I remember I was driving back from site visits at my newspapers in Alabama when I got the word from the unlikeliest of news sources — Paul Finebaum.

As I entered Georgia on I-20, Finebaum was relaying that a pro basketball player had tested positive for COVID-19 and that the NBA was going to be the first professional sports league to suspend its season because of the disease.

The Southeastern Conference basketball tournament was underway, but not for long. I can’t remember if they stopped the tournament mid-game or in between games, but Finebaum was reporting the SEC was following the NBA’s lead.

Not too long after that, the NCAA announced it was cancelling its basketball tournament, despite March Madness being the biggest money maker that bloated bureaucracy has — by a lot.

Golf, baseball and everyone else weren’t far behind.

Yes, I learned about COVID-19 and its initial impact from, of all places, the Paul Finebaum show.

The sports world was just the beginning of the world as we knew it stopping to spin on its axis, and it all took place this week last year.

I remember thinking to myself, thank the Good Lord this isn’t happening in the fall. I’m willing to give up college basketball and baseball if I have must, but I don’t even want to think about missing a college football season. Not watching the Tide roll is, frankly, not an option, so the powers that be better get this stuff figured out and figured out right quick.

I also remember thinking this will probably only be an issue for about a month. Since there aren’t any sports on right now, I guess I’ll watch that Tiger King show everyone is talking about. Maybe by the time I finish it we’ll be back to normal and we can get on with this.

I couldn’t have been more wrong, both with my choice of television viewing and the length of time this would take to get straightened out.

Here we are a year later, and we are still dealing with COVID and with no definitive end in sight, although it does feel like we have turned the corner in a way that during the heights of this ordeal I wondered if we ever would.

Little by little we are returning to normalcy. To continue the sports theme, a Major League Baseball team has already indicated it will allow fans at 100% capacity when the season gets underway in April. Alabama’s football program and others in the SEC intend to follow suit in the fall.

There are a lot of other ways we can show we are putting COVID-19 in our collective rearview mirror, but I can think of no better way than a packed Bryant-Denny Stadium this fall.

— Patrick Graham is the owner of The Times-Journal and a graduate of The University of Alabama.

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