From the Press Box: A madness in March indeed

Opinion and Insight

Never have I ever …

The COVID-19 pandemic has placed all of us in situations none of us can ever remember, for the very good reason that such a scenario has never played out before, at least not in the United States.

For the first time in my 53 years I was witness to the Catholic Church cancelling masses. Bishop William Joensen has suspended, until further notice, all masses and relieved Catholics of their Sunday obligations. The Diocese of Des Moines has closed all Catholic schools (this includes St. Patrick’s in Perry) until April 14.

I remember being driven to mass to serve as an altar boy in some serious blizzards. Father Mangan reminded me he lived 100 yards from the church, and if he could trudge there mass would be held. He understood if the congregation opted not to risk coming, but, mass was being held. Period.

This is something different, and the effect is all across our society. Many Iowa districts have closed their schools for the next four weeks, and I would imagine those who have not already stated so will soon follow suit. Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds announced that district will not be required to make up days lost to closings that are virus related, ending worries of a mid-to-late June end date.

All school related activities are cancelled until at least April 10. That means no music or speech, and, of course no sports. No practices, no gatherings. Nothing. Zip.

To say this has tossed the sports journalism community into a state of bewilderment and concern is to understate the impact.

My sportswriter friends and I should be harassing coaches for boys and girls golf, soccer and track rosters. We should be arranging team photos and making interview plans to discuss the upcoming seasons. All of that is gone. Vanished, leaving an enormous gap of unfilled space, and with no clear idea of what will fill it, or when that might be.

On a personal note, the lack of sports on the television is already driving me crazy. I am not a watcher of “shows” — the last sitcom I made sure not to miss might have been Barney Miller or SOAP. The last network series was probably ER, although I did follow Breaking Bad all the way through, like Better Call Saul and was with Walking Dead (all on AMC) until two seasons ago.

I used to be a fan of the History Channel, but now all I see are the (in my opinion) staid and boring American Pickers, the tedious Swamp Alligator Killer Rednecks (or whatever they call it) or the equally grating Pawn Stars or Forged in Fire. What the hell happened to what was once a gem among the cable channels?

Ditto Food Network. If I see Guy Fieri or that spiked-hair blonde female chef one more time it will be too much. Even Discovery has gone askew, to say nothing of Animal Planet, which apparently can show only repeats of follow the game wardens or else the tattooed pit bull rescue crew.

Poor me. And poor all of my fellow millions who count on sports to fill the entertainment portion of our lives. If you think you miss sports, try having sports being your living and your passion and then having it disappear.

Forget watching the news — it is corona this, corona that. And when it is not, it is the two political parties and their hacks savaging their opposite number at the very moment national unity is needed most.

I used to be an avid reader, but my consumption has dramatically fallen off in the past decade. This is due, I am sure, to the time I spend online, which was once spent pouring through good books (I most enjoy history, especially military history, and almost never read sports books).

I have the good fortune of having David McCullough’s 1776 sitting by and needing read, and I have for some time wanted to re-read The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. That will suffice for a short bit, but then? I tremble to think of the current scenario playing out beyond mid-April but fear it may last well into summer.

I wish the Observant Reader patience and stamina in surviving the absence of Sport, but most of all I wish all good health.


  1. Thanks for the affirmation, Mike. I was wondering if anyone would bother to open the column and read it LOL. — JW

  2. What is being done right now may be unprecedented, but I do think it is better than the other option. Look back into history. The Spanish Flu of World War I area killed how many world wide? At least you can go outside and move about as you wish. I know that the folks that are living in assisted living centers and nursing homes are being confined to their rooms. So go outside and get a good dose of vitamin D (when it is not raining). And I’m sure you can find many hours of old sporting events online.


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