St. John’s was defeating Creighton at halftime in the quarterfinals of the Big East Tournament last Thursday when an announcement was made that the tournament had been canceled immediately.
“New York, New York” played as the stunned crowd began to walk out.
“I understood but I wasn’t thrilled,” said Mark Montalbano, a St. John’s alum who was at the game. “Once they let them play the first half, let them finish the game.”
As fears over the coronavirus increased during the week, the NCAA announced there would be no fans for games but that they were still scheduled.
Last Wednesday’s night games went on as planned with fans. The next morning, each conference began announcing there would be no conference tournament. The Big East didn’t announce it immediately though, and St. John’s tipped off at noon, right around the time the other tournaments were canceled.
There was only a handful of tickets for the game and Montalbano found out just that morning that his friend had an extra one. But excitement about the game shifted as fans began to relay texts to each other about a possible cancellation.
The first half was competitive — but it was the only one.
“None of us knew for sure and then gradually we all started getting texts saying they called the second half of the game,” Montalbano said.
Some fans were concerned the game was called because something was happening outside but it was simply a precautionary measure repeated across the sports world. Other fans began chanting “St. John’s, Big East tournament champions. We won.”
Fans began to file out of the Garden.
“The whole thing was surreal,” Montalbano said. “I was in a bit of a daze.”
Later, the announcement came that there would be no NCAA Tournament: March Sadness instead of March Madness.
Montalbano has a way to pass the time: The actor told his fellow Red Storm fans he would send them links to short films he’s in.
There will be plenty of time to watch them. The NBA and NHL suspended their seasons. The baseball season is being pushed back for at least two weeks.
March 26 was going to be Opening Day at Citi Field with the Mets hosting the world champion Washington Nationals.
Forest Hills native Nick Hirshon had tickets for Opening Day and said the league’s decision was “disappointing but not completely unexpected.”
He said there’s still plenty to watch and read but that it’s an example of how life is changing rapidly.
“It’s something so many people look forward to,” he said about Opening Day. “Especially around this time of year. There’s so much hope, this could be the year, they acquired new players, guys are going to bounce back. There’s a lot of expectations with the Mets this year so to see that paused is surreal.”
Stadium security league-wide became a lot tighter after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Hirshon wonders if there will be a lot of hand sanitizer stations around stadiums and longer lines at bathrooms with people running to wash their hands more often.
“Will that create more chaos in the ballpark?” he said. “Who knows what the effects are going to be?”