Scott Van Pelt put what sports fans and media have dealt with the last week or so in perspective with a laugh.
“I saw somebody say, ‘I’ll never complain about the Titans and the Jaguars on a Thursday night again,’” the SportsCenter anchor told GQ in a story published this week. “I mean, what would you do for the Cavaliers and the Knicks tonight? You’d be thrilled to have it.”
That goes for fans of high school spring sports, too. More often than not, early-season baseball and softball games in particular tend not to be particularly sharply played — but who would complain at this point?
Walks, errors, wild pitches, base-running boo-boos and crooked numbers otherwise aided by the defense tend to rule in mid-March — not to mention temperatures frequently reading about half what they might on the Fahrenheit scale by Memorial Day, in addition to overcast skies and precipitation.
I covered a Paintsville-West Carter baseball game in snow flurries in the second week of the 2015 regular season. Kash Daniel was the starting pitcher for the Tigers, still several months away from going viral, which at the time meant something other than what it means now. That was about the most memorable occurrence from a game that ended with a 17-7 final score. While that evening in Olive Hill and most others on ballfields this time of year hardly resembled anything Abner Doubleday might have drawn up, who among us as sports fans wouldn’t immediately sign up to watch it or something like it in what projects as an extended drought from live organized sports?
In determining what tone to strike in your sports section the last few days, we’ve been weighing that unexpected and sudden loss against the seriousness of what our world appears to be facing with the COVID-19 pandemic. And we have decided to go ahead with the baseball and softball district-by-district previews you are accustomed to seeing from us this time of year.
We didn’t make that decision lightly, because we don’t want to be perceived as ignoring or diminishing the far more important issues our area, state, nation and world are facing, and because (without any inside information) from here, it appears well within the realm of possibility that these seasons will not happen, at least in any form like we have seen.
The following factors have made us decide to go ahead anyway:
• Who among us couldn’t use a momentary breath of normalcy from the rough news cycle we’ve faced for the last week?
• The KHSAA has taken the unprecedented step — at least within the last 30-plus years, according to commissioner Julian Tackett — of instituting a dead period in the middle of the school year. But spring sports are not officially canceled, yet, so we are not yet going to assume they will be.
• Pressing forward should not be regarded as a statement that the intersection of sports and the coronavirus doesn’t exist or isn’t important. We will continue to cover that in the weeks to come, and perhaps beyond.
• What we do best is highlighting northeastern Kentucky’s athletes and coaches, and we will continue to do that as long as we’re here. A pandemic won’t stop that.
So feel free to let your mind wander, if only for a minute, to what might happen once play resumes. It’s OK to want some sense of normalcy. It’s all right to chuckle at one of Ray Schaefer’s patented musical references (at least one of which exists elsewhere in Thursday's sports coverage).
You can smile. We’ll get through this. Hopefully this will help.
Reach ZACK KLEMME at email@example.com or (606) 326-2658. Follow @zklemmeADI on Twitter.