MIKE BURKE

Allegany Communications Sports

The 60th Alhambra Catholic Invitational Tournament tips off today, 4 p.m., at Frostburg State University. The following column was posted on our site on Friday, March 13, 2020, the day after the 60th ACIT was postponed. For the first time … nearly 1,000,000 deaths ago – in the United States alone.

The gift of living

MARCH 13, 2020 — God forbid, but if anything would have happened … If even one person’s well-being had been compromised, 60 years of goodwill and love for those who need it the most could have gone out the window in the wink of a young girl’s eye.

Glory days, well they’ll pass you by

Glory days, in the wink of a young girl’s eye

Glory days, glory days, glory days …

Sure, they’ll actually play the games next year, but the legacy of the 60th Alhambra Catholic Invitational Tournament is complete. It is in the books and it will remain secure in our hearts forever in the same way everything they’ve ever done is in our hearts forever — they didn’t play.

And by not playing, Wamba Caravan No. 89 did more of what it has always done these past 60 years to enhance love, the spirit of giving and the quality of life — it made living and giving even stronger.

It’s horrible; it’s empty; it’s nothing to be happy about, all of these games and teams we love being gone. But it’s only for now, and that’s the beauty of foresight and care.

There are a great many who boldly proclaim, “This isn’t going to keep me from living my life,” and that’s as it should be. The key to that, however, is to first have the opportunity to live your life. For the only thing we truly know about this horrible virus right now is that we don’t know anything. We don’t know a darn thing.

So guess what? Our parents, and those we’ve always trusted and looked to, actually do know what they’re doing and what they’re talking about. For sometimes, by prohibiting us from temporarily basking and indulging in any or all of our great pleasures, they are enhancing and preserving our opportunities to do so even more.

Although we should make that to appreciate our great pleasures since indulgence might be why we find ourselves in this mess to begin with.

With those who still believe this is all just a hoax, I can only sympathize. Yet for argument’s sake, let’s hope and wish that in the end it will not be as severe as it is feared to be. Let us hope we can say one day soon, “You got me. Shame on me.” That would be wonderful. But let us first have the opportunity to cry “hoax!” and then live on.

I’m not going to lie. I put in a good deal of work for the 60th ACIT. That’s my job, and I’m very fortunate to have it. I had never before not wanted to go to an ACIT, as it has always been my favorite weekend of the year. But I surely did not want to go into that gym on Thursday night. That’s a fact.

ACIT chairman Joe Carter said Friday morning on The Morning Rush that four teams were settled at ACIT headquarters in the Ramada Inn on Wednesday night — DeMatha, Gonzaga, St. Frances and Cathedral of Canada. The two Virginia schools, Paul VI and St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes, were not permitted to spend the night here, but insisted they would be able to drive back and forth each night, because that is how much an invitation to the Alhambra Catholic Invitational Tournament means.

At 8 a.m. Thursday, St. Stephen’s/St. Agnes had to withdraw from the tournament, leaving seven teams, with one of them making a three-hour drive every day and night.

Then, at the ACIT committee breakfast, “Some committee members said they would not be able or willing to work,” Carter said. “And I got that.”

Carter then met with the coaches who were at the hotel, while at the same time being aware of a meeting taking place at Frostburg State University, where the tournament is played, about the feasibility and safety of continuing with the weekend.

“I told the coaches that for the safety of everyone, we probably should just shut it down; and they agreed. They didn’t like it, they didn’t want it, but they understood.

“The kids on the teams were upset, which upsets me, because they always want to play their final games here …”

Three of the teams went home by Thursday afternoon and Cathedral decided to spend the night before making its way back to Canada on Friday. On Thursday night, the ACIT treated the Gaels to dinner at Puccini Restaurant.

“This is what the ACIT is all about,” read the Cathedral Twitter post that was accompanied by a pair of photos of the Gaels enjoying dinner on Thursday evening. “Basketball may have been cancelled, but the hospitality shown by tournament committee and Puccini Restaurant for the boys before our trip home tomorrow morning was second to none! Thank you for everything during this challenging time!”

“As much as I hated it for the fans and all the workers,” Carter said on Friday morning, “I didn’t have a choice. And if we had gone on with it, after (Maryland Governor Larry Hogan’s sweeping state closures announcement Thursday afternoon) we would have had to stop the first game at 4:30.

“It was a decision I felt we had to make. It was a tough decision, but one we had to make, and I am confident we made the right call. We had no choice.”

As DeMatha head coach Mike Jones told The Morning Rush earlier in the week, the ACIT has and always will be a fixture on the DeMatha schedule. Coming here to finish their season is just a way of life for the Stags. And as Jones has been coming here for this weekend for over half of his life, he understands what the ACIT is, does, stands for and means as well as anybody does.

At the coaches meeting on Thursday morning, as the decision whether to play or not was being made, Carter said Jones told him, “We all want to play. But if we do, it’s not going to be what you’ve been doing for 60 years. It won’t be what this tournament is about. You’ll take a hit, and you’ll take a big hit.”

That teams are willing to make two three-hour drives each day to play in this tournament says all you need to know about what this weekend, and the good people who produce it, mean to so many people all over two countries.

That the head coach of one of the greatest high school basketball programs ever produced is more interested in not only preserving the integrity of this tournament, its mission and this weekend, but to make it even stronger and finer, tells you something that cannot be said about any other tournament in the world.

“I would like to bring most of the same teams back next year,” Carter said, “because it will still be the 60th …

The 60th Alhambra Catholic Invitational Tournament. To be continued …

Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected] and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT