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The coronavirus is causing cancellations so there just isn't much to write about

CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Lon AustinAmidst concerns about the COVID-19 virus, the world we have known for years and years has suddenly changed.

Sports are generally immune from economic downturns, but in the current health emergency, that is no longer the case. The past couple of weeks, there have been major changes in the world of sports.

Those changes have impacted things in a big way. Things appeared normal until Wednesday, March 11, when the NBA suddenly announced that Utah Jazz post Rudy Gobert had tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, and the league had suspended two games that night.

By the end of the evening, the NBA had postponed the remainder of the season.

Later that night, the OSAA announced that it would continue the OSAA State Basketball Playoffs, but without spectators. By lunch Thursday, the remainder of the OSAA tournament had been canceled, and most major professional sports, taking their cue from the NBA, had suspended their season.

The OSAA has sponsored state athletic competition since 1919, and this is the first time the group has ever taken such drastic steps.

The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association followed suit, postponing or canceling a host of upcoming events. The PRCA still has events on the schedule, but none until at least late April.

By the end of the week, the last holdout, NASCAR, had followed suit and suspended its season for at least two weeks.

Many, if not most colleges in the United States, have now closed, and spring athletics programs are either suspended or canceled.

Like universities, most high schools throughout the country are also closed, and high school athletics, at least in Oregon, are suspended until April 28 at the earliest.

Sunday, the International Olympic Committee held an emergency meeting. It decided to wait a month before making a definitive decision about the Olympics.

The recent events create a real challenge for sports reporters and editors.

As of right now, there are only two sports that are still operating with some semblance of normalcy.

The UFC is still intending to hold fights, but without spectators. As of right now, it is still searching for sites at which to hold events.

The other sport still functioning is horse racing. Yes, several major races have been postponed, or possibly canceled, but horse racing is still continuing around the country, like UFC, without spectators.

That means that not only are there no athletic events to cover, there isn't even a good way to get that athletic fix on television.

Sunday afternoon, the national sports channels had such exciting coverage as the 2011 Stanley Cup, the 2017 World Baseball Classic game between the USA and Dominican Republic, ATP encore, The National Dog Show, the Classic Tetris World Championships from 2018, and other exciting "sports" activities.

The highlight of my sports viewing for the day was NASCAR iRacing. That's right. Real NASCAR drivers, plus retired drivers, plus drivers from the lesser NASCAR series, racing at Homestead International Raceway in Florida. Only each driver was in their garage or video game room.

The announcers were the same as for real races, but they were also on remote connections from home.

Some of the drivers had elaborate setups that looked as much like the cockpit of a car as possible. Others had much less elaborate setups.

The race looked more or less like a real race, except if a car sat motionless on the track for more than two or three seconds, the car would literally disappear.

The race was just 150 miles when the actual Homestead race is 400 miles.

There was also one other major difference.

If a driver was in a wreck, they could enter the pits and hit a reset button. Well, that is, they could do that for the first two wrecks they were in. After that, they just had to drive a damaged car.

To get a reset, all you had to do was get your car to your pit stall and stop, then hit the reset button. The computer simulation would then hold the car to make sure that on the restart, you were in the back, and the car was good to go.

Unfortunately, several of the top virtual racers were in more than two wrecks and ended up in the back of the pack.

Some well-known drivers did well, while other drivers that most of you have never heard of are considered the best virtual racers.

For example, Ty Majeski is considered the best of the e-racers with 900 wins in 1,200 races entering Sunday's televised event.

He finished midpack.

Anyway, with 10 laps to go Garrett Smithly led Timmy Hill, with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Chase Briscoe trying to run them down.

Earnhardt, who is retired, passed Hill for the lead with two laps to go, but was passed on the final corner by Denny Hamlin for the victory.

Yeah, I know, it's a really slow sports day when writers are talking about virtual sports. However, if you are reading this, what does that say about you?

The reality is there just aren't sports events to cover, leaving virtually nothing to write about.

To make matters worse, last Tuesday night, I came down with a sore throat and a cough. With concerns about the coronavirus at the forefront, Pamplin Media, which owns the Central Oregonian, has made it clear that no one with any kind of symptoms is to come to work.

So for the past week, I have been working from home.

No, I don't feel bad, I just have a cough. In any case, once I don't have any symptoms, I will begin doing recreational activities and writing columns about the experience.

The idea is to explore things to do in Central Oregon that can be done on an easy day trip.

The columns will include how to get there, information about the activity and what my experience is like.

I had intended to start already, but with a cough, it probably isn't a good idea to be going out.

That will include fishing, hiking, rafting, spelunking, etc., anything that can be done while still engaging in social distancing.

That is, provided our governor doesn't issue a shelter in place order like California, New York, Louisiana, Ohio, Connecticut, Illinois, New Jersey, as well as several major cities.

If that happens, I have no idea what I am going to do.

Frankly, I am virtually out of stories to work on. I still have one story that I am working on. Other than that, I am out of ideas.

When I announced in February that June 4 would be my last day at the Central Oregonian, this is not how I expected things to end. I was expecting a vibrant and successful spring sports season with plenty of things to write about and photograph. Instead, right now there's nothing.

So, if you have any ideas for current, local sports stories, please let me know.

You can email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or feel free to call my cell phone at 541-771-9834.

Please don't come into the office because you won't be able to get in. There are still people in the office, but in the interest of public health, all business is currently being conducted by phone or email.

It's crazy times we're living in, so stay well, and stay sane.

Lon Austin is the sports editor for the Central Oregonian. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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