Long Beach has never seen anything like these sports closures

Last week, we recorded a podcast with Long Beach State athletic director Andy Fee. We had a question for him.

“To your knowledge, nothing like this has happened in the university’s history, right?”

Fee paused.

“Uh, ya think?”

He’s right. In the roughly 140 years that organized sports have taken place in Long Beach, there’s never been a shutdown like the one we’re experiencing, with college sports canceled through the summer and high school sports shut down until May 3, at least.

The state basketball championships set to be held in Sacramento on March 13-14 were canceled and will go down as the first canceled state championships since World War II caused the cancellation of the state track meet from 1942-45. In the 120 year history of organized high school sports in California, the only other state-wide cancelation was in 1919 due to the influenza outbreak.

Hope is not lost for high school athletes, coaches and fans who want to see some kind of a return to normalcy this school year, however. While most schools are going to be closed through the first weekend of May, the CIF State office declined to officially cancel the spring sports season.

“While the time may come when we have to cancel (spring) postseason events, today is not that day,” said CIF Executive Director Ron Nocetti in a release.

The CIF Executive Committee plans to convene an emergency session in early April to re-evalutate that position. At the moment, their hope is to put together a few weeks of league play when schools open in May, then dive immediately into the postseason for sports including baseball, softball, swimming and track and field.

Even though the state has previously had to cancel year-end championships, sports have literally never been shut down in Long Beach for this long a stretch. During World War II, the high schools kept playing baseball on the field at Recreation Park (where Blair Field is now). The only difference was some of the trees were cut down to clear the sightlines for anti-aircraft guns beyond the outfield fence.

In 1933, a major earthquake knocked down more than half the schools in Long Beach, but a few months later they were holding track meets at Burcham Field at Poly, running around the oval even as classes convened on the infield. Even going back to the influenza outbreak of 1918-19, the schools in Long Beach closed for a stretch, but sports played on, except for when opposing teams would occasionally forfeit a game due to illness.

No city in the world has produced the diversity of athletic talent that Long Beach has, from world class sailors to golfers to football players and sprinters. Great athletes want to go out and put their stamp on the world, they don’t want to sit at home and have the world put its stamp on them.

For the first time ever, though, that’s what’s happening in Long Beach, as world-class athletes and budding stars wait for word that they can get back to making the kind of history worth celebrating.

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Mike and JJ go together like mac and cheese: they’re best friends, business partners and Long Beach sports experts. They’ve been working together for over a decade covering Long Beach local sports and now run the562.org, a community-funded nonprofit media outlet.