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For those who might have ventured into a WalMart, Aldis, Sams, Target, Walgreens, etc. last week, you knew there was something going on even if you didn't listen to news or social media. You might have thought the apocalypse was coming from the number of worried, stressed people that were competing with others for dwindling stock on store shelves.

The byproduct of the gathering concern (some say hysteria) was that lots of public events were being postponed or outright canceled. All NCAA spring sports including baseball, track, softball, basketball, tennis, golf have been canceled and hundreds of universities have sent their students home. The NCAA cancelled their "March Madness" collegiate basketball national championships, a huge decision as that organization gets most of their annual income from this event every year.

Professional basketball, baseball and ice hockey have suspended their seasons. MLB baseball is still in spring training (or was) but the NBA was just getting to their lucrative basketball playoff season. Hockey, though not as lucrative as the other pro sports, still faces a big financial loss in 2020 due to the stoppage before their playoffs. ESPN now has huge holes in their programming and are looking at big losses in advertising revenue.

On the local front, on Sunday afternoon, the governor of our state ordered all Arkansas schools closed by Tuesday with Pea Ridge Schools deciding to start Monday. The local school district worked feverishly last week to prepare for this possibility of a school stoppage. With the work that was done last week to switch student educational needs to online schooling during this time of school closures, along work done last year on AMI (alternative methods of instruction), Pea Ridge students are well positioned to get through this unusual situation with minimal harm to their learning.

Here on the Ridge, spring sports like baseball, track and softball are on hiatus until April 1 as far as inter-school competition goes. The Arkansas Activities Association had already postponed all those activities in advance of the governor's decision to close the schools. The AAA has stated that if the threat to students and the general public has waned by that time, it is possible that the affected sports could resume their seasons. While our local athletes can still practice and work out to keep their skills sharp during this down time, the ultimate sharpening of athletic skills comes from competition with other schools. The fact that the competition is in the same boat as the Hawks, no advantage will be gained or lost because of the hiatus.

I have been a school teacher since 1975 and I have never experienced the events that are sweeping across our state and country. I well remember the swine flu that battered our country in 2009-2010 with 80 million people infected, 300,000 hospitalized with 17,000 patients passing away. There was nowhere near the hysteria then as compared to the public mood now.

Make no mistake, the corona virus is a serious issue. A whole lot of people have died in China of the virus though the numbers coming out of totalitarian country are likely unreliable, and Italy is in deep, deep trouble with the virus ravaging the older population in that country.

Though there is a lot of misleading data and information being circulated to hype the crisis beyond what is, there is an upside to the public focus on this health issue.

Closing schools and public events will slow the circulation of other diseases beside just the corona so the decision to discourage groups from meeting may have other good benefits. There are other positive results because of this situation that might accrue to some when think about it.

Pondering why there is so much angst and worry among the population, I remembered something President Franklin Roosevelt said at the outbreak of World War II. Roosevelt exhorted the nation that "there was nothing to fear but fear itself" and I think the recent reactions of some prove that wisdom accurate. Fear is going into the spaces that facts should be occupying. That was the primary factor that led to the crowds that swarmed stores across the country to buy up supplies that they thought they might need for the coming health disaster that might be unavailable later.

Back a long, long time ago when I was in the Boy Scouts, we learned that we had to "be prepared." It's a good idea to have extra supplies like toilet paper, anti-bacterial or anti-viral cleaners, and a good amount of bottled water and staple foods on hand for possible emergencies like weather and other events that disrupt what we consider to be our normal lives. There are lots of reasons someone might be stuck at home for a week or two, so being prepared will take the fear meter way down. Perhaps people will be better prepared for other events like this, seeing what happened this time.

The good that may also come of the current situation is that a lot of families will actually be spending more time together, and that is always a good thing. With all the activities available to children and with working parents with crazy schedules, the typical American family of the 2020s spends a good deal less time with each other than families of the 1950s.

Another good result of all this is that folks may have more time to think about what is really important. Like everyone else, we sometimes get so caught up in the pressure and demands of right now, that we don't consider what is most important.

What is most important -- family, friends, community? Doing what is best for all of us is doing what is the best for us individually.

Here's to hoping and praying that the virus will pass us by and that our lives can return to normal as soon as possible.

•••

Editor's note: John McGee, an award-winning columnist, sports writer and art teacher at Pea Ridge elementary schools, writes a regular sports column for The Times. The opinions expressed are those of the writer. He can be contacted through The Times at prtnews@nwadg.com.

Sports on 03/18/2020

Print Headline: Then all of a sudden -- bam! There were no more sports

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