March mercifully ends with sports, world unrecognizable

On March 1, there were two stories that dominated much of the news cycle. There was much buzz attached to Joe Biden’s stunning political resurrection after winning the South Carolina primary. There was hope surrounding an agreement signed between the U.S. and the Taliban to end America’s longest war, which on that Sunday had lasted …

On March 1, there were two stories that dominated much of the news cycle. There was much buzz attached to Joe Biden’s stunning political resurrection after winning the South Carolina primary. There was hope surrounding an agreement signed between the U.S. and the Taliban to end America’s longest war, which on that Sunday had lasted for 6,720 days.

On March 1, there were a total of 62 reported cases of COVID-19 in the United States.

On March 1, Galen Rupp was celebrating having become one of the first Americans to qualify for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, winning the men’s marathon trials in Atlanta in 2 hours, 9 minutes and 20 seconds. Aliphine Tuliamuk won the women’s portion of the race in 2:27:23.

On March 1, a resident in a nursing home in Kirkland, Wash., became the second American to die of COVID-19.

On March 1, in Port St. Lucie, Fla., Jacob deGrom looked razor sharp in throwing three shutout innings of one-hit ball at the Nationals. Michael Conforto hit a home run — it would be a few days later when he threw a wrench in the Mets’ springtime optimism when it was revealed he tweaked his oblique in that same game. That seemed like dreadful news at the time. In Lakeland, a 27-year-old journeyman named Rosell Herrera hit two homers for the Yankees, who were bracing for the next day, when Aaron Judge would have more tests on his ailing shoulder.

Everything changed in MarchNew York Post back page March 13

On March 1, our world was the same world we’d ever known, the only world we’d ever known. Restaurants and saloons were crowded. Folks in Florida frolicked on the beach without a care in the world. People boarded airplanes and, undoubtedly, groused that there never seem to be any empty seats anymore. People planned vacations, and weddings, and baptisms, and bar mitzvahs, and funerals.

On March 1, sports fans were allowed to live well within the blissful bubble to which we’ve grown accustomed. They strategized about fantasy-baseball drafts. If you lived in New Jersey and had a hunch and some money burning a hole in your pocket, you clicked on your MGM or FanDuel accounts and gambled to your heart’s content on NBA, NHL, MLS, college hoops, an endless buffet table of options.

You raged — I mean, raged — about the Houston Astros if you were a fan of any of the other 29 teams in Major League Baseball (or just a believer in fair play). If you wanted to take a break from the Astros, you set your furies on Rob Manfred and the various controversies littering the commissioner’s office. You fretted about the Islanders’ collapse, rejoiced in the Rangers’ surge.

If you had tickets to see the Knicks at the Garden — they had games with the Rockets and Jazz that week — maybe you wondered if you’d be able to join your fellow sufferers in a chorus or two of “Sell the team!” before any of the Garden security folks heard you. If you were a Mets fan grown tired of present ownership, you gamed out with fellow believers how Steve Cohen could still possibly ride in on a white horse and save the day.

That was March 1, all of it.

Wednesday, finally — mercifully — the calendar flips to April 1. History will forever insist that March 2020 occupied just the standard 31 days of the calendar, but you know better. You know that after a lifetime of sad, wistful lamenting that time speeds by so quickly, the past 31 days, for all of us, have felt like a year unto itself. A decade, maybe.

On April 1, there are more than 3,000 American deaths from COVID-19, the count surpassing the terrible carnage of Sept. 11. There are more than 175,000 people afflicted with the virus. Life as we know it has been turned upside-down, and it’s going to stay that way until May 1, maybe June 1, likely longer, possibly much longer.

We fill the time any way we can: doom-surfing on Twitter, binge-watching “Tiger King” and other cultural necessities, making Zoom stock shoot through the roof — hungry for nice days when we can sit, appropriately distanced, in the outdoors and let the sun’s healing rays make us feel normal, however temporarily.

Sports fans make do. There are old games on YouTube and elsewhere. April 1 is the 35th anniversary of Villanova 66, Georgetown 64, and there’s been plenty of discussion about that game since CBS re-aired it Sunday.

On Tuesday, your humble narrator may or may not have reactivated his dormant William Hill account in order to wager a double-sawbuck on Shakhter Soligorsk over Yunost Minsk in a Belarus Extraliga hockey game (and your humble narrator may have lost that $20 when Yunost scored an overtime goal, causing a groan and a cry of “Same old Soligorsk!”).

On April 1, we all do what we can. Smartly, I hope. And safely, I pray.

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