But Tuesday felt different. Good news carried the day, at least on the sports front, both locally and nationally.
For starters, Chattanooga was chosen to host the next two Blue Cross Bowls, which is the official corporate name for the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association’s nine state football championships by division.
For both the upcoming 2021 season and the 2022 season after that, all those title games will be played at Finley Stadium, with its 20,412 seats, luxury boxes and short walk to all those restaurants, bars and shops that now call the Southside home.
No offense to Cookeville, which has hosted those championships the past 12 years, but Tennessee Tech’s Tucker Stadium probably began showing its age during the first Bush Administration and has only gotten worse over time, to the point that its water drainage isues, scarcity of chair-back seats and luxury boxes and overall age had begun to make for far less than an ideal experience for those competing for a state championship.
So even if Cookeville’s bid was a fistful of dollars higher than the $250,000 one placed by Chattanooga, the overall package easily won the day.
Now the trick is to keep it for awhile by making each new year a fresher, more fan-friendly experience than the one before it. The biggest criticism I often heard from NCAA officials when the FCS title game was moved from Finley to Frisco, Texas, was that they believed our hospitality packages for the competing teams — team dinners, sightseeing excursions for the players, etc. — had gotten stale and predictable.
One suspects that the Chattanooga Convention and Visitors Bureau’s Tim Morgan will correct that issue where the Blue Cross Bowl is concerned, which should make getting here more exciting for competing teams than merely playing a game at Finley.
Perhaps because of that, expect the annual economic impact that Cookeville and Putnam County estimated they made from the game in visitor spending — somewhere between $2.5 and $ 3 million — to come in somewhere north of $4 million, if not more, in the Scenic City. There are just a lot more places to spend money and entertain out-of-towners.
However, the good news didn’t end with obtaining the Blue Cross Bowl for those in this area who also love March Madness. There were a couple of other bits of positive news, beginning with the fact that all of the 68 teams named on Selection Sunday to compete for the Division I Men’s Championship will apparently reach Indianapolis this weekend. Anyone not being able to meet COVID-19 protocols was supposed to withdraw from the field by 6 p.m. Tuesday. As of 8:15 Tuesday evening, none had, further proof of how determined those 850 or so student-athletes, their coaches and support staffs are to do everything possible to play.
One negative: According to an ESPN story, six referees expected to work games were sent home, foremost among them the demonstrative Ted Valentine and John “Rooferee” Higgins, who have worked numerous Final Fours throughout their careers.
Never fan favorites, neither is likely to be missed by competing coaches, players or fan bases, but it might take away an easy excuse for a team or fanbase to explain away a loss.
But perhaps no Tuesday news item was as heartwarming as the return of Sister Jean to March Madness.
Tennessee fans may not so fondly remember Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt, the then 98-year-old Loyola-Chicago chaplain who watched over the Ramblers’ dismissal of the Vols in the 2018 NCAA Tournament’s round of 32. But the rest of the sporting world adored her.
Now 101, she’s back to deliver her pregame prayers (virtually, of course), or at least the Friday prayer at Indianapolis’s historic Hinkle Fieldhouse prior to Loyola’s game against Georgia Tech.
During a video conference with reporters earlier this week, she said of her continued support of the Ramblers: “These young people keep me young. Even though I’m 101, I consider myself young at heart.”
She also told the media as she recalled Loyola’s inspirational run to that year’s Final Four, a run that led to a bobblehead of her not only selling more than 5,000 copies, but also having the original run go for as much as $300 a piece on the eBay: “In 2018, Loyola got on the map and everybody was happy. I got letters from Germany and France, different kinds of people, saying, ‘You brought great joy to our country.’ Now we need something to make us happy even more than we did in 2018.”
Tuesday provided one of those days to make us happy in more ways than one. Now if we can just have those kinds of days more often in the weeks and months to come.
Contact Mark Wiedmer at firstname.lastname@example.org.