On Monday evening I attended what will most likely be the last board of directors meeting I’ll be at for many weeks. Instead of the room we usually gather in, we met in a gym – there was much social distance between the 10 people there.
Our business completed, I stopped to get a carryout meal at a restaurant. There, I happened to sit next to a gentleman who still thinks the COVID-19 precautions are ridiculous. He was still spouting off the “people die from the flu every year; we didn’t shut the country down” nonsense.
Just like the virus, viral ignorance is still threatening America’s well-being. And, like COVID-19, for now there is no remedy to the stupidity.
To those still bitter about the cancellation of the various conference basketball tournaments and the NCAA Tournament, I say “get over it.”
Sports - professional, collegiate, youth and sandlot - will return bigger and better than ever. It’s just a hiatus. It’s not forever. In fact, it’s good for us.
For seniors in high school and college, there are many “what might have beens.”
But “what might have been” for 19-year-old Udell Chambers and hundreds of young men like him? The 19-year-old Kirkwood kid was headed to the Chicago White Sox organization in 1966, but was drafted and later killed in Vietnam.
“What might have been” for the thousands of black men and women athletes that never got to play in a postseason high school or collegiate tournament because their respective schools did not allow them to play on a team?
“What might have been” for the thousands of young men and women cut down in their prime by violence after displaying the skills that could have secured them an educational opportunity and glory in their respective sports?
When it comes to athletics for the next 60-to-90-to-who-knows-how-many-days, the opportunities missed aren’t sad. They are a reminder of what sadness really means and what the world and nature really look like.
A joke - once again
Missouri’s colleges had ended all face-to-face classes. The state’s elementary, primary and high schools had been shut down until at least mid-April. Gatherings of more than 50 people were coming to an end at the request of health and elected officials. Forty-nine states had ended girls and boys basketball tournaments.
And there was the Show Me State. The last holdout. The only state in America whose governing body over high school athletics was willing to send teams to a site for the final games of respective state basketball tournaments.
Earl Austin, American sports editor, called me early Monday to ask if I thought the Kirkwood girls team should travel to Springfield, Mo., next weekend for the tournament.
Surely, you jest. “The games have been called off,” I said.
Ben Hochman, Post-Dispatch sports columnist, obviously could not believe it either and interviewed Jason West, Missouri State High School Activities Association communications director on Sunday night.
“One of our underlying philosophies is we want to try to make participation in extracurricular activities the best it can be for the students, and in many cases that is competing for a state championship,” West said. “We’re still trying to keep that dream alive, if you will, and give the students the opportunity to do just that.”
In other words, “Forget that national health crisis, play on.”
Thankfully, and not coincidentally just a few hours after Hochman’s column was posted online, MSHSAA came to its senses by noon on Monday.
“Due to continuing concerns regarding the spread of COVID-19, MSHSAA has made the difficult decision to cancel the remainder of the (basketball postseason tournament) for Classes 4 and 5,” MSHSAA announced in a written statement.
As Hochman stated in a follow-up column, “It was a little mind-boggling that it took this long to make the decision.”
KU was/is No. 1?
Do my KU Jayhawks get declared National Champions by default?
KU was destined to be the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament, was ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press poll and was ranked, overall, as the best team in nine different metrics headed into the tournament.
Send that trophy to Lawrence, Kansas. We’ll take it with pride. Remember, before there was an NCAA Tournament, the national champion was the No. 1 team at season’s end.
Without a deep run in the Atlantic 10 Tournament and probably the title, SLU most likely would have landed in the National Invitational Tournament.
ESPN’s Joe Lunardi created a 32-team bracket for the tournament that had Clemson playing at SLU in the first round of the West Bracket games.
The No. 3 seeded Billikens would have then taken on the winner of a Boise State v. No. Iowa matchup. If SLU prevailed and West Bracket top-seed Wichita State won its two games, the teams would have faced off in an NIT semifinal in New York.
That, my friends, would be the game we’ve wanted to see once or twice a year since SLU joined the A-10 and Wichita State left the Missouri Valley Conference.
Missing Miller time
I had been saving a nice story for the Sports Eye throughout the collegiate basketball season until tournament time. While the UCLA women’s team is one of 64 that won’t get a chance to win a title, I want to give a shout out to my fellow Kirkwoodian, Lauryn Miller.
After playing sparingly her first two seasons at UCLA, Miller had a breakout season in 2019-2020.
In 29 games, Miller averaged 6.8 points, 5.9 rebounds. She also added 31 steals and 14 blocks for the 26-5 Bruins. When the season abruptly ended, UCLA was No. 8 in the nation and projected to be a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Watch for Miller, who wears No. 33 just as Lew Alcindor did at UCLA, and her Bruins to be a player and team to watch in 2020-21.
Bridging the Brady gap
Unlike many of my sports writing counterparts, I admit when I am wrong.
I’ve said repeatedly that Tom Brady would not leave the New England Patriots. On Tuesday, in a written statement, Brady announced to the world that he indeed is leaving the team in free agency.
Brady became a free agent at 3 p.m. Wednesday – and any thought that Teddy Bridgewater would be the Patriots new quarterback ended when it was announced, also on Tuesday, the former New Orleans Saint is heading to Carolina.
Bridgewater went 4-0 for the New Orleans Saints as a starter when quarterback Drew Brees was injured during the 2019 season and the Panthers quickly jumped at the chance to sign him.
The whirlwind following Brady's announcement continued when the Panthers also announced that their longtime, former All-Pro quarterback Cam Newton was free to seek a trade. Newton quickly responded via social media that he never sought a trade and wanted to remain a Panther. It’s obvious Carolina doesn’t want him, and will release him if a trade partner does not materialize.
Several NFL sources have ex-L.A. Chargers quarterback Phillip Rivers in line for the Indianapolis Colts starting quarterback job. But he now might be first in line for Bill Belichick and the Patriots’ gig.
Brady or Newton to the Chargers - and that new stadium in L.A. - both seem viable options for that franchise.
With the Tennessee Titans re-signing quarterback Ryan Tannehill and the San Francisco 49ers reportedly not interested in Brady or another QB to supplant Jimmy Garoppolo, the lone other job opening seems to be in Tampa Bay.
Meanwhile, Tampa's starting quarterback Jameis Winston should be making plans to play elsewhere next season.
Could you seem him replacing Brady in the land of Boston? No, me either.
The Reid Roundup
The NCAA should host both men’s and women’s 32-team tournaments, to begin the season in early November. Teams that aren’t included in the first 32 should also play a 32-team tournament. Yes, a logistical nightmare. But it would be a fun way to shake off the shock of spring and begin a new era of NCAA basketball… There were roughly 2,500 players eligible to vote for the newly passed Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NFL Players Association and NFL owners. Seventy-one percent (1,978 players) cast ballots and the measure passed by just 60 votes. By the way, the 71 percent participation level was higher than the number of registered voters who voted in the last presidential election… As part of the new CBA, suspensions will no longer be issued for positive marijuana tests. In addition, players will only be tested during the first two weeks of training camp. I can hear you all laughing.
Alvin A. Reid was honored as the 2017 “Best Sports Columnist – Weeklies” in the Missouri Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest and is a New York Times contributor. He is a panelist on the Nine Network program, Donnybrook, a weekly contributor to “The Charlie Tuna Show” on KFNS and appears monthly on “The Dave Glover Show” on 97.1 Talk.” His Twitter handle is @aareid1.