Off the Record

I didn’t think my worst March Madness experience could ever be topped.

It came two years ago, when, on the first night of the NCAA Tournament, I purchased a case of RC at Jewel. I was admittedly lazy. The RC was right there by where I was standing. Other pops were down the aisle. I grabbed the RC and checked out, excited to watch the first of 67 games.

RC was great as a kid. A liter of RC every Friday with that pizza I ordered? Perfect.

But, something changed. That RC I bought was awful. Every time I see RC, I think of my horrific March Madness viewing experience from 2018.

But now, a new low has arrived for March Madness. And, on a serious note, I hope it is never topped.

In the wake of the spread of the coronavirus, March Madness is canceled. Gone.

I have no idea what this week will be like. The first two days of the NCAA Tournament are my favorite days of the year—have been since I was 8.

And now, they’re gone.

But, seriously, I get it. I wish NCAA officials would have just postponed it and re-assessed the situation in a couple weeks, but they probably have more information than I do.

Oh, even better? My favorite team, Illinois, was a lock to make the NCAA Tournament this year—its first appearance in seven years.

I’ve said a few times in this column that my interest in sports has waned in recent years. In the grand scheme of things, I’m still a big sports fan—but I just look at things more cynically.

This is my formal apology.

The absence of sports has left a huge void. As much as I’m concerned about the coronavirus, I’m also scared about what it will be like this Thursday and Friday, when there are no games or NCAA Tournament.

I will miss watching the Masters golf tournament in April. I will miss baseball’s Opening Day, scheduled for late March but now pushed back several weeks, at least.

My family recently received an Amazon Firestick, the best possible gift a couple can get as the parents of three young children because it offers a long list of Disney shows. It also has plenty of good viewing options for parents.

My wife and I will undoubtedly be using it even more the next few months. But, I will desperately miss watching live sports.

That includes the nearly unwatchable Bulls, the frustrating Bears and the brimming-with-potential White Sox.

I feel like the character Kramer from “Seinfeld” who breaks up with his girlfriend and then pleads with her to return.

Of course, my sympathies go out to local high school athletes who saw their seasons end prematurely. Several boys basketball teams were two wins away from going downstate—and then the Illinois High School Association, understandably, canceled the season.

Spring sports teams might never get to play this year. Seniors’ careers could be over months before they should be.

Chicago sports radio hosts suggested that when pro sports do return, players will have an extra bounce in their step and appreciate the game a little more. If so, I hope that lasts.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker is requesting that Chicago pro sports teams not host games until May 1.

That date has never felt more far away since the recent onset of March Sadness.