Richard Tripp remembers where he was when the pandemic finally reached the New Mexico border.
A long-time coach, athletic director and respected play-by-play broadcaster for ProView Networks, he was at the broadcast booth at the Santa Ana Star Center on the night of March 11, 2020. Las Vegas, NM, man continuously, he was so excited to watch the game intra-city Las Vegas-Robertson that night in the Class 3A state quarter-finals at Rio Rancho.
“I thought like the rest of us, I was staring at my phone watching things start falling apart across the country,” he said. “I remember sitting there thinking,” Is this really happening? ” ‘
The Top Ten just announced it would not allow fans for the remainder of its tournament, the Oklahoma City-Utah NBA game had been canceled without warning and, less than an hour before the Dons-Cardinals game, the NBA had suspended its season.
Twenty-five miles to the south, New Mexico Activities Association Executive Director Sally Marquez has been making frantic phone calls throughout the day, talking to state health officials and conferring with her staff. Hiding in The Pit for the pinnacle of the state basketball tournament – widely billed as New Mexico’s premier amateur sporting event for many years – Marquez made the surprise announcement that the remaining three days of the week-long event would be played without fans or the media present.
“I’m sitting at The Pit just hoping we can all see Demons-Capital in the semifinals,” said Santa Fe Public School athletics director Larry Chavez. “When all the news started coming out, everyone started talking about it. We all look at our phones, ask questions. In just a few hours I went from wondering about the all-city game to worrying about what would happen to everyone at The Pit. “
The unbelievable timing got worse in the following days. The March 12 match went ahead as scheduled at The Pit but neither fans nor the media were allowed. Media were granted limited access on March 13, but the final day of the tournament – arguably one of the most energetic sports days that New Mexico celebrates every year – was held in shocking silence as the championship matches for the seven classifications were held in an empty arena with 15,411 seats. became known for its fan-friendly decibel levels.
The last sporting event to take place in New Mexico in 2020 is the Capital-Cleveland game in the Class 5A championship on the night of March 14. It started at 8pm. When the bell rings and the players leave the arena approximately two hours later, the local sport as we know it has stalled.
Within days, the NMAA officially suspended a number of spring sporting events.
Before the end of the month, the remainder of the high school calendar is officially canceled, as is youth sports. The state is entering the ice age of unscheduled sports.
When asked about it recently, Marquez said the most difficult thing was not knowing what the world was facing. Even worse, there was no answer.
“There are so many things that are not known, so many things that people want answers that I cannot give,” said Marquez.
The NMAA ended up losing an estimated $ 600,000 for locking up fans in basketball tournaments and canceling spring sports. It flows through the fall with some delays hovering over the holidays to February.
Almost as sudden as it began, the re-emergence of preparatory sports was abrupt and, at times, difficult to manage.
Schools are allowed to train in February and start competing in early March.
By the end of the week, full progress for most schools.
That includes a number of schools hardest hit, such as the Santa Fe Indian School, Desert Academy and Capital. SFIS will continue to do distance learning for the remainder of the school year, by having its athletes compete for the public school closest to their home address. Desert Academy closed its doors for good last fall, and Capital, well, it has been a socioeconomic hit.
After leading his team to victory in Saturday’s often-postponed season opener, Jaguar football coach Bill Moon said his roster was thinner than before the pandemic.
“We are dealing with children who have no choice but to quit and get a job, children who have problems at home which make life more important than being on the ground,” he said.
When Tripp looked back, he was still having a hard time thinking about the early hours of the pandemic. When she reported to Star Center on the morning of March 12, she was greeted at the entrance to the arena by a Rio Rancho police officer who escorted her to the broadcast booth and told her to stay there until her shift was over.
“And in the end, I had security come in and pick me up, walk me back to the front door and let me out,” said Tripp, recalling his first glance at the face masks that are now part of everyday wardrobes.
“There was this man standing near one of the tunnels that led to the field and he was wearing a mask over his face. I remember thinking how strange it was. Here we are a year later and now it is just as strange to think of someone not wearing a mask. “