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Toronto Raptors center Serge Ibaka (9) guards against Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) in the first half during an NBA basketball game Monday, March 9, 2020, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

NBA stops games

How was your coronavirus Wednesday? It certainly was news filled.

It was the only thing on every channel and in every section of the newspaper.

President Trump spoke about it. That's A1 news.

Part of Trump's remarks included travel bans from Europe and other parts of the world. That's the Travel section.

Arguably America's greatest actor, Tom Hanks, and his wife have announced they have contracted coronavirus and organizers of big events like Riverbend and others have to ask themselves tough questions. That's front-page news in Life.

There are local folks affected, and the sledgehammer COVID-19 has delivered on businesses across the world is staggering. (And in some ways it's every bit as devastating as the health concerns, when you consider there are going to be massive jobs lost, furloughed or suspended in almost every industry related to any kind of travel, leisure or sports for the immediate future.)

Now it has become the talk of the sports page because of concerns of containing the coronavirus and the decisions being made by leagues, teams and conferences.

It started with the NBA, which suspended the season midway through Wednesday night's schedule when we learned that Utah center Rudy Gobert had caught COVID-19. This is really unprecedented for an illness — remember when Magic announced he had HIV, he retired but the league went forward — and is only really matched by what we saw in the days after 9/11.

I have written multiple times that I believe we are overreacting as a society. Truly I do, and I know everyone prays that position is proven correct in a week or two. But the phrase "flatten the curve" and trying to limit mass exposure to those who may have it and may not know it makes sense. Precautions make sense; hysteria doesn't. I'm not smart enough to draw that line, but I certainly can see it.

As for the NBA, well, this is the latest fiscal gut punch in a season that will see it lose hundreds of millions. TV numbers in the cellar. The China mess that hurt the global reach and brand. Now the season has been suspended.

It is really an amazing time.

(Side note: The only thing that has made me even more perplexed and downright saddened by this is how all of the talking heads are turning every angle of this political. It's nauseating. And hopefully when this settles down in coming days or weeks, we will remember the bleepholes who tried to capitalize off of this, be it price gauging for hand sanitizer or in terms of political capital by grandstanding.)

(Side note on the side note: And no matter which side of the aisle you sit, CNN's Don Lemon is an absolute jackwagon and he should at least be suspended and potentially fired for completely losing it on former Ohio Gov. John Kasich last night after Trump's speech. First, Lemon lost his composure and harassed his guest. Second, his actions on what is still viewed as a news network trying to generate journalism insulted all of the folks actually trying to generate thoughtful and balanced news stories and opinions. It was a disgrace.)

 

Corona moving forward

ESPN basketball analyst Sean Farnham offered a very real opinion on SportsCenter last night.

After the news of the NBA decision, Farnham said point blank that he believes that Wednesday night's college basketball games will be the last ones we see this year.

The thought of an NCAA Tournament-less spring is staggering. And, with Farnham's logic, very possible. As of right now, the rest of the tournaments, including the SEC tournament, as TFP college sports whiz David Paschall tells us here, will be played without fans.

That's step one. Will more steps follow? Farnham's point makes sense, and it makes me cringe. A spring without an NCAA tournament. Egad. The 18-to-22-year-olds — especially those on magical teams making magical runs (think Hofstra, which has not been to the tournament in 19 years) or seniors staring at their last meaningful games — being denied the final act of their athletic careers. Painful.

Now, think of the optics for the NCAA: The NBA made a tough decision based in large part for the safety of its players. Yes, as we said, the league is going to lose millions.

Which leads us to the NCAA, which has already produced countless ads reminding us about the "student-athletes" involved in these games and is quick to say amateur at every turn, knows that most of its revenue comes from the next three-plus weeks.

Anyone else have any doubt that Mark Emmert and the Boys in Indy will make these big decisions with the leadership of Churchill and the wisdom of Jefferson? Yeah, I do, too.

It also leads us to the next chapter of sports.

The NHL is taking it day by day, but you have to believe that a similar decision to the one the NBA made will come sooner rather than later.

We know that Opening Day in baseball is in danger, too. There are multiple games in states that have already been put into crowd restrictions by state governments.  

Which now takes us to my favorite sporting event of the year — The Masters.

Yes, The Players is currently underway right now. And the wide open spaces of golf make the threat to the PGA Tour players less dangerous than it is in arenas or gyms.

But The Players is not The Masters. Nowhere close.

Granted, there is no event anywhere that can afford any type of decision like this more than Augusta National. Testing all patrons? Sure. Having a tournament with no patrons (and giving those fans badges in 2021)? No problem.

