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CURCIO’S CORNER: Feeling sick emotionally about COVID-19

It’s appropriate Friday greeted us with rain and clouds in Stanly. Gloom is about the way I would have described things after we got the news Thursday.

No NCHSAA games for three weeks. No NCAA games of any kind for the rest of the semester.

I’m not blaming either association for making the move (I’m glad the NCHSAA changed the decision on the basketball state championships), but it does not make any of it more palatable.

Coronavirus made for some laugh-out-loud memes online initially, but it’s not funny anymore. Not when you looked at the faces of the kids I saw Thursday night.

I got to both the South Stanly/West Stanly softball game and the North Stanly/West Stanly baseball game. It was a night when four teams with big prospects of success this season left it all on the field in games, which due to the MaxPreps rankings affecting playoff seeding grew in importance.

The games themselves gave myself and others in attendance a welcome respite from the troubles we are all facing now, which is what sports have been for myself and many for a long time.

One of the reasons I have always loved Major League Baseball’s 162-game marathon was the idea best expressed in PBS’ “Baseball” documentary. I tried to confirm this, but I think it was Thomas Boswell who said baseball was there for us during those months if we needed it.

Feeling a little down about something? Angry? Hurt? Confused? Just plain blue? Turn on a game and forget your troubles for a while. That is how I have looked at sports for more years than I care to count.

When I think of the number of people affected by the cancellation of games, it goes far beyond the student-athletes (for whom I feel the most because of the sacrifices they have all made to do what they do).

Think of the athletic trainers, the part-time concession workers, people parking cars, security, public address announcers, broadcasters, etc. How many of them will be hurting financially because of the games not being played?

Beyond everything else about sports as a form of entertainment and amusement, it is at its heart a business. People make part or all of their livelihood from the games and rely on that stream of money.

Think of those season-ticket holders who invested their money in those college and pro teams (whom I hope will get refunds).

I waited as long as I could stand to weigh in on the issue until it affected us in between our borders. Now it has.

Seeing athletes in tears in the dugout after a game tugs at every heart string. Watching proud parents with tears in their eyes after games does as well.

High school sports has always generated for me memorable moments which I can mark in my life. All the road trips, state titles, meals shares with players, parents and coaches at various buffets and Cracker Barrell.

Beyond our borders, I’m saddened for good people like former Pfeiffer basketball coach Dave Davis who now is the associate head coach for the Big South Tournament champion Winthrop Eagles.

Davis said head coach Pat Kelsey and the Eagles “have created a culture of hard work and togetherness that we have had with many of my Pfeiffer teams” in a text to me this week.

Anyone who might doubt the impact of a coach would have thought differently after the induction speeches of Rico and Demario Grier at this past year’s Pfeiffer Sports Hall of Fame referring to Coach Davis.

I was honored beyond words I could ever express when Coach Davis mentioned me in his induction speech for my time as the school’s public address announcer. He thanked me for “creating game environment before it was a term” which I will never forget.

I’m also saddened for Caleb Holmesley, whom I did a story on last year about reaching the tournament as a member of the Liberty University Flames. His team reached the national tournament again by winning the Atlantic Sun Conference tournament.

I’m saddened for athletes like Walker Barbee, the former West Stanly standout whom I saw this week playing for the Pitt Panthers in a game at Charlotte. (I have a feature story on this coming up next week).

Most of all, I’m saddened for everyone who relied on high school, college and pro sports for part or all of their particular livelihoods.

We have to nip this coronavirus in the bud, whatever it takes.

The safety of people’s lives are paramount before anything else.

Personally, I don’t want the hot dog I had at the North baseball game Thursday to be the only one I get to have this season.

Everyone should be able to enjoy a good hot dog at a game.

Let’s get back to work.

Contact sports editor Charles Curcio at 704-983-1361 or via Twitter (@charles_curcio).

About Charles Curcio

Charles Curcio was the sports editor of the Stanly News & Press from 1999-2001 and has currently served in the same capacity since 2008. He was awarded the NCHSAA Tim Stevens Media Representative of the Year and named CNHI Sports Editor of the Year in 2014. He has also been honored twice by the North Carolina Press Association.

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