By Brian Hoffman
My dad had 13 siblings, but he only knew nine. I mention this because of the spreading coronavirus and I’ll tie it to a sports related item later in the column.
I imagine most of you have heard of the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918, which was the deadliest in the history of mankind. If you hadn’t heard of it before last week it’s probably been brought to your attention by now. It infected an estimated 500 million people in the world, which was about a third of the total population on earth at the time. It killed over 20 million people, including close to 700,000 people in the United States.
Three of those people would have been my uncles and aunts had they not contacted the flu and died. My dad, who died in 2018, was the 13th of 14 children and he wasn’t born until 1926, so he didn’t know his three siblings who died from that flu epidemic. However, I’ve seen their little gravestones at the cemetery where my grandparents went to church.
Hopefully, the current pandemic won’t be nearly as bad. Measures are being taken to keep it from spreading, including the cancellation or suspension of sporting events and concerts and closing of schools and businesses.
Just my luck!
You see, I bought tickets to take my wife and two of my grandsons to see the Lakers and LeBron James play against the Hornets in Charlotte this week. The tickets weren’t cheap and we really wanted to see LeBron play, live, before he retires.
Let’s go back a few years. In 2013 I had tickets to see the Miami Heat play the Bobcats, as they were known at the time, in Charlotte. The Heat was in the midst of what would be a 27 game winning streak, chasing the 1972 Wilt Chamberlain and Jerry West led Lakers for the longest streak of all time, 33 in a row. The game we had tickets for would be the one that would tie that streak should the Heat continue to win.
However, in what would have been the 28th win in that streak the Heat lost to the Bulls by four points. The game we would have attended was in early April and the Heat started resting players for the playoffs. Both LeBron and Dwyane Wade rested in that game and we got a big dose of Birdman Anderson and Mike Miller for our expensive tickets. I’m sure, had they been attempting to tie that record, both LeBron and Wade would have played against the Bobcats.
Okay, let’s fast forward to early January of this year. I saw where the Lakers were going to play in Charlotte on a Saturday night, March 21. It was after the high school basketball season and before spring sports started really kicking in, so it appeared to be a perfect time for us to go.
I checked the Lakers’ schedule to see if LeBron might take a “load management” day. I discovered the game was the first of a road trip, with the last home game on Wednesday, three days before the Hornets game. It was indeed a back-to-back, but the Sunday game was at Detroit and the Pistons are really bad, so I figured if LeBron played one of the two it would be in Charlotte. In addition it’s Michael Jordan’s team, and I’d think LeBron would want to play with Mike in the crowd. Also, the Lakers play at Toronto on Tuesday of the following week, so if he skipped the Detroit game that would give him two full days of rest before a game against a good team. You see, I really thought this out.
Of course, Kobe Bryant was still alive when I bought these tickets. Now I’m thinking, since Charlotte originally drafted Kobe before trading him for Vlade Divac, the Hornets might do something special for the Lakers’ only visit of the season, especially since Jordan and Kobe were so close. Certainly LeBron would want to play in that game.
Then along comes the coronavirus. A few weeks ago they started talking about playing soccer games in Europe without the fans. Then, more and more cases of the virus started popping up in the United States. It was mentioned the NCAA tournament might play games without fans. Certainly this wouldn’t affect the NBA, would it?
Well, you know how that’s gone. Last week NBA commissioner Adam Silver decided to suspend the season, and that killed our trip to Charlotte. The NHL and NCAA followed suit and baseball was put on hold as well. There are virtually no sports at this point, and I’m bored as can be.
I know, I know. . . .it’s just a game and people are actually dying from this so missing a basketball game isn’t that big a deal. But doggone that’s some bad luck, even worse than the Heat losing to the Bulls.