BY Bill Crockett
(MANCHESTER, Ky.) — In a world without sports, fear of the unknown leads to speculation which in turn generates uncertainty. During these unprecedented times, regardless of whether or not you avidly follow sports, citizens across the Commonwealth of Kentucky not only long for normalcy, but crave comfort and relief. In hindsight, sports provided a sense of familiarity for fanatics as well as countless thousands who at a minimum acknowledged celebratory achievements.
Less than a month ago, no one foresaw a sportless world, much less imagined the scope and potential economic consequences directly attributable to the loss of sporting events. Nineteenth century prognosticators predicted if March came in like a lion, it would go out like a lamb. Seemingly without warning, a virus originated in Wuhan, China and quickly encircled the globe. Everyone’s life completely changed direction and flipped upside down within a short time frame.
Altered perspectives shifted away from annual rights of passage like March Madness toward more introspective pursuits and concerns. Recommended residential quarantine and daily COVID-19 updates at 5 o’clock from Governor Andy Beshear replaced busted office bracket pools and last second buzzer-beaters. Mandates shuttered businesses which in turn produced economic downturn. Hospitalizations and loss of life made an unseen enemy real.
Having your entire world change complicates matters. Watching replays of classic Kentucky NCAA Tournament games reminded everyone of what could have been this season. Without question, John Calipari’s eighth-ranked Kentucky Wildcats appeared poised for yet another deep tournament run. After UK’s miraculous come-from-behind win in Gainesville, Immanuel Quickley and Nick Richards emerged as one of the nation’s most formidable duos.
Unfortunately, dreams and aspirations of Kentucky players basking underneath “One Shining Moment” ended prematurely. Beginning with the cancellation of the SEC Tournament, NCAA officials soon followed suit, and just like that, an entire season of commitment and dedication by players across the nation came to an abrupt halt. In what could be their last time suiting up as a Wildcat, Quickley, Richards, Ashton Hagans, and EJ Montgomery truly deserved a better ending.
Although we’ll never know, with a couple of lucky bounces, Calipari’s squad could have reached the Final Four and depending on the matchup, actually played for a national title. Where do we go from here? One thing became abundantly clear: our nation needs sports, not as a salvation, but as a reminder of where we were before the pandemic occurred. Perhaps the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band said it best, “If we’re ever gonna see a rainbow, we have to stand a little rain.”