in importance, followed by game officials and support staff.

Fans buy tickets. They cheer their teams. Otherwise, they have no effect whatsoever on what goes on during a basketball game or any other sporting event.

Nobody would have forced those crybaby fans to watch games in empty arenas. Most true basketball fans would have watched. They may not have liked the idea of being kept out of arenas, but they would have understood.

To those fans who threw fits yesterday about possible games in empty arenas: I HOPE YOU’RE HAPPY.

The last time a major sport shut down competition due to illness was in 1919, when the NHL cancelled the Stanley Cup “challenge series” due to the Spanish Flu epidemic which spread worldwide following the end of World War I.

The NCAA’s cancellation of the College World Series three months before it’s scheduled to start is puzzling. I understand the desire to protect everyone, but who’s to say the coronavirus threat won’t be greatly reduced come June?

College baseball is now shut down until at least the end of March, probably longer. Without a championship to shoot for, is there any reason to resume the season?

The coronavirus is serious. It has killed thousands. More than 1,500 Americans have been infected. I hope it passes soon. But I’m not worried. I haven’t had any reason to go out in public much, and with things being cancelled left and right, there may not be any reason to do so.