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PHOTO: Taylor Jedrzejek/WOUB

Commentary: A Wild Ride & A Sudden End

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ATHENS, Ohio — This is certainly not how I expected my time at WOUB to end.

For the last few days, I wasn’t exactly sure how to cope with all of the sudden change. Ultimately, I decided that I should write about it.

Just a week ago, I was settling into my usual spot on press row of the Convocation Center waiting for the Bobcat women’s basketball team to take the court for their final regular-season game.

Now, there’s just nothing.

I’ll never forget how the arena felt that morning. There was an unease, an apprehensiveness, that hadn’t been there the day prior. No one was quite sure what was going to happen. There was a distinct smell of cleaning product that was far more prevalent than normal in the bowels of Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. 

But the tournament was set to go on. Teams were conducting shoot-around, music was playing and tournament staff repeated that the games were on schedule to tip-off at 12 p.m.

At 11:30, that was changed to 1 p.m.

At 11:35, an email went out about a press conference to be held at Noon, and by 11:40, other tournaments began shutting down. The writing was on the wall.

A Mid-American Conference Basketball Tournament that had started out on such a bright note for both the Ohio men and the women just stopped. 

The men, who had fought like hell in the month of February to get to Cleveland for the first time since 2017, were on the floor playing an intrasquad pick-up game on the floor of Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse when Commissioner Jon Steinbrecher was announcing the tournament to be canceled before they even got a chance to play.

The women, who had used the motto “Unfinished Business” all season in reference to their loss in last year’s MAC title game, had their chance at redemption taken away. 

Amani Burke, the longest-tenured Bobcat, may have been robbed of her last chance to have the confetti fall on her as a conference champion. Katie Barker, who had celebrated her Senior Day in the ‘Cats regular-season finale, was pushing through her injuries to finish the season before retiring from basketball because of them.

The NCAA is reportedly deliberating on whether or not to give the athletes of winter sports another year of eligibility because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but even if that happens, it likely won’t be the same for those players.

It’s impossible not to feel for all of the athletes who lost their 2020 season. All of the time and effort put into seasons that were coming to a potentially satisfying conclusion in the case of sports like basketball, hockey, wrestling and gymnastics or seasons that had barely gotten started such as baseball, softball, lacrosse and track and field. 

I want to make it clear that I’m not arguing against the cancellation of these tournaments and seasons. It was the right call. We are dealing with an extremely infectious illness that puts the most vulnerable people in our population at risk. The continuation of our country’s sporting events is simply not worth the risk of spreading the coronavirus to even more people.

Losing sports is one thing, though. While it’s far less than ideal, it is understandable. Sports are a huge part of our society, but in the end, they are just entertainment.

Ultimately the worst part of this deal, particularly for people in my shoes, is the loss of their final months of college life.

Spring on a college campus, especially for those graduating like me, is the time for one last hurrah on the campus that you’ve called home for four-ish years. It’s a chance to hang out with people that you’ve become close with, that you’ve worked with, that you may never see again.

Now that’s gone too.

Again, things going on in the world right now necessitate these unprecedented actions taken by states and universities, but it doesn’t make it hurt any less.

Who knows how many of the people I’ve worked with at WOUB on Gridiron Glory, Hardwood Heroes and Bobcat Showcase that I’ll see before I (hopefully) walk across the stage at commencement in early May.

This will likely be the last thing I produce for WOUB, so I just wanted to say thank you to all that followed along with me through my journey covering the Bobcats. It was a blast, and even though the ending was something I never could have seen coming, I wouldn’t trade this experience for the world.

Ever since I was a freshman, I dreamed about writing about Ohio football and basketball, and over the last 15 months, that dream came true.

I’d also like to give some appreciation to the people I’ve worked with over the last three years. I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to work with.

As for Bobcats Sports Showcase, we started with nothing but a neglected brand in January of last year and rebuilt it back to a point that we couldn’t have even expected. Without Thomas Garverick, who will be graduating with me in May, this growth couldn’t have happened. And even though Thomas and I are leaving, Showcase is being left in more than capable hands.

I look forward to what Michael Roth and Byran Kurp do to continue the growth of Showcase for the next two years. I hope you continue to follow along with them for all things Ohio Sports. You won’t be disappointed.

As for me, I’ll be moving on from WOUB with nothing but a collection of credentials and a lot of fond memories.

One day, I think even this last week will be one of them.