Two Cents from the Franklin Mint: Unprecedented Times

Updated: March 30, 2020

Just a few weeks ago, sports as we know it was brought to a grinding halt. Who would have ever thought that an organism one billionth of our size would take out every single athlete from playing the sports they love and void every spectator of one of life’s most enjoyable escapes? 
But has anyone thought about the totality of this recent chain of events? 
Organized sports originated in 1869 with the advent of American Football while baseball came two years later. In 1875, ice hockey began it’s long standing run in Canada while a Canadian, Dr. James Naismith, would invent the American game of basketball in 1892. Pierre de Coubertin would help revive the Olympic Games in 1889, with the first Olympiad taking place in Athens in 1896.
But it wasn’t until the year 2020, when all of these fun events were suddenly stopped.
As I approach my 40th birthday, I began to recall events since 1900 that voided the world of athletic competitions. But, it’s only the recent events of COVID-19 that has shut down everything. International, national, collegiate, high school, recreation, and youth leagues have had forms of disruptions over time, but never in the history of sports have we ever seen a full shutdown of sporting events.
Here’s a look at some of the most notable disruptions.

1) WAR
Following the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary in 1914, the world went into war. As a result, the 1916 Olympic Games in Berlin were canceled. Berlin would host the games 20 years later in 1936.
In 1940, following Nazi Germany’s invasion of Poland one year prior, the Olympic Games in Tokyo were forfeited as a result of Japan’s involvement in the Second Sino-Japanese War. The games were then awarded to Helsinki, Finland. But due to the “Winter War” between Finland and the Soviet Union compiled with the various conflicts of the European Theatre, the games were eventually canceled.
Likewise, the 1940 Winter Olympics were also canceled. Originally scheduled to be held in Sapporo, Japan, the Olympics were moved twice. The first to St. Moritz, Switzerland and then later to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. But as a result of the German invasion of Poland, the games were canceled. Sapporo would later host the 1972 Winter Games.
In 1944, London was set to host the Summer Olympic Games. They too faced cancellation as a result of World War II. London would later host the games in 1948. The Italian Alpine resort city of Cortina d’Ampezzo was slated to host the Winter games that same year, but these games were also canceled by WWII. Cortina would later host the Winter Olympics in 1956.
World War II also was responsible for the cancellation the 1942 and 1946 editions of the FIFA World Cup. 
Despite the international impact, professional leagues in the United States as well as collegiate sports and high school sports all continued.

2) 9/11
On that faithful Tuesday, America changed forever. In the immediate aftermath, major American sporting events were postponed or canceled. 
Major League Baseball postponed games up to one to three days following the tragedy. This would eventually delay the playoffs and cause the World Series between the New York Yankees and Arizona Diamondbacks to be played for the first time in November.
The National Football League postponed its’ Week Two games and made them up one week after the conclusion of the season. This obviously caused a delay of the playoffs and Super Bowl XXXVI.
NCAA College Football also postponed games. Games scheduled for September 13 & 15 were eventually played in early December, or canceled as a result of the inability to find opponents.
The 2001 Ryder Cup that was scheduled to be contested at The Belfry in England was postponed by a year. Other team based golf events (Presidents’ Cup & Solheim Cup) were also postponed and played a year later.
More closer to home, high school and local events faced minimal disruption. 
I was living in McDowell County at the time and saw a few events in volleyball and soccer postponed to later dates. Football, however was still on schedule as most football stadiums were large remembrance venues, with patriotism on full display. The local youth football league also did not face any postponements.
There were memorials worldwide, but there were no mass cancellations.

While not events that affected events nationally or abroad, winter weather events can be something to behold in North Carolina.
In early March of 1993, I as a 13 year old lad was an outfielder for my middle school – playing in the balmy 78 degree heat. I remember coming home to a ring around my neck, and no, that wasn’t from dirt. It was the sunburn. My arms also got a nice coating of pink. (I don’t tan, I burn….even today). 
Two weeks later, the great portion of Western North Carolina (ranging from the Georgia/South Carolina/Tennessee border counties to the I-77 corridor) was under a massive blanket of snow ranging from 15 to 48 inches, with a three-inch layer of ice underneath. At my parents’ home in southern McDowell County, we had a solid 19 inches. 
On that Saturday, a normal 15-minute drive to Marion for supplies turned into a six-hour trek due to the horrible road conditions. To a good portion, electricity was the biggest concern in addition to trying to reign in our patience. Power was restored a week later, just in time for the beginnings of March Madness.
Given the time of the event, high school sports faced minimal disruption as it occurred during the week of the state basketball championships, which were postponed a week. High school baseball, softball, and track & field also faced minimal time off as their seasons had not began.
In 2000, the Triangle faced one of it’s biggest winter weather emergencies as 20 inches of snow fell in 24 hours. As what we faced in the mountains seven years prior, the same effect was prevalent in Central North Carolina. Given it’s time frame in late January, basketball games, wrestling matches, and swim meets all faced uncertain futures with postponements. 
But it did produce one of the best diversions – the basketball game between Maryland and North Carolina. This was the game that could not be attended by the “Wine and Cheese” faithful (the alumni members of The Rams Club members) but instead by the students. After a thrilling win by the Tar Heels that saw the students storm the Smith Center floor, it unleashed a immense amount of controversy. For years, students tried every way possible to get more closer to the action – much to the dismay of Rams Club members who didn’t want to give up their seats.
In both cases, the snow melted, roads cleared, and events resumed.

If you look at all three of these circumstances, certain sects of sports faced a form of disruption. But never in the history of sports have we ever seen a total disconnect with the cancellation of tournaments, postponement of season play, and even to postpone the largest sporting event in the world, the Olympic Games – all at one time.
While the future is grave and completely uncertain, we are living in times that we might not see again. But as a sports fan, I’m hopeful that breakthroughs can be made to return athletes to play and the fans to the stands.

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