Sports are an inspired diversion. For fleeting moments the woes and worries of life take a back seat. But now life has imposed its unsparing will on our game. Indian Wells has been canceled.
We are shocked.
BNP Paribas Open officials have made a wise, but nonetheless sad and devastating decision. The coronavirus pandemic is a mystery. Already we have seen smaller WTA tourneys in China, ATP events in Madrid and Bergamo Italy called off. China withdrew from Davis Cup play and the Italy vs. Korea Davis Cup tie in Sardinia was played in an arena without spectators.
The 1968 French Open was held amidst insurrection in Paris. Earlier this year the Australian Open was played despite the bushfires. On 9/11 the World Trade Center towers were attacked just 36 hours after the 2001 US Open. Of course, tennis and much of sport was put on hold during World War II. In 1989 the World Series was delayed due to the Loma Prieta earthquake. Hurricane Sandy blew the 2012 New York Marathon off course and a tragic bombing brought chaos to the 2013 Boston Marathon. In September the Hong Kong Open was called off due to demonstrations. But modern tennis has never had a stunning shock quite like this.
Now we wonder about the Miami Open, the clay court circuit, the French Open, the Olympics and the rest of the year. And basketball’s March Madness may also be in jeopardy. Our sport’s grand spring gathering will not happen. No Rafa, no Serena, no Nole. Aspiring kids will not be able to show their stuff and beloved veterans like Venus, Kim Clijsters and the Bryan Brothers won’t give us glimpses of their twilight skills.
Never mind that many players are already in town and that the economic loss will sting. Already there is speculation about holding the Indian Wells and Miami tourneys after the US Open. But it doesn’t matter – safety first. We’re under a threat we haven’t faced before. The virus has its own pulse. Who can say what its impact will be? We know a great competition that drew 450,000 fans last year will not happen; our confidence wavers. An “all bets are off” sensibility prevails.
All the while our hearts go out to the victims of this virus, and we pray that officials proceed with caring, insight and wisdom.
In this telling moment – when we suddenly realize that we won’t get to relish an inspired gathering – a paraphrase of Humphrey Bogart’s words to Ingrid Bergman in the movie “Casablanca” somehow comes to mind: “I’m no good at being noble, but it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of one little tennis tournament don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.”