This week marks one year since the sports world came to a screeching halt. The NBA said no more reporters in the locker room and quickly started limiting fans in arenas. On March 11, Rudy Gobert of the Utah jazz tested positive, and a team staff member sprinted onto Oklahoma City's floor to stop warmups. Then the worst Woj bomb of all time, a tweet saying the league suspended the season. At the same time, college basketball conference tournaments fell apart, highlighted by the halftime cancellation of a Big East game between Creighton and St. Johns.
It felt like the beginning stages of a zombie apocalypse. The national news kept showing eerie drone shots of vacant city streets.
We didn't know much about the virus, except that China and Italy were in dire shape. To make matters worse, the Trump administration gave us painfully unhelpful press conferences every day. The severity of the situation hit home for me on March 7. I was sitting in the barbershop reading Twitter and came across a thread showing the virus's exponential growth and how unprepared we were for a pandemic.
I rang the alarms for my parents and panic-bought $220 worth of groceries. I became Jeff from the movie Cabin Fever; I went underground and tried to remain there as much as possible for the next *looks at watch* 52 weeks.
Since that time, about 520,000+ Americans have lost their lives to the virus. Doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals started a marathon that just won't end. People have lost jobs, including some business owners who saw their American dream go up in smoke. One of the many sad elements of the pandemic was seeing kids shifted to virtual learning and seeing sports cut short in the spring of 2020.
On March 12, the TSSAA suspended the state basketball tournaments, a gut punch to our neighbors in Bradley County. The Cleveland High School boys team was a shoo-in to make a finals appearance. What's more, the Bradley Central girls were poised to hoist up their second-consecutive gold ball in Murfreesboro. Who knows what could have happened in spring sports? Those seniors will always have some gas left in the tank, which is a terrible feeling for athletes.
We've done our best to do the "new normal" and struggle through new adjustments in work, worship, school, and athletics. With vaccines rolling out, there is finally a light at the end of the tunnel. But new variants are popping up, which experts say could erase so much of the hard work we've done.
Guys, we're at the 1-yard-line. Let's hand the ball to Marshawn Lynch instead of throwing it directly into the hands of Malcolm Butler. Mask up, socially distance, and get vaccinated. We got this.
I've spent the past year frantically running around and warning people like Dr. Sam Loomis from the movie Halloween. Now the message finally has a glimmer of hope. Let's all collectively stomp this virus out like a bad habit. A return to normalcy this summer or fall depends on it.
Pat Benson is the author of 'Kobe Bryant's Sneaker History (1996-2020)' which was named a #1 New Release on Amazon. He has covered the NBA for Forbes.com, and interviewed some of the biggest personalities in the sport. Tweet him @Pat_Benson_Jr.