By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa - Where do we go from here?
What do we do?
And by we; I mean sports fans and members of the media.
Our world has been turned upside down in a way that would make for perhaps an interesting movie script, but in real life, it absolutely sucks being in the grips of a global pandemic.
The fear and uncertainty, and of course, the potential damage that the Coronavirus already has caused, and is likely to cause, has taken us to places we never could've imagined from an emotional standpoint.
We’re scared, angry and confused, and wondering what’s next as this nightmare continues to change almost by the minute, it seems.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked at my cell phone over the past 24 hours just to see the latest jaw-dropping developments from a news standpoint.
If it were a movie, you’d almost say the script was a little far-fetched, but this is reality at its worst and people are hurting and suffering, and in some cases, dying.
A potentially deadly virus that is believed to have originated in China is spreading like wildfire and wreaking havoc in ways that are hard to comprehend.
March Madness seemed impenetrable, and yet, in a matter of days it’s gone for fear of the virus spreading.
The NBA and NHL have put their seasons on the hold, as is also the case with Major League spring training and with practically everything else in sports.
The spring season for college sports, which includes baseball, softball, track and field and spring football, has been cancelled.
Just like that, they’re all gone.
The top-ranked Iowa wrestling team finally was in a position to rule its world again after a decade of chasing Penn State, and now that chance to shine on the biggest stage is gone.
Iowa won the Big Ten title last week and was clearly the team to beat with 10 national qualifiers, including Spencer Lee, who was considered almost a lock to win his third consecutive national title at 125 pounds.
Lee was halfway to becoming Iowa’s first four-time national champion until this virus brought his sport to its knees.
And then there is the remarkable story of Luka Garza, Iowa's 6-foot-11 junior center who was nearing the end of one of the greatest individual seasons in program history.
Garza, and his team, deserved to play in the NCAA Tournament but now that most likely won't happen.
You can almost be certain that there will be a push from some coaches to figure a way to play the postseason in multiple sports, and from some student-athletes to gain another year of eligibility.
Iowa men’s basketball coach Fran McCaffery told ESPN radio on Thursday that he thinks playing the NCAA Tournament in May would be “terrific” if it were possible.
“I think it would be a lot of fun,” McCaffery said. “I think it would get unbelievable ratings. People would have just as much interest. And these kids still have an opportunity.”
McCaffery makes a good, strong and reasonable argument.
The problem is the uncertainty as we navigate through uncharted territory. May is now less than two months away, and who knows what will have happened by then.
What seems certain, though, is that some student-athletes, especially those who compete in the spring, will petition for another year of eligibility, and more power to them.
Iowa track and field star Laulauga Tausaga posted her feelings on Twitter and made it abundantly clear that she feels she deserves another year of eligibility.
“So where do sign to get my petition to get my eligibility back?” Tausaga said. “I deserve to end my time at Iowa the way I started it: WITH A COMPLETE INDOOR AND OUTDOOR SEASON."
The fact that Tausaga, a star thrower, capitalized her final sentence was for dramatic effect, and it works, because it helps to illustrate how angry she is and how much she’s hurting.
The NCAA will almost certainly have to rule on individual cases of this kind once life returns to normal again.
And for those who believe the decision to shut down sports at the collegiate and professional levels is too extreme and a media-driven overreaction, that’s absurd.
It’s easy for critics to poke fun when they don’t have to be accountable for anything, or if they don't have all the facts.
But do we really have to argue about whether it’s better to exercise on the side of caution when dealing with a global pandemic?
If I had to choose between over-reacting or under-reacting when trying to fight the spread of a deadly virus, I’d go with over-reacting.
The impact on sports is just part of of the fallout from this virus spreading. It's an important part, but this battle goes far beyond wins and losses and scoring touchdowns and making baskets and getting base hits.
You feel horrible for the athletes and coaches whose lives have been changed forever.
But you also appreciate and understand the push for safety and containment.
For me personally, this will be a challenge, as it will for my colleagues who cover Iowa athletics.
We’re now on an unfortunate journey whose conclusion is uncertain.
We have to keep writing and reporting on the Hawkeyes despite hardly anything happening.
But for how long?
If you’re like me, you need some time to come to terms with the surreal circumstances. You need time for reflection and to figure the best way to move forward.
I’m fortunate to be on the radio four times a week, and while we have a tendency to drift on KCJJ, the appeal of Hawkeye athletics is what brings us all together.
Iowa athletics is what makes our community unique and special.
I moved to this college town nearly 30 years ago and just couldn't bring myself to leave.
It’s where I feel safe, secure and challenged.
But never could I have imagined facing a challenge of this kind.
The 24 hours I spent traveling to and from Indianapolis for the Big Ten Tournament is something I’ll never forget as the news just kept unfolding.
It was sad, stunning and bizarre.
The key now is for everyone to be safe and to take precautions, including washing your hands.
It’s time to beat this virus, and we will.
We didn’t get this far without being determined, smart and resilient.