Rozner: The night sports pulled the pandemic plug

  • NBA Commissioner Adam Silver talked to the media Feb. 15, 2020, at the United Center, ahead of the next day's All-Star Game. Less than a month later, he shut down the league because of the pandemic. Most other sports soon followed.

      NBA Commissioner Adam Silver talked to the media Feb. 15, 2020, at the United Center, ahead of the next day's All-Star Game. Less than a month later, he shut down the league because of the pandemic. Most other sports soon followed. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan announced a year ago there would be no fans at The Players Championship. Ten hours later he decided to cancel the rest of the tournament due to the pandemic.

    PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan announced a year ago there would be no fans at The Players Championship. Ten hours later he decided to cancel the rest of the tournament due to the pandemic. Associated Press

  • Jay Monahan is broadcast late morning of last year's first round that The Players Championship would continue without spectators. Several hours later, he shut down the tournament.

    Jay Monahan is broadcast late morning of last year's first round that The Players Championship would continue without spectators. Several hours later, he shut down the tournament. Associated Press

  • Rory McIlroy packs his vehicle March 13, 2020, after the PGA Tour canceled the rest of The Players Championship in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., due to the pandemic.

    Rory McIlroy packs his vehicle March 13, 2020, after the PGA Tour canceled the rest of The Players Championship in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., due to the pandemic. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 3/8/2021 1:58 PM

One year ago, Adam Silver shut down sports.

The NBA commissioner made the announcement at 8:30 p.m. on a Wednesday. It was March 11. The NBA was closing its doors. And it was a tipping point.

 

You knew when you saw the breaking news that it signaled the beginning of the end.

Within hours, nearly every sport and retail business in the country followed along, crashing the planet's economy.

With fans on property, the PGA Tour began play early on that Thursday morning with its biggest event outside of the majors, The Players Championship at TPC -- considered the fifth major.

By late Thursday morning, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan arrived in the media tent and announced that events would continue, but without fans and with strict safety measures. TPC would have golf on Friday.

"It goes without saying that this is an incredibly fluid and dynamic situation," Monahan said. "We have been and are committed to being responsible, thoughtful and transparent with our decision process.

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"With that as pretext, at this point in time, PGA Tour events -- across all tours -- will currently proceed as scheduled, but will do so without fans."

By Thursday at 9 p.m., there was no way to fight the media backlash and the social media outrage. Players would die, went the narrative, so Monahan had no choice.

"We're obviously incredibly disappointed to suspend the PGA Tour's season for our players and our fans," Monahan said, reversing a decision from only 10 hours earlier. "I've said all along, the health and safety of everyone associated with this organization is our No. 1 priority.

"We tried to be as thoughtful and measured as possible during this dynamic and challenging time."

Ultimately, Monahan was bulldozed into a corner.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Golf was canceled. Everything was canceled. Our lives were canceled until further notice.

It has been one year. It only feels longer.

Thankfully, golf was the first sport to return in mid-June with the Schwab in Texas, proof that it could be done safely.

We had sports again.

By late July, baseball was back in business after months of fighting between players and owners, but they finished a 60-game schedule and got through a full playoff, including the World Series.

The NHL and NBA managed to complete a postseason and both crowned champions.

Golf played pretty much every week through the end of 2020, and offered three major championships.

And somehow the NFL played a full season without skipping a single game. Remarkable, truly remarkable. In culminated in another Tom Brady championship.

Now, here it is one year later and The Players Championship is back, Rory McIlroy defending his 2019 title in Northern Florida with fans in the stands.

The PGA Tour -- and Monahan in particular -- has done a spectacular job of managing a huge operation during a crisis, of keeping people safe and delivering a world-class product that has kept television viewers mesmerized while locked in their homes.

Pro sports are back in full swing -- something that matters considerably to the sedentary -- and here's hoping high school and college athletes who missed their seasons will get a chance after having so much stolen from them by the misery of a pandemic.

This past year has been particularly hard on the very young and the very old, isolated from family and friends at such a crucial time in their lives.

The economic and emotional devastation can't be overstated, only the heartless or supremely unaware missing such obvious carnage.

It's a tragedy for tens of millions.

But now there is light at the end of the tunnel. For us here in Chicago, having survived a February that rivaled 1979, it is not a moment too soon.

It feels as if we've begun the long, slow turn around the corner. Fresh air, sunshine and a well-executed lob wedge are on the way.

Let us give thanks.

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