Discover more from Fieldhouse Files with Scott Agness
Two Years Later: Back in the same spot when the Covid-19 pandemic became real
I bet you haven't forgotten where you were. I sure haven't.
The name is new. The video board is new. Most seats have been replaced and the lower level is very different. Seating arrangements have been updated, some masks are present but the games are the same.
Back inside The Fieldhouse on Friday — formerly Bankers Life, now Gainbridge — I quickly recognized the importance of the day and the difference two years makes.
It was two years ago when I sat in my row 3 seats behind the Indiana University bench at the Big Ten Tournament. They were playing Nebraska in the opening round of the 2019 Big Ten Tournament. Before arriving, I met friends at nearby Kilroy’s downtown. IU cheerleaders and the pep band came through, playing the fight song while trying to get the rowdiness started before the primetime game.
IU handled Nebraska by 25 points, but the the result was meaningless. Archie Miller was still the head coach. They hurried the team out of the locker room and to the buses back to the J.W. Marriott. Nebraska, meanwhile, was in their locker room area for a while.
I vividly remember watching Fred Hoiberg, the former Pacers guard, coaching Nebraska and looking ill. Some coughing, head in his hands while sitting down. At one point, he went back through the tunnel towards the locker rooms. We knew very little about Covid-19 then, but you couldn’t help but wonder.
Is this it? Did he have it?
He did not, we later found out. But considering the concern, he probably should not have been coaching.
Here was my viewpoint for the game.
I remember getting an alert from my phone, a brief but jarring announcement from the NBA. I tweeted it, then alerted an usher in my section who I know well. Both of our livelihoods were affected as games were off in the interim.
We didn’t know what it meant or the substantial impact that it would have on our lives. The Indiana-Nebraska game played out, then the tournament planned to continue the next morning without fans. With teams in their layup lines minutes before Day 3 of the tournament, it was cancelled.
That was the next domino to fall. One tournament after another.
Then Zoom became an everyday term, locker rooms were closed off and I found myself taking daily walks just to get out.
Last year’s tournament was held without fans. The entire men’s NCAA Tournament was in Indianapolis as teams entered a “bubble.”
This past season started up with enforcement of masks, vaccine requirements, then a booster.
But we got back to this moment, The Fieldhouse filled to capacity and limited masks in sight.
Two years, 730 days. We made it. And let’s hope the worst is behind us.