Column: The sports universe is in a holding pattern, along with everything else

For the first time in my life, I’m going to quote someone associated with the New York Yankees.

Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures.

When words resonate, you pass them along.

“The universe is in a holding pattern,” said Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, in speaking to the media Monday from the team’s spring training facility in West Palm Beach, Florida.

Cashman has got it exactly right, I reckon.

Players play.

Fans watch.

All is right with the world.

The extraordinary events of September 11, 2001, the terrorist attacks which brought a collective stop to American life, only stopped sports for a little while.

Yes, we hunkered in our homes for a period of time nearly two decades ago, but not for long.

Americans were urged to resume what passed for normal.

We knew who the enemy was in short order – people who wished us ill.

This time is decidedly different.

The foe is an invisible bug.

We can’t see the darn thing except, I imagine, under a microscope.

We don’t know who has it.

We do the only thing we can, then.

We sit at home, get after those tax receipts and drag out the Lysol and deep clean the kitchen.

If we need our sports fix, ESPN will indulge our obsession with replays of past games.

A NC State versus Duke basketball game, in grainy videotape from 1984, will satiate us for awhile.

Like some Chinese food, however, a couple of hours later, we can’t recall if we’ve actually eaten anything.

Watching an old game only brings momentary satisfaction.

A holding pattern, indeed, Mr. Cashman, you despicable Yankee.

Sorry. Old prejudices die hard.

It is one thing to watch a team you care about play and lose.

It hurts but you accept the result.

Not being allowed to compete is a different kettle of fish altogether.

I was present Saturday afternoon in St. Vincent’s cozy gymnasium in Perryville, watching Notre Dame’s girls and boys high school basketball teams make history.

For the first time in school history, both genders had made it to the Final Four.

They all stood together with bright smiles, celebrating their joint achievement.

As I watched them exult, I thought to myself, “Enjoy this moment, everybody.”

The invisible elephant in the tiny gym stood by silently, ready to stomp its feet and grind out the hopes of playing for a state championship.

Within 36 hours, fed by legitimate coronavirus anxiety, the brusque deed was done.

The Missouri State High School Activities Association called off the Show Me Showdown in Springfield.

“It was as if someone had passed away,” said Notre Dame athletic director Jeff Graviett, describing the moment the players found out Monday.

In the school chapel, some of the seniors must have realized they might never, ever, play a competitive basketball game again.

In the movie “Field of Dreams,” a film nominally about baseball but mainly about loss, an elderly physician played by Burt Lancaster recalled his one shining moment in the major leagues in 1905.

It was a single game.

Lancaster’s real-life character, Archie “Moonlight” Graham, was put into right field for one inning, the ninth, by the old New York Giants, but Graham never got to the plate. Never got to swing. He never played in “The Show” again.

“You know we just don’t recognize the most significant moments of our lives while they’re happening,” Lancaster opined in the 1989 motion picture.

“Back then, I thought, ‘Well, they’ll be other days.’ I didn’t realize that was the only day,” he added.

Everything ends.

It’s a lesson we all learn, eventually.

In the meantime, like you, I sit in my metaphorical seat in Brian Cashman’s plane, 30,000 feet above the earth, hoping when the contraption lands, it will be on a planet where sports are being played once again.

We’d better sit back and get comfortable, though.

It might be awhile before we hear the landing gear descend.

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