On Friday, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice announced that schools were closed due to the COVID -19 Coronavirus pandemic. It was a day after he decided to suspend state basketball regionals for the boys and the state tournament for the girls and yes, it’s important to look at the words that are being used.
One of the first things you learn as a journalist, especially in the world of sports, are definitions of certain words that maybe before as a civilian, you never gave much thought.
The words I’m thinking of right now are ‘suspend,’ and ‘postpone’ versus ‘cancel.’
The word ‘cancel’ means just that, canceled, finished, gone, over. Postponed, to many people, means the same thing.
But it’s not. ‘Postponed’ means that there’s going to be an effort to reschedule and hold the event another day.
Justice, after announcing that state schools are closed, clarified that schools are to remain closed at least through the end of the month. He’s also ordered that all athletic and extra-curricular events at West Virginia schools be canceled or postponed until April 10.
And that leads me back to what you see when you look at the West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Commission webpage: “All AA boys regional games are postponed and the girls state tournament has been suspended until further notice.”
Maybe this means that after April 10, the basketball teams will be able to finish their postseasons.
On Tuesday of last week, the Jefferson and Washington boys basketball teams finished their seasons in regional tournament games. Hedgesville beat Washington 69-46. Martinsburg beat Jefferson 72-54.
Last week, on page 16, we published a complete spring sports schedule for the high schools in Jefferson county. The following day, Gov. Justice called off high school sports until April 10. Needless to say, those dates are now going to change.
For just about all of the sports, a certain number of practices are required in the preseason before a regular season game can be held. This is done to ensure that teams are properly conditioned and to reduce the chance for injuries. This is a concern because a lot of teams were still in the process of fulfilling their state-mandated practices so they could start their season. Most of the games were to start on or around March 18.
April 10 is going to be a difficult day indeed. Many questions are going to exist and the coming answers will be interesting, if not historic.
The first question is whether the practice count that the teams built up will start over due to the month-long break or if the practice requirement will be waived.
The next question will be one of timing: Has this hiatus from sports come at such a time that it will necessitate canceling the spring sports season altogether?
More than likely, the seasons will have to be played, at least in an abbreviated form. The backlash from eliminating the seasons altogether will be so great that no school official – athletic or otherwise - would want to deal with it.
When the schedules are re-written, we will repost them next month and we’ll follow up on what happens with the spring sports seasons.
The Big 12 canceled its basketball conference tournament, along with every other major Division I conference in the country and the Division II Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference, Shepherd University’s conference, also canceled its whole spring slate of sports, again, a move mirrored by just about every Division I and II conference out there.
A PRECEDENT OF SORTS
This isn’t the first time that sports in the Mountain state have been affected by disease. Due to the Spanish Flu pandemic that killed 50 million worldwide and 675,000 in the U.S., in 1918, along with the United States’ entry into World War I, West Virginia University went without a football team.
It was pretty deflating too when you consider that in 1917, the Mountaineers had finally put together a 6-3-1 season after 26 years of struggling. However, the momentum was great from that season, so great that even after taking a year, off the Mountaineers came back with an 8-2 season in 1919.
Along those same lines, hockey’s Stanley Cup tells a similar story where for the 1918-19 season. It simply reads: “1919 Montreal Canadiens-Seattle Metropolitans Series not completed. The series was tied at 2-2-1. The sixth game was called after multiple players on each team fell ill. Canadiens manager George Kennedy was hospitalized and died five years later after never fully recovering from the Spanish Flu.
War has also played a role in causing the cancelation of events like the Olympics, including the 1916 Summer Olympics; the 1940 Summer and Winter Olympics, along with the 1944 Summer and Winter Olympics.
Interestingly enough, in 1942, the 28th Rose Bowl was played at Wallace Wade Stadium on campus at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, due to fears about an attack by the Japanese on the West Coast of the United States. Less than a month earlier, the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor. Oregon State beat the host Duke Blue Devils 20-16 in front of 56,000 fans that day.
The next year, the game was moved back to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.