It's not supposed to be like this.
No sports for the foreseeable future? That doesn't feel right typing out, nor does it sound right thinking about or hearing aloud.
With the threat of COVID-19 already near and the quite real possibility that the worst is yet to come, sports leagues and federations from high school to the pros have shut down in order to try and help curb the spread of the virus.
This is unprecedented in my 32 years on Earth. I've lived through hurricanes that have forced me and many others to stay at home for days, weeks, and in some cases months. But at least in that case, even without electricity, there were sports to look forward to somewhere in the country and the rest of the world.
Even the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, as horrifying as they were, had sports as a unifying theme afterward.
But this is different. Sports are supposed to be the getaway, the release during tough times. With this virus however, we all need to find different releases.
I will freely admit that this hurts me, not just because it's my profession as a sports reporter, but as a sports fan. As someone who has loved sports for as long as I can remember, having to go a month and probably longer without covering games, watching highlights of a game that I missed from covering McNeese State games, and doing other sports-related things is just a bummer.
But sports will go on, I will cover games again, whenever that may be. Who I feel for the most is the athletes throughout the country who possibly played their last collegiate game and they didn't know it at the time.
I really feel for the McNeese spring sports that had hope that this would be a special season, only to see the season to come to an abrupt halt.
Before the season, I thought the Cowgirls softball team had a chance to really be special. Like, special enough to win the Southland Conference Tournament and do damage in whatever regional they were placed in. McNeese started, and subsequently ended, its season 19-7, having won its last four games. After sweeping Abilene Christian to open conference play, the Cowgirls came back to defeat Louisiana-Monroe 6-3 on March 11 in what wound up being their season finale.
McNeese's pitching lived up to the preseason hype, finishing the shortened 2020 season tied for 13th in Division I softball with a 1.71 earned run average.
When looking at the baseball team, there was a lot of preseason hype as they looked to defend their 2019 SLC Tournament title. While they were more inconsistent than the softball team, you could see the moments that made you realize why there was so much hope. The pitching rotation was easing its way into the season, while the hitting showed a lot of potential for when conference play was scheduled to start.
Even in the sports less heralded in the public eye, like track and field, had big hopes for the spring season. Senior Alanna Arvie had a successful indoor season and earned all-conference honors in the weight throw and shot put. Two-sport athlete Darion Dunn won the men's 60-meter hurdles at the SLC indoor championships. There were plenty others expected to shine during the outdoor season, including senior Grace McKenzie, who hoped to earn a spot on the Irish Olympic track and field team — and while we don't know what the fate of the Tokyo Olympics quite yet, I can assume that McKenzie would have had a good outdoor season if she stayed healthy.
Lastly, McNeese football hasn't announced the cancellation of its spring practice, but it wouldn't surprise me if that eventually is made official. Lamar axed its spring practice, making that announcement on Wednesday. For the Cardinals and Cowboys alike, not having spring ball is a big blow, because both teams have new head coaches and coaching staffs. They have to install new systems on offense, defense and special teams. They also want to instill a new culture, and build a family atmosphere.
Not only can't that happen right now, the kids will probably lose some of the conditioning that they spent the first couple months of the season building. No amount of at-home training can replace being with your teammates and coaches in the struggle of weight lifting and conditioning.
My athletic career ended with a freak injury, definitely before I wanted it to. So in that way, I definitely feel what these athletes are going through. But this is still unprecedented and, honestly, I could never really know how they're feeling right now. I also feel for all students in college and high school, who could miss out on a physical graduation. That's supposed to be one the proudest moments of a person's life, hopefully with family there to take it all in. And it could be taken away from those kids because of this virus' threat.
All spring sport athletes are likely to be granted an extra year of eligibility by the NCAA, if they choose to utilize it. NCAA's Division II has already made that official. I feel like Division I is not too far behind. There are questions about how that will be funded and how it will affect incoming junior college and high school prospects. But these spring athletes deserve the chance to come back for another season.
Not all will, as former McNeese baseball player Welles Cooley already announced he will not return. Some will choose to move on and take jobs, and if that happens, I salute them for their collegiate careers and empathize with the emptiness of prematurely ending their careers.
I hope everybody finds peace of mind in these adverse times. It won't last forever, although it may feel that way. It should also serve as a reminder that, when we do get through this and can go out and socialize again, take the time to enjoy everything you do because it can be taken away in an instant.
And please, stay sanitary.
I will miss people yelling and arguing with me about current events for awhile, I can't lie.
But it will be back soon.
David Berry covers McNeese State athletics. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org