Tom Bone...

Tom Bone

This was shaping up to be a big month. Then a microscopic organism put everything on hold.

Scholastic playoffs always take place in early May in the two Virginias. Sports reporters and fans plan trips to diamonds and soccer stadiums all over Southwest Virginia and the “deep south” counties of West Virginia. The competitors would be giving their all as sunshine, wind or showers descended on them —  sometimes all three at once.

There would be gnashing of teeth at sports desks in area media outlets due to weather delays and postponements, and the never-ending chase to get confirmation about when games had been rescheduled.

On the collegiate level, the Mountain East Conference tournament was to occupy the artificial turf at Epling Stadium in Beckley starting Thursday. College softball teams would be looking for invites into NCAA regionals. You can bet that Bluefield College officials were planning for the NAIA national tourney of spring sports, or the Christian College national baseball championships in Ohio.

Graduating student-athletes whose names had become commonplace among area sports fans traditionally donned caps and gowns in places like Blacksburg, Morgantown, Huntington, Bluefield and Athens.

They’d already have revised their resumes with their all-conference honors. A few typically had packed their bags and moved into far-off apartments so they could try out for a professional team and get a big paycheck someday.

For others whose time in big-time college sports is yet unfinished, there would have been plenty to look back on. The NCAA or NIT basketball tournaments, and the intra-squad football games that wrap up spring practice, have always been venues for extra post-season competition, and preparation for the fall and winter game dates that were probably already circled on the 2020-21 calendars.

TV watchers would have two or three Major League Baseball games to choose from nightly in a typical May. The interminable NBA playoffs provided another televised option. Auto racing fans would already be in a comfortable rhythm of mid-season NASCAR competition.

I had already inked in commitments on my personal calendar for this week. In addition to helping cover sporting events, there was a trip to Maryland for a granddaughter’s birthday, plenty of work to be done at the university bookstore at the end of the semester, and a gig as the volunteer master of ceremonies for the spring dinner of my college alumni association.

For some reason, I left them listed, there in black and white, a string of symbols of what might have been.

None of this is happening. The COVID-19 pandemic has wrecked most of the sports world, and upended our personal lives, temporarily. The loss of games is puny compared to the loss of life due to the coronavirus, and job losses amid a worldwide economic downturn.

So, it’s turned out to be a not-so-big month. Spring itself looks like a world-class bust in this stretch of the country.

Despite all this, there is hope. We have each other. We have dedicated first-responders and medical staff working to keep people alive and well. We have seen glimmers that once it’s safe, sporting events will return.

Big months will come again. And I am sure that we will certainly appreciate them more.


Tom Bone, now semi-retired, was a full-time sports writer and cartoonist for the Daily Telegraph from 1999 to 2018.


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