Pretty and me at SEC tournament – March, 2021
Our spirits were high as we drove away from the SEC women’s basketball tournament in Greenville, South Carolina on March 08, 2020. Pretty and I were riding with our gay boys basketball buddies Garner and JD, our Gamecock women’s basketball team had just won the tournament championship for five out of the last six years, everyone in our car (and many other fans in the Gamecock nation) looking forward to post season play, and let’s be real, talking about a possible second national championship. Our team finished the season ranked #1 in the polls, but that ranking would surely be tested in post season play.
Until it wasn’t. Three days later on March 11th the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a/k/a Covid-19 to be a pandemic. The next day the NCAA cancelled the men’s and women’s basketball post season tournaments. March Madness, the term reserved for the race to basketball championships, took on new meaning. In 2020 the Madness went, literally, viral.
Although our Gamecock women managed to play their regular season in the fall of 2020 with cardboard fans sitting in the student section, no band played on; cheerleaders who were socially distanced – waving garnet and white pompoms – tried to lift the morale of the 3,500 masked lucky fans allowed to occupy designated seats in the 18,000 capacity Colonial Life Arena. Pretty went to two home games during the season, but I didn’t want to risk the exposure to the virus so I watched the televised games or listened to the radio coverage when TV wasn’t available. Thank goodness for my trusted transistor radio which never misses a game. (Pretty encourages me to ask Alexa to play the game on the radio for me, but I tell her Alexa hasn’t been there for me as long as my real radio has.)
One year and two Pfizer vaccinations later for me, Pretty and I went back to Greenville on March 06th. for the 2021 SEC tournament. We wanted to watch our Gamecock women play Tennessee in the semi-final, a revenge game for the loss they handed us during the regular season – a loss that ended our 31-game win streak for regular season play in the SEC. We were fired up and ready to go.
I could hardly escape the irony of my first safely vaccinated outing as we drove home from Greenville last Saturday night. The Gamecocks did win against Tennessee that night (and won the tournament again the following day) – Pretty and I were almost as euphoric as we had been during the drive home in 2020. Yet, changes were everywhere. We were without our basketball buddies, we had to wear masks to be admitted to the game, very few fans scattered in our section for social distancing, still no live school bands, the arena resembled a community teetering on the brink of becoming a ghost town with unrecognizable citizens.
Despite the tragedies that defined 2020, despite the deeply felt losses of family and friends to Covid, despite the changes that challenged our way of life – I feel hope again. I am so proud of the Democrats in Congress and President Biden who delivered on a campaign promise for an American Rescue Act that will begin to restore security for citizens who are struggling with basic needs for their loved ones. Food, housing, jobs, small businesses, farmers – a chance to breathe again. A chance for opportunity to do better.
My tiny version of hope also took place at a women’s basketball tournament last weekend where I was still able to sit with my wife and enjoy a few hours that reminded me of a time not very long ago and certainly not far away. It felt good to do something ordinary, even if the ordinary was not quite the same.
This week has been a blockbuster. Pretty got her first Moderna vaccination. Our 17 months old granddaughter Ella was with us on our screen porch during a perfectly gorgeous early spring day and we added Amy Winehouse songs to her playlist. Life is good.
Stay safe, stay sane and please stay tuned.