Sabrina Ionescu

Oregon’s Sabrina Ionescu drives around Arizona’s Aarion McDonald during the second half in the semifinal round of the Pac-12 women’s tournament March 7 in Las Vegas.

We miss sports already. And that’s OK.

In a world where everything is increasingly black or white, left or right, right or wrong — there is still room for nuance. Two things can be true.

Do I believe the mass cancellation of tournaments and suspensions of entire league seasons like the NBA and NHL is an overreaction? No, far from it. These are necessary steps to keep people safe from the coronavirus pandemic.

But saying you miss sports or wish certain events hadn’t been canceled or suspended also doesn’t mean you don’t understand or accept the severity of the situation with the virus outbreak.

Anyone who says it isn’t serious is fooling themselves. When some of these people use the number of confirmed COVID-19 (coronavirus) cases and compare those numbers to influenza they are ignoring two basic facts.

First, the United States has an abysmally low number of test kits. The vast majority of people haven’t even been tested, so the actual number of people with the virus is much higher than the number of confirmed cases.

Second, when it comes to the flu, we have a vaccine for that, in addition to other medications to cure the virus. There is no vaccine for coronavirus or any way to treat it.

That being said, of course it’s sad for us sports fans — and certainly those in sports journalism such as myself — to see sports disappear seemingly overnight. No March Madness? No NBA or NHL, at least for now? For those of us in Arizona: No Cactus League spring training?

It’s awful.

As for Arizona high school sports, they are still in a holding pattern. The Arizona Interscholastic Association, the governing body of major high school sports, decided to punt on the issue of how to address coronavirus.

“All regular season games and tournaments are under the governance of the member schools and districts. Therefore, the AIA will respect any athletic competition decisions made by those entities in regards to COVID-19,” the AIA said in a statement Thursday. “If events are canceled or changed specifically due to COVID-19, the AIA will waive the fees associated with this. Athletic directors at the member schools will follow regular procedures of canceling or changing events should this occur.”

This statement shows zero leadership on the part of the AIA. It’s not surprising, considering the dysfunction the organization shows year after year.

When it comes to pro and college sports, especially, we’re talking about big money lost.

These leagues and major events have a massive economic impact. No one is making these decisions to cancel lightly.

The most recent data available for the Cactus League showed a total economic impact to Arizona of $644 million in 2018, according to a study by Arizona State University’s W.P. Carey School of Business.

In neighboring California, its BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament in Indian Wells — which was set to begin Monday but was canceled — has an annual economic impact to the area of more than $400 million, based on the most recent data from 2017.

Beyond the money lost, this hurts the athletes more than anything.

This is especially true for college athletes, and in particular college seniors, who may never have another chance to suit up for their school.

The NCAA canceled championships in all winter and spring sports.

In a men’s college basketball season when there has been more turnover at No. 1 than any year in recent memory, it’s a shame we won’t see a non-traditional power like Dayton or San Diego State get a shot at the national championship.

As for the women’s tournament, it’s a shame we won’t see Oregon senior Sabrina Ionescu — the best women’s player to come along in years — show her transcendent skills on the sport’s biggest stage.

Many athletes have expressed their sadness over the possibility of never playing another college game.

Oregon softball star Haley Cruse, also a senior, tweeted about her emotions upon hearing the season was canceled Thursday.

“The fact that I might have just played my last softball game without my family in the stands breaks my heart,” she wrote.

I know I speak for many baseball fans when I say the loss of spring training is a crushing blow. At least I had a chance to see a couple of games before the remainder of the Cactus League schedule was canceled.

So if you’re feeling sad and a little empty without sports, it’s OK. You are not alone.

We can feel that way while still understanding the severity of the situation that faces us with the coronavirus, and the necessary aggressive actions being taken in the world of sports to keep us, and especially the most vulnerable people, safe. Both can be true.

Before too long, sports will return. And it will be wonderful. Until then, let’s do everything we can to keep each other safe and healthy.

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Brian Wright is the sports editor at PinalCentral. He can be reached at bwright@pinalcentral.com.

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