As the 303 Amtrak arrived at Gateway Station in St. Louis on March 5, No. 8 Drake and No. 9 Illinois State were set to begin Arch Madness in just two hours. Fifty or so media types were getting ready for the action. As a first-timer in this group, a smile was etched on my face.

I stood from my courtside seat and walked around the arena with 30 minutes before tip-off. I soaked in the Enterprise Center experience. My life without sports is unimaginable.

Now, equally unimaginable is the fact that the 75-65 ISU loss to Drake last week in St. Louis was the last sports event I will cover for the remainder of my junior year at The Vidette.

With a heavy heart, it feels as if a loved one has passed. The next several weeks or months without sports will be difficult. Pulling up reruns from the past just cannot begin to fill the void of losing something as cherished as sports. The spontaneity. The electricity. The unpredictability of the story lines on the field, court and ice. It will all be deeply missed.

While Illinois State’s men’s basketball season is in the books, the baseball, softball and track seasons were just beginning to unfold. And the women’s basketball team optimistically prepped for its date  -- perhaps with destiny -- at the MVC Hoops in the Heartland tournament in Moline this weekend. Now, poof, all these events have vanished.

Professional sports have all called for a suspension of play due to coronavirus. After NBA player Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz tested positive for coronavirus, the pro leagues have taken the precautionary trail rather than risk the health of players, staff, media and fans.

The dangerous virus that has made its way across the world, has ripped a huge hole in the heart of the sports world.

All 32 college conferences have suspended their men's basketball conference tournaments and followed the NCAA’s ruling of canceling winter and spring sports championships. All wishing to be safe.

A month like March that many of us, including non-sports fans, looking forward to the madness, has now turned into “March Sadness”. Sixty-eight teams annually enter the fray of the most entertaining tournament we know. Today, zero will step into the arena. No shining moment.

The intoxicating uncertainty that March Madness creates with its upsets and surprises, now gives way to a feeling of uncertainty and emptiness.

With my eyes glued to my phone, TV or laptop, each new notification seems to bring new dread. The next few months may be unlike any other. In an unfamiliar world without sports, perhaps I will discover something to care about in the same way I became passionate about sports -- in the same way I gazed about the Enterprise Center with such wonder and anticipation. But with today’s arenas empty, I’m feeling more scared than optimistic.

JAKE FOGAL is a Sports Editor for The Vidette. He can be contacted at vidette_jpfogal@ilstu.edu Follow him on Twitter at @jfogal5

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