Next week are the anniversaries of when so much changed. The World Health Organization officially named coronavirus a pandemic. Professional and college leagues ground to a halt; restrictions came into play that limited gatherings; many of us would spend out last week in the office for months - some still haven't returned. It even seems disingenuous to call them anniversaries. Certainly, anniversaries are for more than simply celebrations, but whatever they commemorate, they commemorate something. To acknowledge the anniversaries from mid-March 2020 is to commemorate nothing. It's Basher's pinch from Ocean's Eleven - a bomb without the boom, just a pulse that shuts everything down.
The 2020 ACC Women's Basketball Tournament was my last live event before the pinch. I spent the Thursday semifinals double-doubleheader at the Greensboro Coliseum for basketball and bracket bands. It was to have ben the first of three tournaments in as many weeks in Greensboro, as we were slated to host the ACC men and 1st and 2nd round NCAA Tournament action. Only the ACC Women's tournament would reach its conclusion,
The 2021 edition is now underway. Limited fans will be in attendance, made possible by a recent change to the state's pandemic restrictions that a moderate cynic could see as driven just as much by improving infection rates as impending tournament action. Though I won't be in the arena for any of the games, I set foot on Coliseum grounds for the first time in nearly a year for this picture and because heading that way in early March just feels right. But I'm also pretty sure it will be a markedly different tournament, and relevant to my interests, played without pep bands present. The ACC will crown its conference champion this week and that squad and likely a handful of others will head to Texas for the first NCAA basketball tournament in two years. Normal - whatever that even means anymore - may still be a ways off, but brackets are back.