The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Sports cancellations leave one group of fans particularly deflated: Vasectomy patients

Fans leave Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo., after the Big 12 tournament was called off. (Charlie Riedel/AP)

When Brandon Margolis’s second child was born 15 months ago, he and his wife knew almost immediately that their family was complete. They had been through rigorous in vitro fertilization to have two daughters, and they wanted to avoid an unexpected pregnancy. Margolis, a television writer in Los Angeles, started looking into getting a vasectomy.

Standing at the counter at his doctor’s office in January to schedule the procedure, he grabbed his phone and searched for the dates of the first weekend of the NCAA tournament. When the scheduler found an appointment opening for March 20, a day when there was supposed to be wall-to-wall college basketball on TV, Margolis, 39, responded, “That’s my day.”

His operation is still on as scheduled, but there won’t be any basketballor nearly any live sports — to watch while recuperating. Nearly every major North American sports organization this week canceled or postponed its scheduled competitions because of the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.

That’s been, um, deflating for male sports fans who scheduled vasectomies to coincide with March Madness. Urologists have long seen a spike in appointments for the surgery timed to the tournament’s tip-off. Doctors generally prescribe 48 hours of bed rest after patients get snipped, a period that a great number of men choose to spend on the couch or in bed watching hoops while hoping their brackets don’t get busted.

From 2017: The OTHER March Madness: A rush for vasectomies during the NCAA tournament

“There are some men that specifically come in leading into March Madness because in their mind they say: ‘I’m going to spend the weekend watching basketball anyway. This will be great,’ ” said Brad Lerner, president of Chesapeake Urology and chief of urology at Union Memorial Hospital in Baltimore. “We probably get more requests to do it around the March Madness weekends than around any other sporting event.”

Lerner said vasectomy appointments nearly double in March each year compared with the average month. Some patients instead choose to schedule the procedure around the Masters in April or to match up with big football weekends in the fall.

One of Lerner’s patients, Glenn Clark, began discussing a vasectomy with his wife a year ago after the birth of their second son. They went back and forth for a while, thinking about having one more child and hoping for a girl, when his wife made up her mind: She didn’t want to be pregnant again.

March Madness is worth billions to the NCAA and networks. Canceling will cost them.

“I told her then, ‘This is going to sound corny, but a lot of guys have [vasectomies] done around the NCAA tournament, and I’ll do it then,’ ” said Clark, a 36-year-old Baltimore sports radio host.

He also picked March 20 with the tournament in mind. His mother-in-law agreed to take his boys for the weekend, he said, and he used the upcoming surgery as a running bit on his radio program.

And then the coronavirus hit. He said he’s lucky he has movies saved up on his DVR, and he’s considering binge-watching all 10 seasons of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” instead of the sports he planned to enjoy.

Lerner said he has five operations scheduled for Friday — each procedure takes about 15 minutes — and none of the patients have canceled or rescheduled for next March.

“That’d be a tough sell to your wife to say: ‘Honey, you need to use birth control for another year. I’m postponing my vasectomy for another year for the next NCAA tournament,’ ” Lerner said.

Cody Wills, an elementary school special education teacher and basketball coach in Campbellsville, Ky., had his vasectomy set for March 18. He and his wife decided that with three children, ages 5, 3 and 8 months, they didn’t want any more kids.

Further postponements and cancellations leave sports calendar all but empty

Other teachers and coaching buddies joked to him that if he had the surgery on the Wednesday before the tournament, he would be out of school for two days and could take advantage of four straight days of basketball. He scheduled the appointment in February.

But ever since, said Wills, 28, he and his wife have wondered whether they might want one more child in a year or two. When NCAA President Mark Emmert canceled the tournament Thursday, Wills said it felt like a sign that they needed more time to think about it.

He canceled his surgery that afternoon.

Coronavirus: What you need to know

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