There will be no March Madness this year because of the Coronavirus. You may as well term it March Sadness because there will be no NCAA Tournament and no March Madness betting at online sportsbooks.
I’ve been breaking sports down from an investing point of view in the public’s eye since 1998 when I started putting out free picks for a few betting sites in between studying for the MCAT. I was going to be an orthopedic surgeon and make my parents proud. Now 22 years later, I wish I had stayed the course and finished what I had started after seeing the sports betting world get taken to its knees by a virus pandemic with one of the stupidest names ever – Seriously; coronavirus?! That’s almost as bad as having a Hurricane named Hubert or Wesley wipe your hometown out! Be that as it may, this contagion just let it be known it demands respect regardless of how ridiculous a name it bears. Word of the virus spreading into the United States heated up a few weeks ago, but it wasn’t until one of the greatest times of the year for sports bettors had arrived that it truly landed a devastating blow for the millions that made plans to watch and bet on the NCAA Tournament at sportsbooks.
As of Thursday night, there were nearly 135,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus and nearly 5,000 deaths. Of those cases, over 70,000 people had fully recovered and been discharged. But with the virus having a 2-14 day incubation period, the whole world is erring on the side of caution in hopes that forcing people to distance and quarantine themselves from one another keeps the cases in check. It’s believed that will allow for health officials to get a better handle on the alarming rise in cases and “flatten the curve” so as to prevent the outbreak from overwhelming public health to the points that there aren’t enough doctors, hospital beds or ventilators to keep up with the growing demand.
Because of it, there will be no March Madness this year; only March Sadness. So if you’ve been holding onto a Wisconsin 100-1 futures ticket, you can either rip it up or frame it as a reminder of what could’ve been. Still grasping that Seton Hall 85-1? Take a Bic to it because it ain’t worth squat! Things started to get real early on Wednesday, March 11 when the CBI tournament announced it cancelled the whole darn thing. Though a much lesser postseason college basketball tourney, it still opened my eyes. An hour or so later, both the Golden State Warriors of the NBA and Seattle Dragons of the XFL announced they’d be playing upcoming home games with no fans in attendance. A couple of other teams and conferences stated the same thing, but then the Ivy League took it to another level by cancelling all spring sporting events meaning its basketball tournament was done.
Then the NCAA stepped up and said the tournament games would go on with no fans in the crowd. Only the closest of family and some school officials. As much as I wanted to believe the tournament would go on, it just didn’t feel right. Countless memes then hit social media with the sound of sneakers getting drowned out by intermittent claps of the few people in attendance. It just didn’t feel right. Everything came full circle later in the evening when the NBA game between the Utah Jazz and Oklahoma City Thunder was abruptly stopped. It wasn’t until 45 minutes later that it was announced Utah’s Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus. Unfortunately for the big man, there was video of him two days prior touching all the mics from a postgame presser. He will forever be remembered for his idiocy regardless of not knowing he was infected at the time.
Not five minutes after it was announced he was infected with COVID-19, the NBA suspended the remainder of the season indefinitely. If that wasn’t bad enough, a Tweet surfaced later in the evening that both Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson had been infected with the virus when traveling through Australia. Fred Hoiberg was also taken to the hospital immediately following Nebraska’s loss to Indiana in the B1G tournament. Rich or poor, famous or just an average Joe, the coronavirus doesn’t discriminate. Sports fans and bettors went to bed that night knowing the worst was yet to come.
Thursday started off with the news of Hoiberg having influenza A and not coronavirus. Good for the Mayor! Everything went to hell immediately after. The MLS suspended its season for 30 days, and then one by one every major college basketball tournament got cancelled. First it was the SEC followed by the AAC, Big Ten, A-10, WAC, CUSA, MAC, CAA, ACC, Pac-12, SEC, Sun Belt and Big 12. The Big East cancelled its tourney at halftime of the St. John’s/Creighton game. A half hour later, MLB suspended all operations with the NHL following suit 20 minutes later.
Then the bombshell of all bombshells dropped; Duke University cancelled all athletic activities. Kansas then cancelled all athletic activities and travel followed by Arizona State. The writing was on the wall; there would be no March Madness in 2020. There would be no one shining moment in 2020. A few hours later, it became a reality when the NCAA Tournament was cancelled. Not postponed. Cancelled!
Only once in my 22 years of betting on and writing about betting on sports has there not been any sports to cover for more than three days. That occurred back in 2001 with 9/11. Sports were a way for the country to cope with its loss, fear, love for one another and hatred for all things al-Queda and Osama bin Laden. They helped allow the country to recover. Who will ever forget Sammy Sosa running out to right field with that American flag in tow?
Now in 2020 with coronavirus forcing everyone to stay at home and keep to themselves, sports in every way, shape and form won’t be seen or heard from for quite some time. On the bright side, ample hours have just been racked up to binge watch all those shows and movies you’ve had on the backburner. May I suggest Better Call Saul or Ozark. If you still got the itch to wager, you might want to do some research on darts, cricket, burling, badminton and rugby since it looks like those sports are still open for business. If not, I hear that shill Vegas Dave has got a curling whale play of the day going and it could be yours for only $500! #SMH