Lisbon baseball player DJ Douglass arrives safely into third base in a Class C South playoff game against Monmouth Academy last June. The defending State Class C champion Greyhounds will not hold their first practice until at least April 27 due to the coronavirus shutting down Maine high school sports. (Bob Conn / The Times Record)

BRUNSWICK — It seemed unfathomable. I can hear the words of my wife of 29-plus years ringing through my ears … “There are other things to do than to watch sports on TV,” as I clicked through three, four or five sports at a time on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

Oftentimes, her non-sports statement went unheard, or more accurately, ignored, by this sports-crazed husband.

Lewiston High School students, from left, Jaden Maynard, Adrien Theriault, Cooper St. Hilaire, Tanner Anctil and Daxton St. Hilaire, take a break from running through the city Monday morning. Classes at public schools have been canceled due to the coronavirus threat and the freshman student athletes took the opportunity to stay in shape following their hockey season and before their postponed spring sports season begins. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

Since as far back as I can remember, with my birthday falling in early April, I have tuned into The Masters golf tournament, for me the true rightful start of spring no matter what the weather is like outside. I have said many times that before I die that I want to play Augusta, shoot my 150 and live out my days knowing that I walked those hallowed grounds.

Not this year … The coronavirus has taken care of that with the Masters postponed, along with the delaying of the National Hockey League and National Basketball Association seasons, the canceling of the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, putting a halt to the Major League Soccer season, along with the cherished opening day of Major League Baseball.

And, as of now, April 27 is the new start date for Maine high school sports, delaying the time when pitchers and catchers were to report (March 23) and the rest of the teams were going to stretch it out (March 30).

Even Wrestlemania, for us professional wrestling fans, has been moved from Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida, to the empty (no fans will be allowed access) World Wresting Entertainment Performance Center on April 5, with rumors swirling that the event which normally attracts 70,000 or more fans might be put on hold indefinitely.

The world has certainly changed quickly, and with more coronavirus cases being reported throughout the country, including here in Maine, every day the end is not yet in site.

This is a time that I never thought we would come to in my lifetime, where a virus that seemed to start out innocently with little fanfare has become a pandemic. It is crazy, and scary at the same time, to think that innocent contact with an infected person might lead to you becoming sick, where the symptoms resemble a common cold or flu and quickly becomes more aggressive, and having to work from home, keeping distance between yourself and your co-workers, the 6-foot rule the suggested distance.

Every day, we see press briefings on television, where more plans are laid out. Every day it seems the sports that we love are pushed back a bit more, possibly canceled all together.

Freeport High School boys tennis player Clay Canterbury returns a shot last season in a match against Cape Elizabeth. Like all high school spring sports in Maine, the start of the season will have to wait until April 27 to begin due to the coronavirus. (Bob Conn / The Times Record)

My children and I are big NHL fans. We battle a lot, them being Washington Capitals fans and me a Pittsburgh Penguins guy. Sports in my home, like many homes in America, brings families together, when children put the computer game away, join their parents in the living room and watch a game together. Even when the Caps and Pens meet, the banter going back and forth is all in good fun, with laughter keeping us a close-knit family.

Right now, we don’t have that. Whether you’re a golf, hockey, basketball, baseball or soccer fan, this is a sad period in our existence. Not since those few days after Sept. 11, 2001, when the sports world stopped to mourn those lost in the 9-11 terrorist attacks, has sports been taken away, even though that delay was short-lived, with sports taking our minds off those tragic events a few short days later.

I watched as the Bowdoin College women’s basketball team had their dreams dashed, not by an opponent — which would have been tough but understandable — but by an unseen virus. Man my heart broke for those ladies and head coach Adrienne Shibles, a group of women who quite frankly worked their tails off to earn the right to host an NCAA Division III Sectional after advancing to back-to-back National title games.

Soon after, the spring sports season for all Polar Bear teams was dashed, leaving those athletes, especially the seniors, with unfinished business and with nothing they can do about it.

Here is some good news … Once this virus is controlled — and believe me, it will be by those brilliant scientists — sports will be celebrated again. It will be a time that we reflect, remembering what we don’t have right now. It will be glorious, and I’m sure each of us will be thankful for the gift of athletics.

My hopes are that those mentioned sports hang on, that we crown a Stanley Cup and NBA champion, that Wrestlemania happens in front of a packed stadium of loud wrestling fans, that Maine high school sports takes place.

High school sports. It makes you wonder, what will a spring season be like without sports? I can’t imagine, but the longer it takes to get this coronavirus under control, the greater the chance of seeing the sports we love — baseball, softball, boys and girls lacrosse and tennis, and track — go away in 2020. I can say with certainty that those athletic directors who sacrifice so much of their time, along with the coaches and the Maine Principals’ Association want Maine high school spring sports to take place.

My hopes … that I can take a break from watching shows like Love It or List It, Property Brothers, the Family Feud, etc., and watch some good old fashioned sports. I can’t wait!

BOB CONN is The Times Record Sports Editor. He can be reached at [email protected]


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