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An Ending Unlike Any Other
An Ending Unlike Any Other
Christopher Rieman
Published by Chris R
Exclamation An Ending Unlike Any Other

Itís over.

In a span of 48 hours, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine stopped the music, A10 Commissioner Bernadette McGlade pulled the last chairs, and NCAA Commissioner Mark Emmert cleared the dance floor. There will be no more college basketball in 2019-2020. Postseason conference tournament and Big Dance dreams will remain just that Ė unfulfilled what-ifs and what-could-have-beens in perhaps the most tumultuous and unprecedented series of events in amateur sports since the boycott of the 1980 Olympic games in Moscow.

The news came after Coronavirus (COVID-19) concerns prompted more scrutiny around large gatherings throughout the country that might cultivate, transfer, infect, and ultimately pose serious health risks to all Americans Ė especially those congregating by the tens of thousands at indoor and outdoor facilities. Looking to contain the possible spread, professional sports and the NCAA acted in swift but incremental steps to mitigate those risks. Fans were excluded from attending events and when that response fell short in the eyes of medical experts, the hammer finally dropped. Conference tournament games were halted at halftime or canceled just seconds before tip-off. Emmert finally tendered the news on Thursday afternoon that the menís and womenís NCAA basketball tournaments were canceled too.

It wasnít just basketball. All NCAA spring sports met a similar fate as thousands of student-athletes received the same news Ė not long after most college campuses closed nationwide to in-person classwork to address the health concerns. The response stretched from academia to the NBA, MLB, MLS, NASCAR, and even Broadway. The abundance of caution turned public spaces into ghost towns but within the vacuum remains an ocean of sadness. The month of March has never seen such madness.

The Flyer Faithful have taken the news exceedingly hard and for good reason. No other menís basketball program had more to gain by competing in the A10 Tournament and NCAA bracket. Projected as a potential #1 seed, Anthony Grantís team entered this week with the nationís longest winning streak (20 games) and were the only team in the country undefeated at home or on the road. The Flyers were also the only team unbeaten in regulation (a pair of overtime losses to Kansas and Colorado). Boosted by the exploits of Obi Toppin, UD had perhaps the best team in America and the best overall player in America. For a fan base thatís been loyal beyond measure and persevering to excruciating limits, 2020 was a lifetime of waiting. This was a team capable of winning a National Championship. To see it vanish when the reckoning was so close is a loss no other fan base in the country can possibly grasp. They donít understand because they canít understand.

The experts and decision-makers responsible for the cancellations had a difficult job to do. Whether prudence of over-reaction, there are legitimate liabilities at stake and a short window of time to make the best of imperfect circumstances. Sometimes the threat of wrongdoing Ė even in the absence of wrongdoing Ė contains enough social and financial risk to force hands in a direction that belies the facts in evidence. We must trust those in charge and recognize that criticism is cheap and easy from the nosebleed section. It must have been the most difficult decision in the professional lives of many administrators. Weighing heavily was the pretense of criticism either way, but better to be tar-and-feathered for expecting the worst and dodging calamity, than assuming the best and being caught unprepared. For those of us middle-aged or beyond, the naÔveí invincibility of our youth is a blind spot that died a fortunate death. Without good health there is far less to live for and no time for basketball. While classes may be canceled, there are lessons still to teach.

The rollercoaster of this weekís events came without a field manual. Too often, the emotional ground rules imply one acceptable grief and no other. Americans climb the angelic food chain to stake their case as judge, jury, and executioner of legitimate grief and gaslighting. Humans are complicated primates; we grieve simultaneously on many channels, in different ways, and in different amounts. Feeling angered, saddened, cheated, or bewitched by the unfathomable timing of UDís basketball success and subsequent loss of postseason play does not in any way lesson the concern or concession that those in charge did the right thing Ė or those affected deserve greater latitude and importance.

Itís okay to be p-i-s-s-e-d off. Itís okay to feel swindled from the dream. It doesnít mean you donít care about those affected, dissent from the decisionmakers, or disregard the best interests of the student-athletes. Youíre allowed to experience all of those emotions simultaneously or one at a time.

As the door closes on the 2019-20 college basketball season, the best antidote to the Flyer heartache is reliving the blessings of the last week in the city of Dayton. While no town and no two basketball programs suffered more from the dismissal of the NCAA tournament, no one else reached a crescendo with better timing. In the last days of the season, our city was the Epicenter of College Basketball with wall-to-wall coverage on every cable sports network in the country. Dayton shared the stage with no one else and capped it off with a pair of Atlantic-10 championships. Anthony Grantís team finished the greatest A10 run in conference history by sweeping the league and claiming the regular season title. Shauna Greenís team won the A10 conference tournament in front of Flyer fans at UD Arena. Most schools had to forfeit one or both opportunities. Most schools had no NCAA Tournament berths wrapped up. Most schools did not finish the last half of the season winning a combined 40 of 41 games. Our horse finished stronger at the last furlong than all others in college basketball. Our last form was our best form and no pandemic can wash away the snapshot of pure greatness coming down the final stretch. The final chapter turned out to be the last chapter, but it was still the best ending we ever read. Had the virus taken the country hostage just days earlier, all of it would have vanished.

It might take all spring to flush out the disappointment and what-iffery, but weíve come this far together and have already overcome so much. The pandemic will flatten, the clouds will lift, and Flyer Nation will eventually focus on the next Dayton basketball season. But lets not kid ourselves. Itís the letting go that will hurt the most. We could see the finish line.

When we turn our heads, let's hope we can also appreciate how far we traveled -- together.

C. M. Rieman | Publisher | 937.361.4630 | Get the latest here:

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By CvilleFlyer on 03-12-2020, 11:21 PM
Chris, best article you have ever wrote! Sums it all up perfectly. Thanks!
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By NJFlyr71 on 03-13-2020, 10:32 AM
Thank you Thank You!
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By GoFlyer on 03-14-2020, 09:05 PM
We are UD! And we are Dayton Strong!
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By Radar on 03-17-2020, 09:39 AM
Thanks Chris.
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By swish61 on 03-18-2020, 05:14 PM
Daggone it Chris, you made my eyes sweat.
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