Before I’m accused of being some Luddite (or worse), I’m a sports fan. I’ve watched games since I was 6. I became a sports producer and reporter. I wrote a dissertation about the Olympics.
Don’t you dare question my bona fides as a sports fan.
This sports fan thinks any talk about getting professional sports up and running sooner rather than later is lunacy. Nevertheless, as coronavirus continues to ravage North America, there remains an insatiable lust among the leaders of the major sports leagues to resume operations.
On one hand, it’s understandable: Sports is embedded into the fabric of the United States and Canada; watching baseball, basketball, football, hockey and soccer is a fact of life for tens of millions of people. Sports also are big business; an industry that was projected to generate more than $75-billion this year. And, of course, sports fans want to see a champion crowned in each of these sports (even if they hate the team that raises the championship trophy) because that’s the way a season should end.
If this were a typical April, the NHL and NBA playoffs would be staring us in the face; the Major League Baseball season would be about one week old; and the Major League Soccer season would be entering its fifth week.
But this is no typical April. And it seems impossible to predict if May will be any different. Yet, if you listen to the leagues’ leaders, you’ll hear them channeling their inner Avery Brundage: the games must go on.
Right now the efforts to reignite the baseball, basketball, hockey and soccer seasons are foolish. Plan for when they can resume? Absolutely. But let’s not dip into the foolish in order to make it happen. As just one example, consider this Associated Press report:
Putting all 30 [Major League Baseball] teams in the Phoenix area and playing in empty ballparks was among the ideas discussed Monday by Major League Baseball and the players’ association.
Read deeper into the story and you get to the heart of why this idea is silly.
“You’re going to be largely separated from your families and you’re going to have to function in a very contained way. It’s not it’s not a normal life, this idea,” [agent Scott] Boras said.
Yes, baseball players are separated from their families on regular intervals during the regular season. Road trips that can last up to two weeks are not unheard of. However, the season schedule includes equal amounts of time at home. Move all 30 teams to Arizona and in effect the players would be separated from their families for months.
There have been reports in recent days that the NHL and NBA league offices and players’ unions are examining whether the remaining few games of their suspended regular seasons and then the post-seasons could be held in similarly contained areas. A hockey season ending in August? Could happen.
I accept wanting to get a full season played. I accept wanting to see a champion crowned. I accept thinking creatively about making it happen. But separating players from their families for months in order to make it happen is nuts.
The baseball season was supposed to begin a few days ago in South Korea. As you might guess, coronavirus has wrecked those plans. And one bitter reality continues to roil any plans for starting the season. As Yonhap News notes,
But the coronavirus pandemic continues to wreak havoc on the KBO’s planning. Simply put, there’s no way of predicting when it will be considered safe enough for the season to begin.
On this side of the Pacific Ocean, the story is the same. And quarantining players from their families merely to honor the idea of a full season and a crowned champion is folly.