It’s amazing to think of where we were at this time last year. It feels so long ago. It might as well have been another century. The simple experience of going out, hanging out with friends, or attending a sporting event seemed so casual. Being in a crowded arena with cheering fans never felt unsafe. It was just loud and roucouse.
That all changed in March 2020. That’s when the world, as we knew it, started to fall apart as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold. I already recounted my own experience when I felt the impact like everyone else. I have a feeling everyone has their moment when they realized this was not going to just blow over easily.
However, if there was one moment in which everybody realized that this was serious, it was when major sports leagues started shutting down. Suddenly, this activity we turn to for an escape was no more. These were billion-dollar leagues who had plenty of incentive to keep playing, regardless of what the news said. The idea of any major league shutting down seemed unthinkable.
The unthinkable finally happened on March 11, 2020 when the Utah Jazz were scheduled to play the Oklahoma City Thunder in a major primetime match-up on ESPN. The arena was packed. People were cheering. Nobody was wearing masks or socially distancing. They were all just ready to escape the news and have a good time.
The game was still scheduled to play. The pre-game show happened without any indication that something was wrong. The players had warmed up and were ready to go. Then, there was a delay. A bunch of officials began discussing something. Nobody had any idea what it was about. Nobody would’ve suspected that the game, the NBA, and the entire sports world was about to shut down.
Looking back at that moment, it seems so ominous and eerie. It might have been the last glimpse of “normal” that we ever saw. Just watch the highlight posted by ESPN that same night. Watch as the world, as we knew it, changed before our eyes.
I’m not a huge basketball fan. I don’t follow the NBA as closely as I follow other sports, like baseball and football. However, seeing this gave me chills. It still does. Listening to these announcers talk about basketball, the season, and the importance of this game seems so surreal.
They have no idea what’s about to happen to the league and the world.
Nobody in that arena knew, from the players to the people serving drinks in the stands.
It really was unthinkable, a game being suspended this close to tip-off because of a pandemic. When it happened, it was the first domino to fall in the sports world. Everything after that just built on the nightmare that unfolded throughout 2020.
Even if you’re not a sports fan, you still understand on some levels how much they mean to people. The world may seem crazy, but we always had our sports and our movies to escape. We never thought things would get so bad that it would all just shut down. Then, it happened and even after an entire year, we having recovered.
That scene in this highlight of a packed arena with cheering fans and no masks seems almost unattainable now. I still believe we’ll see something like this again, hopefully later this year. Right now, though, it’s an eerie reminder of the day we all realized things were about to get much worse than we ever could’ve imagined.