Kansas City has a rich sports history that’s worth celebrating. With 2022 marking the 100th anniversary of 810 WHB, local author and historian David Smale will look back into Kansas City’s history and pick a significant sporting event that happened during that week in past years.
For people who make their living on the periphery of sports—like journalists, vendors, seasonal employees—and those for whom sports take up a big part of their thought processes and spare time, March 12, 2020, will be one of the worst days in memory.
That’s the day that the Big 12 tournament came to a screeching halt in Kansas City less than a half hour before the first tipoff of the day, along with other college basketball tournaments, and professional regular seasons and preseason, due to the sudden outbreak of Covid-19.
For years, the only days on the calendar when there were no major professional sports, and no college sports, were the days surrounding the Major League Baseball All-Star Game. But suddenly the Big 12 announced that the 2020 tournament would be canceled, followed closely by the NCAA announcement that its men’s and women’s basketball tournament, all other winter championships and even spring sports championships.
MLB announced that same day that Spring Training would be shut down and the regular season was put on hold. MLS, NBA and NHL games were all shut down for the foreseeable future.
We all knew that life would be totally different. “Essential services” became a part of everyone’s vernacular. Simple things like going to church or the grocery store had to be restricted or even avoided.
There were some good things that happened as a result of the pandemic that out-weighed the shutdown of sports. Families spent more time together, often around the dinner table because many restaurants were closed. People rediscovered nature. It’s even safe to say that many people took stock of their health situations and made changes in their lives to improve them.
I personally wrote two books during the pandemic when I had nothing else to do from a work standpoint.
We’re two years removed from that disruptive day and some things are not back to normal yet. Local colleges only lifted their mask mandates in the past week. Reporters still are not allowed in clubhouses, something that eliminates a lot of the interaction that creates great sportswriting.
Attendance at sporting events is still lower than it was two or three years ago.
“We’re obviously canceling the tournament,” Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said succinctly. “I feel particularly bad for the players. We didn’t hear from anybody that they didn’t want to play or that the coaches didn’t want to coach, but we just felt that in the interest of heeding the advice we were hearing and being conservative with everybody’s best health that cancellation was the right outcome for our men’s and women’s tournaments.”
I don’t mean to imply that disruptions in our enjoyment of sports is anywhere near as important as the health—and lives—of hundreds of thousands of people in America. But the cancelation of the tournament changed the lives of so many people.
Here’s to never again having to go through something like we experienced two years ago this week.
David Smale has published two dozen books, mostly on sports history. He has written thousands of articles for various publications. He also hosts “Sports Connections with David Smale,” which is available at 810whb.com under the podcasts tab.