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In an Age of Mythical Champions, COVID-19 is not a myth

By John Burbridge
sports@charlescitypress.com
There are teams of destiny. The Milwaukee Bucks aren’t one of them.

Nearly a half-century has passed the Bucks since they claimed their lone NBA title while being led by the great Lew Alcindor. (Lew Who? You say?)

You can argue that hence the Bucks were never in the right place at the right time … or maybe just mired in the wrong time.

The Don Nelson-coached Bucks of the early to mid-late 1980s woulda, coulda been NBA Finalists in the late 90s and into the new millennium if somehow teleported to the right time. They surely would have been better Eastern Conference entries than the New Jersey Nets.

The Bucks back then were graced with some special players, like Sidney Moncrief. Elected to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2019 more than a quarter century after his retirement, Moncrief should have been enshrined while he was still playing considering that Michael Jordan idolized him and even had a poster of Moncrief displayed in his college dorm room.

Moncrief’s teammate, Terry Cummings, woulda, coulda, shoulda been a hall-of-famer himself. A reliable low-post double-double man, Cummings was diagnosed with a heart ailment mid-career curtailing his potential greatness as well as that of his team.

Also curtailing the team’s greatness were the great Boston Celtic and Philadelphia 76er teams of that era who were burly playoff bouncers.

Now with resident reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, the long wait for the Milwaukee Bucks’ second title appeared to be winding down. Last season, the Bucks had the best record in the league, but that didn’t mean a thing without the ring as eventual champions, the Toronto Raptors, stopped them in the conference finals in six games.

This season, the Bucks again boasted — or are boasting — the NBA’s best record with an outside chance of being the third team to attain 70 regular-season wins.

Alas, the Bucks will likely fall short of 60 and may be forced to wait longer for that belated second title with the NBA suspending the season and possibly canceling it due to the coronavirus and the COVID-19 disease outbreak.

I’d be more sympathetic to Milwaukee Bucks fans if I didn’t know that many of them are also Green Bay Packers fans. To note, Bucks and their supporters could find solace with the 1994 Montreal Expos, who had the best record in baseball and the league’s best pitching staff before a players’ strike shut the season down for good, nixing their best chance for a World Series title.

The franchise moved to Washington D.C. in 2005 where — as “The Nationals” — won the WS last fall. But that’s no comfort for French-Canadian baseball fans who likely rather stake claim to the vacant MLB title in the the same vein fans of the 1981 Cincinnati Reds argue that the best team in baseball was criminally robbed of postseason play after the Reds’ National League-leading overall record just so happened not to land them in first place in either half of a work stoppage-imposed split-season.

Woulda, coulda, shoulda. That’s the way many sport fans are going to look back at this surreal juncture in history. Just wait, you’ll hear if not already Iowa men’s basketball fans lamenting that 2020 “woulda” been the Hawkeyes’ year to reach the Final Four.

Hawkeye wrestling fans should lament even more.

Before the suspensions and cancellations en masse of professional and college sport seasons, posted and aired claims that foreboding concerns over the coronavirus and the COVID-19 disease merely being the result of “Fake News” hysteria and “Deep State” political sabotage were finally starting to wear thin on credence.

But when the sports world ground to an unprecedented halt, the “nothing-to-panic-about” peanut gallery returned with a vengeance to calm — or rather crush — anxieties while at the same time drumming up greater outrage for the over-reaction. Even the conspiracy theories reached new levels of fantasy — i.e. “Those damned Dukies started this exodus!”

And again tutorials about the death-toll discrepancy of COVID-19 (nearly 6,000 worldwide going into this week) compared to that of the flu (300,000 to 650,000 a year on average) were rolled out to remind us that this is much ado about nothing — or nothing to lobotomize the Madness out of March for.

One enlightened tweeter posting similar “keeping-things-in-perspective” statistics capped off with THINK ABOUT IT!

Hate to counter Chicken Little-like, but the disease is at least 10 times more deadly than the flu by conservative estimates, spreading rapidly in places where there is a dearth of detection testing … like the United States, and we’re still likely at least a year away from developing an effective vaccine.

THINK ABOUT THAT!

The collective decision to cancel or suspend sport seasons and events was a prudent one, and considering the fury it undoubtedly was going to provoke, a courageous one as well.

If someday we look back at this and regard most of these measures as grossly unnecessary, we should consider ourselves lucky being spared of what may have been on the other side of the spectrum.

With the 24/7 news cycle matrix jamming political hijinks and world ills and fears down our throats more than ever these days, sports have always remained a go-to sanctuary to get away from it all. Now that sanctuary is being uprooted.

Anger and frustration are natural responses, but they shouldn’t corrupt and discourage rational thought and actions.

So, in accordance with what we can only hope is a temporary new normal, maybe we should cut Milwaukee Bucks fans some slack if they anoint their team the 2019-2020 NBA champs if deprived the chance for legitimacy.

Or at least afford them the same respect given to Los Angeles Dodgers fans who glorify “Dem Bums” as the real 2018 World Series champions in lieu of the sign-stealing Houston Astros, or Big Easy football fans who believe a pass interference non-call was the deciding factor in keeping the New Orleans Saints from advancing to and winning Super Bowl LIII (53) where they woulda, shoulda been favored over the Patriots.

We are living in an Age of — among other labels more bizarre — Mythical Champions. It’s just that the stubborn myth of the grave coronavirus/COVID-19 consequences being nothing more than a myth itself should be thoroughly debunked.

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