Commentary: No sports hurts; locals trying to comprehend lost time

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Charles Pulliam Head Shot

Charles Pulliam is the acting sports editor for the Williamson Herald. He's covered Williamson County athletics since 2012. 

Empty schools. Empty fields. Empty courts.

The wide world of sports is as desolate as a desert.

To try and slow the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), local, national and international sports have been postponed or cancelled.

In the pros nationally, the NBA, NHL, NASCAR and others suspended their seasons indefinitely. Major League Baseball hasn’t adjusted its 162-game schedule yet, but likely will have to with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advising no gatherings of 50 or more people for eight weeks, or until roughly May 10. Opening Day was scheduled for March 26.

The NCAA canceled the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments. The men’s tournament didn’t have a disruption for 81 years. Spring sports were wiped away completely.

At the local level, the TSSAA issued a hopeful move for the state’s high school student-athletes, saying they weren’t “giving up” on their seasons, including the paused state girls basketball tournament and the boys tournament, which was postponed before getting underway.

“We are not giving up on basketball tournaments and we are not giving up on Spring Fling,” TSSAA Executive Director Bernard Childress said.

Brentwood softball coach Erica Powell said just before the Lady Bruins' 8-1 win over rival Ravenwood last week the team found out their annual spring break trip was canceled — an abrupt and unsettling introduction to the widespread changes across the nation. Most teams use spring break as a team-bonding experience built around multi-day trips including several games — the kind of experience deep postseason runs can be built on. All of those trips were dashed with the current climate.

Brentwood played three games last week to open the season, and like the rest of the state’s spring sports, now sit in limbo hoping to see the field again this year.

“It’s devastating, especially for our seniors,” Powell said. “In high school, this is it. These kids don’t get another year or another season of eligibility. It stops here, and that is really, really hard on them.”

Per the CDC’s guidelines and now with state schools closed through at least April 3 per Gov. Bill Lee’s urging, spring teams can’t even practice together.

“We couldn’t practice even if we wanted to because Brentwood has closed all public parks, and we play at Granny White,” Powell said. “It’s just so hard to comprehend. We had girls start with three home runs in three games, and we won our first two district games. Even if we get pushed back, do we go into the summer? Could kids even do that? Where do we go from here? 

“It’s all just so crazy. It’s just nothing I ever imagined happening in my mind.”

Battle Ground Academy, like most Williamson County schools, has used spring break as time to digest some of the moves made both at the national and state level to prepare for the drastic changes due to the global coronavirus pandemic. The Franklin school said last week that like most other Nashville area independent schools, it will remain closed into April.

“We are re-evaluating as we go but we are in place where we are closed until April 10, currently,” BGA athletic director Fred Eaves said. “We are just trying see how things unfold and trying to be patient. My heart goes out to our seniors, to all our kids and coaches who put all the work in the offseason.

“This is all uncharted. There’s no reference point for us. I’m 40, and I’ve not seen anything like this in my lifetime. As kids are trying to process this, we are just trying to be as supportive as possible. Hopefully, we can give these kids the best experienced we can with whatever we have.”

As a local sports guy for roughly the last eight years, this hurts me to be sidelined, as well. Sports has been a mainstay all my life, and for the better part of a decade, this county’s athletes, coaches and administrations have played a major part in my daily life.

I wanted to continue to follow the Nolensville girls quest for a basketball title. I wanted to watch Grayson Murphy, a former Independence star, play in the NCAA Tournament for the second season in a row. I wanted to see all our great spring sports athletes make their push into the postseason and get caught up with our locals at the collegiate level. 

My annual March "work trip" to Alaska was also canceled. My dad, Karl, and I won’t get to broadcast my home state’s basketball tournament together. It’s one time of the year I look forward to the most, getting to bring back some of the work I do here locally and broadcast games alongside my dad. The state tournaments in Alaska were canceled completely. They were scheduled to begin this week.

I understand why this is all happening. I understand the importance of trying to contain the continued spread of this deadly disease. I still wish I was on the sidelines somewhere, though, covering our county's student-athletes.

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