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Trauma has no expiration date. Canceling U-Va. games was the right call.

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A week ago, when the University of Virginia announced it was canceling its game against Coastal Carolina in the wake of the murders of three football players, most people understood, even if others felt the game should be played to honor the dead and to provide some form of catharsis for their teammates.

This week, when Virginia announced it also was canceling its season finale against Virginia Tech, more doubters emerged: Hasn’t the team had enough time, they asked, to “recover” from the shock of the murders?

The truth is there’s never enough. There is no expiration date on trauma recovery. Everyone at Virginia — not just the football team — will carry this for the rest of their lives. Anyone casting judgment on the players, the coaches or the school, simply doesn’t get it.

The idea of returning to practice and trying to get geared up for what should be the season’s most important game without their teammates was simply too much. Nine months from now, after going through an offseason of grieving, spring practice and preseason practice, the Cavaliers may be ready to open the 2023 season against Tennessee in Nashville. A week later, they may be ready to return to Scott Stadium to play James Madison. Maybe.

Barry Svrluga: At Virginia, a football team and its coach confront the unimaginable

Some skeptics brought up the case of the 1990 Loyola-Marymount men’s basketball team, which played in the NCAA tournament 12 days after team member Hank Gathers had a heart attack on the court during a West Coast Conference Tournament semifinal and died soon after. The Lions beat New Mexico State and then went on to stun defending champion Michigan and defeat Alabama before losing in the regional final to UNLV. No doubt, that was an inspiring story.

But citing such an example ignores the fact the WCC tournament was canceled after Gathers collapsed. No one on any of the four teams remaining wanted to play after Gathers died. What’s more, Gathers wasn’t murdered. His death was tragic, but it wasn’t an act of violence committed by another student in front of other students. You can’t measure degrees of tragedy, but the extended trauma of the Virginia shooting clearly continues to resonate in the football program and beyond.

Virginia’s decision was also respectful of the would-be opponents. Coastal Carolina, a quality Sun Belt Conference team, was supposed to be have a moment on an ACC stage, but surely the Chanticleers would have been thinking more about the players in the opposing uniforms still dealing with fresh horror.

The same is true of Virginia Tech, in some cases in even more personal ways. Many of the Hokies know many of the Cavaliers and knew the three slain players — D’Sean Perry, Devin Chandler and Lavel Davis. The competitive stakes of this rivalry game, typically the emotional climax to the season, in some ways would have been even higher at the end of disappointing seasons for both teams. Under normal circumstances, the Commonwealth Cup might have offered the first-year coaches at both schools a chance at some type of redemption.

But normal went away Nov. 13, when Christopher Darnell Jones allegedly opened fire on that bus as it arrived back in Charlottesville following a trip to see a play in downtown Washington.

Virginia held an emotional and moving memorial service for the three players this past Saturday in John Paul Jones Arena instead of hosting Coastal Carolina a little more than a mile away in Scott Stadium.

It was the right thing to do, but it wasn’t an ending. It was only a beginning. A moment of silence that afternoon or this coming Saturday would have felt empty. The players knew that and, fortunately, so did those in charge at the school.

Officials at Virginia have admitted they knew Jones had been convicted of a concealed weapons charge and was given a 12-month suspended sentence in 2021 but didn’t follow up in any way.

The lack of punishment for weapons charges and the ease with which people can acquire guns is a much larger issue that should have been addressed in this country long ago and remains a massive elephant in the country’s room.

Five days after the Charlottesville shootings, another mass murder took place, this one in a bar in Colorado Springs: Five dead and 17 wounded by a man carrying multiple guns, including a semiautomatic weapon. A year earlier, the suspected shooter’s mother called police to her house saying her son had threatened her with bombs and guns. No arrest was made; no guns were taken away. The mass shooting in Colorado Springs was the sixth this month — and that was before Tuesday night’s incident at a Chesapeake Walmart.

Virginia’s football players, with no game to play Saturday, were able to return to their homes for Thanksgiving. This weekend and next week, many will attend the funerals of their three fallen teammates.

Those funerals will be another step in the healing process. There will still be a long, long way to go after that.

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