With the travel restrictions from other countries now in place, there is no event with the international traffic like The Masters. Seriously. Think of the European golf fans who had badges and plane tickets. If Trump's 30-day ban starts today, well, today is March 12. The Masters runs from April 9-12.

Man, this is nuts.

 

Getting some kicks

Speaking of nuts, the continued craziness of the leaders of U.S. soccer makes Mark Emmert and the NCAA look around and say, "See, Greeson, we're not the absolute worst leadership team in sports."

OK, Mark, you got me.

The U.S. Soccer Federation has decided to go on the offensive in the legal battle for fair pay for the women's team.

Hey, when lawsuits are filed, each side has to make a decision how it proceeds to win. And whether the USSF decides to stick to "men's soccer generates way more revenue" — which it does globally, exponentially.  

But the USSF earlier this week offered some cracked notions, such as the women's team has "less responsibility" and the women representing their country in soccer are less skilled and their job is less demanding than their male counterparts. The USSF also contended that the opposing crowds are more hostile to the U.S. men than the women.

I believe it was Mark Twain who said something along the lines of, "It's better for people to think you're a fool than to open your mouth and prove them all correct."

The USSF later apologized, but still the caveman approach is going to be hard to ignore, and it understandably sent the U.S. women's national team over the edge. Their response was to enter Wednesday's match with their warm-ups on inside-out so the U.S. logo was not in view.

 

This and that

— Speaking of the corona, well, there are some fans of "The Simpsons" saying that the show predicted this, too. The show's creators — as clever a bunch as ever assembled — have a track record of prewriting things, including future President Donald Trump. Well, according to this some fans think a 2007 cameo in "The Simpsons" movie by Tom Hanks who said, "This is Tom Hanks saying, if you see me in person, let me be" was a prediction of Hanks' self-isolation. A stretch? Maybe. But the 1993 episode "Marge in Chains" has a virus — "The Osaka Virus" — that originates in the Far East and hits Springfield hard. Hmmmmmmm, and if we can't trust Kent Brockman, then we all have lost.

— One more corona thing: Kudos to Mark Cuban for his news conference last night after the announcement that the NBA season will be suspended. Cuban referenced the day workers — beer vendors, ticket takers, et al. — who will be hit very hard financially by this and how the Mavs and the league need to figure out ways to help those people.

— OK, one more corona thing: The China pro basketball league, which has been suspended for a little more than two months because of COVID-19, is about to get back at it. There are 40 Americans in the league, including Jeremy Lin, Lance Stephenson and Ty Lawson, and they have been ordered to return to China. If they choose not to, the China league has said it will ban them. So there's that.

— According to ESPN's Dianna Russini, Tom Brady wants assurances that he will have some control of the roster decisions and a lot of input on play calling before he will talk with any of his free-agent suitors.  

— Ol' Dabo Swinney even has biblical backing in his swear words, apparently. So there's that.

— We went 1-3 last night in college picks, missing UNC minus-3 (Heels got crushed by Syracuse), NC A&T minus-10 (nine-point win over Howard, in which they allowed an uncontested layup with 10 seconds left and missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with eight seconds left) and TCU minus-2 (Frogs lost to KSU outright) and hit Arizona minus-5 (comfortable win over Washington). So it goes. We're 49-36-1 against the number, which is 57.7 percent.

— Zion Williamson carries a 23.6 PPG average into the Pelicans' Wednesday game with the Kings (10:30 ET, ESPN). Over the last 35 seasons, he is 1 of 4 rookies to average over 23.0 PPG. The other three — David Robinson, Allen Iverson and Shaq O'Neal — are all in the Hall of Fame.

 

Today's questions

The questions are everywhere right now, because the unknown surrounds us.

Side point about the NBA decision: If there is a silver lining, I think the games being pushed back could be a real look at moving the NBA schedule on a permanent basis so that, in the future, they may start around Christmas and have the playoffs into the summer and the Finals in late July or August. Just my 2 cents.

The other big one is clear: NCAA tournament, will it or won't it happen?

As for today, March 12, let's review.

Bernie Madoff pled guilt on this day in 2009 to scamming $18 billion.

Coca-Cola was sold in a bottle for the first time on this day in Vicksburg, Miss., in 1894. That fact has a way bigger impact on Chattanooga than most know.

Darryl Strawberry is 58 today.
Rushmore of best baseball players who never wasted their Hall of Fame gifts? Yes, Darryl was good, but he could have been generational.

Go, and remember the mailbag,

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