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Friday, November 13, 2020

The Ivy League leads, again

It took a pandemic to make me proud to be a product of the Ivy League. I received my bachelor's degree in studio art from Brown University in 1979, but it was a bad fit, and I largely hated the place, only making it through thanks to a fully credited year at the Italian University for Foreigners and a lot of time spent at nearby RISD, where I took more courses than the allowable limit for Brown students and shared housing with some of those wacky art students.

But setting aside the proto-Gordon Geckos of my time at Brown, and the centuries of entitlement that have floated the elitists who typically graduate from Harvard, Yale, and the rest, this educational confraternity has led the nation twice in making the right call on shutting down its sports programs before the coronavirus itself had the chance to do the deed more brutally.

You may recall that the first sports league in the US to declare a full stop last March was the Ivy League.

It didn't matter that they were in the midst of their annual league basketball tournament, or that the NCAAs of March Madness fame and glory would be next - the great minds of those combined institutions (including the many top scientists on their faculties) knew it was time to mask up and hunker down. The next day the NBA followed suit, leading all the other college and pro leagues that then joined the inevitable months-long pause, one by one.

And, now, it's happened again, as the second wave of the virus is taking hold of the country, and the Ivies announced on Thursday that they are canceling all winter sports. This will have immediate local impact, as two of the mots popular teams in the Capital Region (Union College and RPI hockey) compete in the ECAC, a league that includes six of the seven Ivies (making up half of the total number of ECAC teams).

And, I predict, this is just the beginning. Like last spring, there will be more canceled sports seasons to come. Don't get me wrong - I don't celebrate the loss of healthy competition for collegians, nor the potential massive loss of revenue for the professional leagues if they also shut down again; neither do I applaud the disappointment to millions of fans who need the distraction of sports entertainment now more than ever.

And I am truly grateful for the mid-pandemic professional sports seasons that were recently completed - somehow, almost miraculously, without widespread illnesses or deaths - including baseball, soccer, hockey and, my favorite, basketball.

But it is starting to look like madness to try to continue the NFL season, or to resume the NBA, etc., if things don't turn around very soon. I've no doubt that the great minds that run these leagues are currently consulting with the great minds that know the science - many of them educated at or teaching at Ivies - and that they will come to the right conclusions that will keep athletes, coaching staffs, and fans safe.

In the meantime, stream a good movie, read a good book, eat some good takeout with carefully vetted family and friends - and take good care.

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