This is the month where the major North American sports are supposed to return. At least, that’s what we’re being told.
By the time we see a regular-season ballgame or the final eight games of the NBA season tip-off or the NHL qualifiers, it will be over four months since the season’s most popular sports were halted due to the coronavirus pandemic that continues to grip a majority of the United States.
It’s set to be a massive reprieve for a nation that has been stuck in isolation (at least, the ones who behave and care about their fellow citizens) as sports always can heal a nation or take their minds away from every-day stresses.
There is no denying that most protocol and social-distancing-abiding fans deserve that. But is it worth it?
Sports are blindly charging toward their return despite spiking coronavirus numbers in prominent states, which has all the makings of compromised health and safety of the players and coaches participating.
Florida — which is hosting the NBA and MLS’ return this July at Walt Disney World — had 6,000-plus additional positive coronavirus cases reported just days after the daily count eclipsed 9,000 on June 27.
Players have already begun opting out and in the NBA, notable names like DeAndre Jordan and Spencer Dinwiddie of the Brooklyn Nets, along with Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets, have tested positive.
On Monday, it was reported that 26 MLS employees (20 players, six staff members) tested positive as well.
While both leagues will try to isolate their employees within the resort, Major League Baseball will try to have both the Miami Marlins and Tampa Bay Rays playing in their home ballparks with opposing teams flying into the hot spot. Of course, they’ll have to travel, too.
In California, the San Francisco Giants, Oakland Athletics, Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Angels, and San Diego Padres are on the verge of getting their seasons started. But the state has had 4,000 positive cases per day every day since June 20. Texas and Arizona — home of the Rangers, Astros, and Diamondbacks — are also experiencing major spikes.
Just look at the MLB teams that have had players test positive for COVID-19:
- Colorado Rockies
- Detroit Tigers
- Toronto Blue Jays
- Seattle Mariners
- Boston Red Sox
- Arizona Diamondbacks
- Miami Marlins
- Minnesota Twins
- Philadelphia Phillies
- Los Angeles Dodgers
- Los Angeles Angels
- Cleveland Indians
- Texas Rangers
- Milwaukee Brewers
- San Diego Padres
- San Francisco Giants
- New York Mets
That’s already more than half the league with players reporting for the second coming of spring training on Wednesday. Now you put them all together, have them travel around the country, and have no legitimate precautions to isolate them while in their home cities.
It’s a disaster in the making, especially when players are not taking social-distancing measures seriously, as noted by ESPN’s Buster Olney on his daily podcast.
In the hockey world, the NHL has loosely followed the route of MLS and the NBA by instituting a pair of host cities that will house each conference’s postseason.
Recent reports have tabbed that Las Vegas and Toronto will be the neutral sites, but Sin City is dealing with a spike of its own — though it isn’t nearly as harrowing as the bumps experienced by the likes of Florida and California.
This after 26 players tested positive for the virus.
All it takes is one slip up for sports’ derailment during the summer of 2020. One missed positive, one false report, one person who thinks he is invincible.
At least to this writer, that doesn’t seem to be worth the risk of jeopardizing the well-being of the athletes and their families.