I really have no idea where to begin. And I have no idea where this column will end up.
In my nearly 45 years on this planet, I haven’t been through a period that has been as surreal as the last 36 hours have been. None of us have. Sure, like anyone around my age, 9/11 is the most memorable, tragic, and shocking day of my life, but what we are dealing with now is unlike anything we have seen, for wholly different reasons.
For today’s submissions, I originally drafted a lighthearted, tongue-in-cheek column about ways to improve the practice of law, but as things started drastically to change on Wednesday morning, and cancelations began to pile up, I didn’t think it right to be lighthearted right now. Some of you know that I moonlight as a college basketball writer, and is usually the case when there is a big event in Nashville, I was credentialed to cover the SEC Tournament as a media member (I’ve been doing this for nine years, and I still laugh at the idea that I get to sit courtside at major college basketball events and go to press conferences to ask legendary coaches questions about decisions they made during a game, but I digress), meaning, after Wednesday’s decision to exclude fans from the event, that I would be one of a couple hundred people who would actually be inside Bridgestone Arena. Sharing that experience here made too much sense, and that was the plan. I was looking forward to what it would be like to watch major college basketball like it’s being played at the local YMCA.
And then, of course, the plan changed, or rather it got changed. So did the entire landscape of the sports world. I write this column three minutes after getting a tip that the Masters might move to October. That text came five minutes after I read a tweet indicating that the PGA Tour was pulling the plug, mid-tournament, on its biggest championship (The Players), and was canceling its four subsequent events. Oddly, the strange thing about that news is that it came so late in the process. It had been a whole 24 hours since the NBA decided to cease operations, at least temporarily, after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19. Thursday also brought news of the cancelation of the rest of the college basketball season, including the NCAA Tournament, which is the greatest sporting event on the calendar.
Whether these decisions, which would have seemed preposterous three or four days ago, but which now seem understandable, are the rights ones, remains to be seen. I tend to think there has been a bit of an overreaction, especially as it relates to canceling sporting events that are several months away, but I’m not a doctor, and I really have no idea. Hopefully, we’ll determine later that we did overreact because the pandemic we are facing will have turned out to be less devastating than it could have been. In any event, I fully understand the decisions that were made.
Regardless, I feel sorry for the college athletes who have worked their butts off getting ready either for the NCAA Tournament or their gymnastics or baseball or softball season. A friend who serves as an assistant tennis coach in the SEC shared that the emotional effect on her players has been dramatic. And then there are the fans of schools like Dayton and San Diego State, which have both had seasons unlike any they have ever had or likely will have in the future. Their chance to make a Final Four run or win a national championship vanished in the blink of an eye.
On the other hand, we are dealing with a literal matter of life and death, and even if the decision to pull the plug on all these events is an overreaction, no one could argue that it’s not the safest approach to take.
Not surprisingly, I’ve spent an inordinate time looking at this entire situation through the lens of sports. That’s appropriate, I suppose, since I spend way too much of my life focusing on sports. Perhaps the break from the games that is being forced upon us over at least the next month will be good for me. Maybe I’ll read a book or two. Or bill a few more hours (that’s probably not realistic). What I will do in the short term is consider how other, important aspects of our lives will be impacted. By the time I submit this piece to our editors, I assume some other aspect of our lives will have been affected.
I know that the firm’s leadership is working tirelessly on developing a plan for dealing with the fallout from the Corona Virus. Likewise, the IT staff has certainly had to work overtime to make sure that we are set up to work remotely, should that become a necessity on a larger scale than we are used to. I’m lucky enough to have children who are old enough to be self-sufficient and don’t need to be watched every moment, so if I need to spend an extended time away from the office, I’ll be fine. Many are not so lucky. For those of you with young children who may not have a school or day care to go to, sitting down to bill away will be a challenge. From my conversations with those who are in that position, I know the next several weeks (months?) will be a challenge.
I also suspect the courts are carefully figuring out what to do as well, and who knows what kind of edicts will be issued over the coming days about hearings, trials, scheduling orders, etc. (For the record, I would be fine if all deadlines and orders are vacated.) It’s hard to imagine that regular motion days will be the norm soon. (As I was typing this, I received a text from a colleague advising that the state of Kentucky has canceled all hearings and trials until April 10. News always moves fast these days, but what we’ve seen this week has been unlike anything we’ve witnessed in the past.)
David Changas is a shareholder in the firm’s Nashville office.