WASHINGTON — Yeshiva University advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Division III tournament, but not before host Johns Hopkins and a Pikesville hotel "quarantined" the Maccabees.
The Yeshiva University men's basketball team from New York showed up late last week to check-in at their hotel for the opening round of the men's Division III basketball tournament, only to find the Doubletree Hilton in Pikesville, Maryland, had canceled their reservations. According to the team's head coach, Elliot Steinmetz, he was told by hotel management that because one Yeshiva student tested positive for coronavirus, a student who had no contact with anyone from the basketball team, that the Maccabees were no longer welcome.
"I couldn't believe it," Mike Sweetney told me last Thursday night when I spoke to the former Georgetown All-American and NBA first-round pick Thursday night by phone. He's now a Yeshiva assistant coach, and he hasn't seen anything like this. "You win 27 straight games and get all excited for this opportunity, and all of a sudden people with no information are telling you to get back, stay away."
According to Sweetney, the coaches and players found a more-accommodating hotel in downtown Baltimore, only to awake the next morning to find out that Johns Hopkins University, the tournament's host, had barred all fans from entering the arena for the weekend.
So it was that Yeshiva put the nation's longest winning streak in the nation on the line against Worcester Polytechnic Institute Friday afternoon in Baltimore — before not a single person watching beyond the two benches and the officiating and scoreboard crews.
Johns Hopkins cited guidance from the CDC to o explain the university’s decision, which came shortly after Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency Thursday and said the state’s public health agency confirmed three cases of COVID-19 in Montgomery County.
Either way, the signs of a barren American sports landscape are here, people. Mark the date: March 6, 2020, the day they told the fans to stay away from an NCAA-sanctioned event.
What's next? State high school championships? The Division I men's and women's tournaments? The Tokyo Olympics?
Fear, it seems, won out over Logic this entire weekend in Baltimore. Fear of the coronavirus, in fact, is suddenly more unbeatable than common sense.
We keep saying, "better safe than sorry," that without a vaccine for a global pandemic in our midst every possible precaution must be taken to avoid spreading the virus and infecting others.
And to everyone who sincerely believes that, I'd say, fine. But then I'd ask: Who has a larger chance of a Yeshiva player carrying the coronavirus and infecting another player than the kids on the floor for Worcester Polytechnic Institute? So, we're frightened for the spectators but not the players — the people the NCAA and Johns Hopkins is supposed to protect before anyone?
The good news for Yeshiva, a J? The Maccabees beat Worcester Polytechnic and Penn State-Harrisburg, incredibly winning their 28th and 29th straight games this season (longest in the nation) and advancing to the round of 16 in the Division III tournament.
Some are concerned for very real reasons and some of us for imaginary ones that make no sense, that spread so much more panic than perspective.
Here's hoping the games that need to be canceled are and the games that are deemed safe enough to go on are played. Mostly, here's hoping we can glean more facts before grabbing blindly for more fear.