People who love sports are stuck in a coronavirus vortex that will not leave them be. It just spins them helplessly up and around, in a way that just as much shakes them down.
They miss live games. They want live games. They need live games. All while shuttered leagues like the NBA, NHL, MLB find themselves in a state of perpetual hope and scramble, searching for ways to get started again while the public, sporting and otherwise, wonders if it really will happen.
If sports will be sports again.
The NFL, in its offseason, is looking forward, acknowledging COVID-19, but not fully acquiescing to it, recently issuing its full, fall schedule.
Governors from New York, Texas and California now have said they are looking forward to having live games in the weeks and months ahead inside of stadiums in their realms — without fans.
College football, if there is a collective voice to that scattered, jumbled entity, seems as determined as anyone or anything to go all … Damn the droplets, full speed ahead!
That scaled determination varies from region to region, further fracturing a game that has always been splintered, never completely capable of unifying its competitive balance, nor its philosophies regarding how to properly crown a champion or run its business.
Now CFB has school presidents in some leagues saying, dadgumit, there will be a season and there will be fans in the stands, acting as though a virus that has paid no respect to any human power, no matter how full of pomp or position those powers think themselves to be, will suddenly genuflect to them.
Nobody, nothing, gets in the way of SEC football, man. It puts the free in freedom. And the gold in the athletic departments’ vaults. If people die en route, that’s just the cost of doing business. Freedom ain’t free.
We all get it, at least to some extent.
On the whole, sports is and are good — culturally, economically, and, in some places, spiritually. The spin of a ball is like the orbit of the earth — essential for proper living.
But I’ve talked with enough experts in public health, people who know much more about the ins and outs of COVID-19 than most, who are afraid, who left alone from political pressure are damn-near frozen in their fear of what might come next. They worry if sports are opened up too carelessly that those sports will close down again — in a rush to relieve too much illness and death.
Those experts don’t know everything, but what they do know raises questions about how to proceed through this pandemic. Many of them believe crowding people into stadiums, even at a reduced capacity, is risky and irresponsible.
They have other concerns, too.
What happens if there’s a second wave of the virus? Will leagues be able or willing to shut down, again, mid-pour, after putting so much effort into filling up and powering up?
If stadiums and arenas remain empty, how, specifically, will athletes on the field or court or ice or diamond stay safe? And what about the support staffs necessary to manage the competitions?
How much testing will be necessary to maintain good health? The NBA, NFL and MLB can afford to buy as much testing as they need, estimated numbers that regularly used blow into the multiple-thousands per league. But how will that look when tests are not so available to sick people and their families who need them more urgently?
And, then, what happens if an athlete tests positive and he is quarantined? Will his teammates play on? Will his coaches coach on? Will his trainers train on? Will his family and/or others around him live on?
It’s understandable that sports society wants the ball to be tipped, the ball to be kicked, the ball to be played, the puck to be dropped. It wants paralyzed arms and legs and hearts to pump again. It wants life to go on.
But disease can be unbending, uncooperative, unrelenting.
While there are those who want to move forward, to flout their freedom, especially the young and the restless, the impervious and the foolish, there are also those who rely on decision-makers to make the best choices for everyone. Half of Americans have some underlying health issue and some 70 million are of extra-vulnerable age to the coronavirus.
This is the medical crisis of a lifetime. With continued careful study and steps over a gap that must be bridged until a vaccine is found, effective medicine is concocted, it is prudent to step cautiously.
If games can be played safely, then do it.
The financial conditions here are severe, the considerations important. Those all affect people’s lives, too. But who wants to prematurely watch or cover or espouse the re-start of live sports if masses of people will die from them?
Even for those who love sports, that’s a price too high.
GORDON MONSON hosts “The Big Show” with Jake Scott weekdays from 2-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM The Zone.