Bortle: The Mullins Center is a reminder of our collective responsibility

UMass hockey averaged over 4,500 fans per game

Collegian+File+Photo

Collegian File Photo

By Noah Bortle, Sports Editor

When the Massachusetts hockey team took to the ice on Jan. 30, it was greeted by a Mullins Center packed with 7,336 roaring fans. Decked out in all white, the fans filled the maroon seats, eager for a top-10 Hockey East matchup.

On Aug. 17, the Mullins Center’s maroon seats sat empty. Instead of accepting a flood of basketball or hockey fans, the people trickling through its doors were there for COVID-19 testing. Instead of concession stands providing chicken tenders and sodas, nasal swabs and collection tubes were all that was being exchanged on the nearly empty concourse.

The coronavirus pandemic has claimed over 800,000 lives. People have lost jobs, homes and can’t see their loved ones.

There are far more important things than sports, and while COVID-19 has brought many hardships, it has also brought more important things to the forefront of people’s minds. But in many ways, sports offer a convenient barometer for where society stands, acting as a microcosm for the world at large.

Because of this, the Mullins Center stands as a harrowing reminder of what COVID-19 has taken from us.

Clearly, you have a far better view on TV than you could dream of from section QQ, but the beauty of watching Destiney Philoxy’s spin-move layup, Zac Jones’ one-timer or Tre Mitchell’s put-back dunk isn’t only seeing it happen, but experiencing it with an entire fanbase in attendance.

We all want to be together, whether it be at the Mullins Center, hanging out with friends or going to parties. While it is difficult to stay apart, let the building at 200 Commonwealth Ave. serve as a reminder of what we stand to lose.

Follow the latest guidelines as laid out by experts, social distance, wear a mask and do your part to stop the spread of COVID-19. Your friends, family, community and fellow sports fans will thank you later.

If we all take responsibility for fighting this pandemic, the Mullins Center will open its doors for hockey and basketball, not coronavirus testing. If we all do our part, the lines out the north entrance will stretch past lot 25, not because everyone is standing six feet apart, but because a sellout crowd is expected that night. If we all remain vigilant, Bobby Trivigno will soon be bringing 7,000-plus people to their feet, Carl Pierre will send the Militia into hysterics and Sam Breen will make fans embrace in joy.

After all, enjoying those kinds of moments are great, but they are even better when experienced together.

Noah Bortle is the Sports Editor and can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @noah_bortle.