Sports fans in the Beaver State likely experienced a roller coaster ride of emotions last Tuesday.
Damian Lillard continued his torrid run in the NBA bubble for the Portland Trail Blazers, dropping 61 points as Rip City inched closer to the playoffs with another tight win.
(Really, is there any doubt Dame belongs on Mount Blazemore? The only question is whether he surpasses Clyde Drexler or perhaps Bill Walton for the title of greatest Blazer ever.)
That same night, the plucky Portland Timbers won the MLS Is Back Tournament. As a sign of the times, instead of commemorative T-shirts or perhaps baseball caps, the soccer team donned championship face masks post game.
The tourney had a bit of an eerie tone, as there was none of the crowd noise and such that we’re accustomed to at professional soccer matches. Still, RCTID, even if there are no fans chanting in the stands.
The sports lowlight of the day was abysmal for Oregonians, and especially for mid-Willamette Valley residents.
The Pacific-12 Conference announced on Aug. 11 that all fall sports for its member schools would be postponed. There will be no football, soccer, volleyball, cross-country or other sports competitions for Oregon State University until at least January.
The decision was predictable and, according to medical professionals, necessary. The safety and lifelong health of the players took top priority. There was a distinct possibility that a few players would have devastating medical complications or perhaps even die if the conference continued with its athletics schedule as originally planned.
Regardless what some pundits might say, this isn’t Omaha Beach on D-Day and there aren’t acceptable losses of this nature.
The Pac-12 is also shielding itself from liability, of course, and those questions of whether a school will be responsible for student-athlete cases of COVID-19 will play out in the Southeastern Conference and elsewhere.
Unlike some professional sports such as the National Basketball Association and Major League Soccer — both of which isolated their teams at the Walt Disney World complex in Orlando — student athletes at major colleges can’t easily be isolated from the general populace and regularly tested for COVID-19. That simply isn’t practical or economical. There’s no way to put all of these young men and women in a bubble on campus, where they live in the same dorms as other students and attend the same classes as other students.
The Pac-12 made the right call, but no one in their right mind was rooting for this. It’s a bitter pill to swallow, and not just because Beaver Believers won’t be able to follow their favorite sports teams.
Yes, one of the charms of living in Corvallis or Albany or the rest of the mid-Willamette Valley is the presence of what amounts to a major league sports franchise. While it’s true that the skill of the student athletes at Oregon State won’t match the professional leagues, the entertainment value is top-notch. And with most sports, the price tag, especially for season ticket holders, is relatively affordable compared to visiting a pro arena.
The mid-Willamette Valley, to be sure, lost one of its major entertainment options for residents — and, just as importantly, for visitors.
For those not aware, the top five or so tourism events in Linn and Benton counties, every year, are every Beaver home football game. Basketball, gymnastics, baseball and other sports also draw numerous visitors to Corvallis, Albany and even Lebanon. Those people eat at restaurants, fill up their vehicles at gas stations, stay in hotels, shop in grocery stores and more. Tourists from some states even — gasp — buy weed from local dispensaries, since that product is fully legal in Oregon. But we digress.
Oregon State University sports boost the local economy in massive ways that spread far beyond campus. There’s no doubt the Pac-12’s decision will cost communities millions of dollars and result in job losses.
The local economy, already hammered by the novel coronavirus pandemic, is about to get a lot worse.
So if you haven’t already, consider adopting a local restaurant, store or shop and regularly supporting them with purchases and orders. They’re going to need your help more than ever.
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