To heck with the Coronavirus, Wildcat fans need closure on Ashton Hagans drama.
By Dr. John Huang
(NASHVILLE, Tn.) – Just two short weeks ago, Ashton Hagans was the talk of the town. Kentucky’s sophomore point guard was in a bit of a funk. On the court, he was plagued by turnovers and poor decision making. A dustup with teammate Nick Richards and Coach John Calipari had forced him to “step away” for a game or two.
Then the “money” video surfaced, and—coincidentally or not—Hagans missed making the Florida trip with the rest of the team. All of BBN was left wondering how (and if) Hagans would respond for the upcoming NCAA tournament run.
Nashville would be his proving ground. The SEC Tournament, with the infamous blue mist enveloping the city, would be the litmus test of whether Hagans and crew had what it took to win Championship No. 9. The story of redemption was yet to be written.
Not so fast, my friend
Then the unfathomable happened. The minute I arrived in Nashville—just before noon on Wednesday—the dominos of doom started falling like the Dow. The Coronavirus threat reaped its havoc on Music City, on Cat fans, and on March Madness—temporarily putting an end to the sporting world as we knew it.
First there was the stunning announcement that the SEC Tournament would be played without fans in attendance. Shortly afterwards, Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz tested positive for the coronavirus, and the NBA suspended its season. We all then learned that Tom Hanks, for goodness sakes, had contracted the illness.
Meanwhile, back in Bridgestone Arena, the scene was surreal. On one hand, it was business as usual. Georgia defeated Ole Miss and Arkansas defeated Vanderbilt in front of one of the largest Wednesday night crowds I ever remembered seeing at the tournament. It was as if fans were making one last pilgrimage to witness one final time the game they so loved.
Events escalated quickly during the evening
Between swipes of hand sanitizer and checking the box scores, we learned that the NHL had also suspended its season, Major League Baseball had scrapped its spring training, and the PGA Tour and NASCAR were planning on events without fans. The NFL and Major League Soccer also cancelled and shut down many of its various operations and scheduled events. When President Trump announced the travel ban from Europe, the pucker factor went up tenfold.
A fitful night’s sleep
I woke up Thursday morning expecting the inevitable. Ironically, the Kentucky team had just left the practice floor when we all got the official word—The SEC Tournament had been cancelled! This followed announcements that the other conferences had also thrown in the towel—the Big East doing so right at halftime of the St. Johns versus Creighton contest.
More fallout on the drive back
On the drive back to Lexington, more floodgates opened. March Madness was officially canned, the KHSAA postponed the Boys and Girls Sweet Sixteen, and the NCAA terminated the remainder of all spring sports. When the word came out that the NCAA Rifle Championships hosted by the No. 1-ranked University of Kentucky Rifle squad had been cancelled, you just knew the end was near.
The fallout continued into Friday—the day that the SEC Tournament was really set to begin for all Wildcat fans. Keeneland, The Masters, the Kentucky Derby, the Indy 500—virtually any sport that draws a bevy of spectators—forced to adapt, adjust, and alter. Just like in the real world where schools were closing, Broadway shows were going dark, and retirees were staying off of cruise ships, sports fans were reeling from the shock.
Fans need closure
Looking back, the Ashton Hagans’ drama seems like eons ago, a virtually insignificant drop in our bucket of life. Although it pales in comparison to real life events, it’s still an important part of our identity. It’s something we still care about. We need some closure.
Coach Cal said that this Kentucky squad was one of his favorite teams, a team that could have won the national championship. Although I agree, I needed to find out for sure. I needed the SEC Tournament to be played out. I needed March Madness. I needed to find out what happened to Ashton.
The decision to pull the plug was the correct one. For the sake of public health and society, it was something that needed to be done. But that doesn’t mean we have to be happy about it. Previously, when stuff hit the fan in life, there was always still sports to turn to—an ever-present distraction to calm our nerves, a comforting salve for our wounds, a temporary respite for the slings and arrows that inevitably come our way.
What do we do now that it’s all gone?
Parts of this blog posting are scheduled to appear in the March 17 print editions of Nolan Group Media publications.