Makes no sense to predict the future in sports during these scary and surreal times

Iowa wrestler Spencer Lee. Photo courtesy of

By Pat Harty

IOWA CITY, Iowa - My hands are raw.

My 90-year old mother is in lockdown in a care facility in Des Moines.

And there is no sports being played anywhere.

This is the new temporary normal that has us all wondering when some semblance of life as we once knew it will be restored.

The Big Ten Conference announced on Friday that it will extend the previously announced suspension of all organized team activities through May 4, 2020 and will re-evaluate again at that time.

That hardly came as a surprise with the Covid-19 pandemic still spreading at an alarming rate, and with Chicago and Detroit both showing disturbing signs of being new hot spots for the virus.

This highly contagious virus is testing us in ways that we haven’t been tested maybe since World War II, and we don’t even have sports as a distraction.

College football analyst Kirk Herbstreit caused a stir when he said he’d be shocked if there were college or NFL football played this fall. Herbstreit certainly is entitled to his opinion, and what he said doesn’t seem too far-fetched because hardly anything seems too far-fetched during these surreal times.

But we’re also at least three months from having to make that difficult call, and there is too much uncertainty with this virus to even know where we’ll be in three days.

Herbstreit was accused by some of being an alarmist and for stepping out of his lane, and his critics are entitled to their opinion.

One thing I’ve learned from being stuck in a global pandemic is that you have to live in the moment, or embrace the past, in order to cope.

It almost seems like the future has been put on hold, especially in regard to sports.

I’m actually sort of getting used to not having March Madness, or spring sports, and that’s kind of scary because it’s only been about two weeks since our world was turned upside down.

Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz was previously scheduled to have a press conference earlier this week to usher in the start of spring practice, while Major League baseball was supposed to start on Thursday.

Things that we used to take for granted are now gone, at least temporarily.

I wouldn’t begin to try to predict the future in anything right now, including sports. And besides, what’s the point in trying to predict the future when the present is so fluid?

It’s sad to think about what was lost this spring from an Iowa Hawkeye sports standpoint.

The Iowa wrestling team was considered the heavy favorite to win a national title for the first time in a decade, while junior Spencer Lee was almost a lock to win a third consecutive national title at 125 pounds, and to move a step closer to becoming Iowa’s first four-time national champion in wrestling.

The Iowa men’s basketball team, led by Big Ten Player of the Year and consensus first-team All-America center Luka Garza, was a lock to make the NCAA Tournament, and had shown during the regular season that it could beat just about anybody on a good day.

The Iowa women’s basketball team was poised to host the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament for the second year in a row.

The Iowa baseball team was 10-5 and clicking on all cylinders when its season came to an abrupt halt.

The Iowa softball team also had shown signs of a resurgence under second-year head coach Renee Gillispie.

And the Iowa men’s and women’s track and field teams both were in a position to have strong seasons. The men’s team won the Big Ten outdoor title last spring, so there was plenty of positive momentum until suddenly there was none.

You feel for the student-athletes because they worked so hard to reach both their team and individual goals, only to have it all taken away by something completely out of their control.

You can be mad about what has happened to the sports world, but it would be wrong to criticize the decision to shut down sports at all levels because it was done to save lives.

It might be an over-reaction, but that sure beats the alternative in this case.

One positive to come from this nightmare is that I now have a much stronger appreciation for some things that were easy to take for granted, like the people working at your local grocery store. I admire their courage and their willingness to give us a sense of normalcy.

And, of course, the real heroes are the doctors and nurses, and other health care workers, who are literally risking their lives on the front line in order to save lives.

What they're doing is bigger than any sporting event.

I'm asked to defend my country by sitting on my butt at home watching television, listening to music or reading a book, and that occurred to me recently while watching a documentary on the Vietnam War in which kids literally put their lives on the line every day under gruesome and frightening circumstances.

I think I can do this, even without sports.