On the list of the most important things during a global pandemic, sports are quite low.
Which is good! It should be that way! When worrying about the health of our city, country and world, whether or not the Blazers can get the eighth seed in the Western Conference is not the most important thing.
(To be clear though, IF the NBA season does return the Blazers would have Jusuf Nurkic back and would most likely have Zach Collins as well. So maybe they would indeed sneak into the playoffs. But wait no, that’s not what matters.)
But this world with no sports has felt eerie.
For good or for bad, my entire life has revolved around the sports calendar. This time of the year is supposed to be filled with basketball. The NCAA men’s and women's basketball tournaments should be heading into the Sweet 16 this weekend.
We should continue to be puzzled by this up and down and then up again Oregon men’s basketball team and watching a trip to the Final Four for the most talented Oregon women’s team ever assembled. We should be yelling about the Blazers as we hope for a playoff spot that would inevitably lead to a first-round loss to the Lakers. We should be complaining about the Timbers and their lack of offensive firepower.
Locally, last week should have included the 112th running of the Coos County track and field meet. Baseball and softball teams from around the area should be playing in spring break tournaments and tennis teams should be hoping for some sun.
But instead we are at this weird pause where drips and drops of sports news comes in. The Olympics are canceled, Tom Brady is leaving the AFC East (*insert collective cheer from all New York Jets fans, including myself, here*) and ... CJ McCollum got a puppy. Those seem to be my top stories.
This necessary pause in the action has led me to take a look at the last time anything of this magnitude happened: the 1918 influenza pandemic.
“In October 1918, the mayor of North Bend, the chief health officer of the town, and the superintendent of schools all agreed to shut down the schools by mid-month to control the spread of the deadly disease,” wrote North Bend historian Steve Greif in Extracurricular: A History of Athletics and Activities at North Bend (OR) High School.
If those phrases sound familiar, the next portion does as well. Kind of.
“A strict quarantine was enforced that closed schools and other places where crowds congregated: churches, theaters, dance halls, Red Cross rooms, pool halls, soft drink parlors, and even the post office lobby,” Greif wrote.
While our post office lobby may not be as crowded today as it was then — the Coquille Valley Sentinel from 1918 described how their local post office as being “crowded ... every evening for a year and a half” until social-distancing measures were put in place — the sentiment remains the same.
In terms of games, it was a similar result. The football and basketball seasons were both brought to a close.
(An aside on the 1918 North Bend basketball season. In Curriculum, Grief shares an excerpt from the Coos Bay Times that recounts when North Bend played Mapleton. North Bend won 32-18 but the best part of the game is that a North Bend player switched teams midway through the game after a Mapleton player was injured. He went on to score four points against North Bend. Incredible!)
And so like back then, we will wait.
We will stay inside, we will wash our hands and we will hope that at some safe future date we can watch the Blazers.