Ruthenberg: These are times unlike any other

Fans leave Chesapeake Energy Arena after it is announced the March 11 game between Oklahoma City Thunder and Utah Jazz in Oklahoma City has been postponed. (AP Photo)

The sports cancellations started like a ripple and developed into a full-blown tsunami the likes of which we have never seen in most of our lifetimes.

The only thing comparable may have been the interruptions caused by World War II that impacted professional sports. But even in those times we saw other sports or leagues stepping into the void, such as the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League that briefly thrived. But this time around even the ladies couldn’t save us.

These are truly times unlike any other. Some say we have overreacted, others say differently. Either way, it’s sent most of us scrambling into the unknown, both in our professional and personal lives.

At times, with entire states shutting down, it has seemed eerily reminiscent of a pair of 1970s-era apocalyptic movies, “The Omega Man” and “Soylent Green.” Where are you Charlton Heston when we need you?

OK, that’s a slight exaggeration. We haven’t reached Armageddon despite the empty supermarket shelves and toilet paper hoarding-induced shortages. Even our eateries have closed under government edict save for delivery and drive-through. The upside is pizza has not been impacted (anything impacting pizza though would truly be apocalyptic ... you can only push people so far).

Unquestionably, the sports landscape has certainly become barren.

For most of us, it started to get both real and sightly weird when the Thunder’s March 11 game against the Utah Jazz was called off after both teams left the court during pregame warmups. About 30-40 minutes later it was announced the game was canceled. We later learned Rudy Gobert of the Jazz had tested positive for the coronavirus.

Then the dominoes began to fall.

Another NBA game that night was cancelled. Then the NBA suspended its season. Others soon followed as MLB, NHL and even the XFL announced they were suspending or postponing the start of their seasons.

NCAA conference basketball tournaments were then halted. Not long after, March Madness was axed.

The impact of concerns over the coronavirus was soon felt on our local sports scene.

First, before any of the quarterfinal games in the Classes 2A-6A state basketball tournaments were played, the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association announced the postponement of the state tournament, leaving 80 teams across the state in limbo. That included area schools Kingfisher, Alva and Cashion.

Cashion’s boys were about to head to a send-off pep rally when the news hit. The Alva girls were having lunch at a Chick-fil-A off I-35 when they got the news.

Next up was the NJCAA announcing it was suspending spring sports games until April 3 in addition to wiping out its men’s and women’s national tournaments.

Initially, first-year Jets baseball head coach Scott Mansfield expressed relief that Northern Oklahoma College Enid’s baseball season for his defending World Series champion Jets was only being temporarily interrupted.

However, shortly thereafter the NJCAA, following the lead of the NCAA, nixed all spring sports and championships. That one particularly stung as it meant no World Series for Enid.

Prep baseball was dealing with a mix of cancellations and non-cancellations as games continued but travel restrictions put in place by some school districts thwarted some plans. Among those was the Enid Plainsmen’s planned trip to an Atlanta-area tournament as Enid Public Schools banned out-of-state travel.

Not long after, OSSAA announced it was suspending spring sports through at least April 6 while holding out hope it could still somehow play the state basketball tournament later. OSSAA in its March 17 announcement said it will be making a further announcement on March 23.

Local and area coaches expressed doubt their seasons would be spared.

Even the Oklahoma Flying Aces, our indoor professional football team, felt the impact as their league’s season was delayed when two teams were prohibited from playing as events were being suspended in their home arenas. Initially, that did not include the Flying Aces’ facility, the Stride Bank Center. However, after the city of Enid later similarly put the kybosh (I always wanted to use that word in print) on events, it is appearing more and more likely that the season itself is now in jeopardy.

The city’s edict also meant cancellation of the annual Enid fourball golf tournament.

So, where does that leave us?

It’s certainly impacted our sports pages, and during this period we have adjusted our sports pages accordingly. We will continue to bring you stories of interest in this fast-developing environment from national, state and, most importantly, local perspectives. We recognize the role we play, but it’s really more about you and reporting on the people of Northwest Oklahoma.

We also plan to provide more feature coverage and even take a look back and relive some of the most memorable sports moments over the past decade. We start that today with our first “From the vault” feature. We also certainly encourage and welcome your ideas.

We will be anxiously awaiting OSSAA’s next planned announcement on Monday as to whether anything is going to be salvaged in prep basketball or spring sports.

While we wait to see what is going to ultimately become of the basketball tournament, we are holding in abeyance sending out our annual All-Northwest basketball ballots as it would not be fair to those teams and players still competing.

Like you, we hope this is not our new normal, and fully expect this to be temporary. It’s just a matter of how temporary.

In the meantime, maybe ask yourself, “What would Charlton Heston do?”

Ruthenberg is sports editor for the Enid News & Eagle. Contact him at

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Ruthenberg is sports editor for the Enid News & Eagle.

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