On March Madness and sacrifice

This week's drastic measures were necessary and overdue. That doesn't mean we should forget what our athletes and coaches gave up in the process.

Good morning, frents

So what a time to start a sports newsletter, huh?

If you’re wondering what will happen to Midway Minute in this weird, sports-free reality: Don’t worry. I plan to keep moving ahead. The games may have completely stopped, but the news won’t. Plus I already have a few features banked for slow days.

That said, I may only drop the newsletter 3-4 times per week during this period. There are still some infrastructure things I need to take care of when it comes to growing the Minute and there’s probably no better time to address them than now. Don’t freak out if you open your inbox one morning and there’s no Minute.

So hang tight. We’re going to get through this together and come out way stronger on the other end. As always, thank you for being a #frentofthenewsletter.

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Don’t forget the sacrifices that our athletes made this week

The games will eventually go on.

Thanks to the hard and drastic decisions that were made this week, we’ve given ourselves a fighting chance after our country’s initial indifference to Coronavirus. We don’t know when, but one day our stadiums, ballparks and arenas will reopen and they’ll be filled with fans, some of which might not have even survived were it not for this extraordinary social effort we’re about to embark on.

But it all comes at a cost. For every suspension and postponement that was announced the past two days, there were hundreds of coaches, athletes and support staff that were left disappointed. Thousands of hours of work disappeared and millions of dreams went unfulfilled over the course of a 48-hour period we’d never seen before.

Was it worth it? Will it be worth it? Only time and the people in those positions will be able to tell you for sure. Like anyone else, I’m sure they’re experiencing a great deal of confusion, uncertainty and stress. It has to be a strange place to occupy right now.

But I see what they’re giving up.

And I want them to know I feel for them.

To be clear, I’m not talking about the pro athletes in Chicago. I’m sure some are disappointed, but we’re not exactly interrupting another 72-10 season or a run at another Cup. They’re going to be just fine as they wait with their guaranteed contracts in nice homes. The people who sign their paychecks will be fine, too.

I’m talking instead about the teenagers who saw their dreams of a state title come to an end when the IHSA canceled two weekends’ worth of state title events on Thursday night. Some of those kids, from Whitney Young star DJ Steward to the captain of Hinsdale South played the final game of their high school careers earlier this week and didn’t even know it.

I feel for them.

I feel for the administrators and coaches at both the high school and college level who had to break the news to their athletes that this March Madness — their March Madness — was over before it could even begin.

“I know they are devastated,” Illinois AD Josh Whitman said via the Sun-Times’ Steve Greenberg. “I am as well.”

I feel for an Illinois team that lost 21 games last season yet turned into a team that brought the pride back to Assembly Hall and was headed to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2013. They were going to be a tough out.

I feel for the women’s teams at Northwestern and DePaul, both of which ranked as the most best hoops squads in the state. They played so much of their seasons in the shadows of our attention and, just as they were getting to the brighter spotlight of March, the switch was flipped off. It doesn’t seem fair.

I feel for the kids who make game days what they are. The sophomore cheerleaders with the ‘I’ stickers on their faces who were hoping to make One Shining Moment. The senior drummer in the orange-and-blue rugby shirt looking to bring CBS in from commercial. The student athletic trainer whose mom and grandmother would be watching for her in the background on TV.

I feel for so many others that never get seen. The hourly workers at the United Center who depend on the wages they make pouring beer and delivering nachos in helmets to pay their rent. The cameramen who work on a freelance basis to put all these games on your TV. All of the new employees at Marquee who worked through the negativity of something they had no control over to launch an entirely new network with a lot of great content. What happens to all of them if this drags into summer?

I feel for the lonely and shut-ins, many of whom only have the games to look forward to every night. I feel for those of us who need sports as a way to cope with everything else life throws at us. Even after 9/11, I was back covering a high school football game somewhere in McHenry County the next Friday night. It was a healing time. It was a time to come together.

Now we’re being told to keep our social distance and to stay home. The one virtual town square we had left — live sporting events — is no longer an option.

Again, we’re entering a period where every American will be facing a challenge. Some are looking at lost jobs and businesses, others the uncertainty of caring for loved ones who tests positive for COVID-19. Both of those situations make a canceled basketball game or track and field meet seem rightfully trivial.

I still see what they’ve given up as our country tries to turn on its pressure defense.

When you get into sports, you learn that your season can come to an end after a last-second buzzer-beater or a twisted ankle. You’re taught that if you work hard and get a little lucky, it might end with cutting down the net from the top of a ladder.

But nowhere was anyone told that it might come to an end with a Thursday afternoon press release in Indianapolis as a global pandemic threatened to upend the country’s medical system.

Nowhere was anyone told that your high school or college career would not end with a win or a loss, but one big what-if that will never be resolved.

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Ditka up top shoulda told you …

Art Arkush on the new three-year deal the Bears reportedly signed Danny Trevathan to late Thursday night. (Bears Insider)

• Know your QB draft prospects, Bears fans: Eric Edholm on the features and flaws of Georgia’s Jake Fromm. (Yahoo Sports)

There’s precedent for MLB postponing the start of the season in the middle of a global pandemic. The 1919 season was only 140 games long. (Jacob Pomrenke)

Paul Sullivan on the weird sensation of not having sports to turn toward. (Tribune)

• Filling a newsletter or website is one thing. An actual newspaper is another. Godspeed, Amanda.

The Blackhawks gave an update on ticket refunds. (NBC Sports)

• Co-signed

• A Canucks fan was trolling Dave Bolland on Twitter for some reason. Bolland’s response was awesome. (Twitter)

• Worst One Shining Moment ever.

That’s it for this long, interminable, not-very-good, horrible week. Take care of yourselves this weekend and let’s meet back here on Monday morning.

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