Ryan Garza/The Paisano
The absence of sports during the COVID-19 crisis has been eerie to say the least. With only the NFL being in their offseason at the time that all the major sporting leagues were suspended indefinitely, the rest of the sports world has been left grappling with questions of when they will get the chance to resume their seasons, and if so, how.
In times of great crisis in our country, sports have been used as a crucial tool in our healing process. In the aftermath of 9/11, professional sports were used as a way to bring the country together in a time of great hardship. After the Boston Marathon bombings, Boston rallied behind the Red Sox with Big Papi’s speech at their first home game since the attacks, serving as a rallying cry for the entire city. Due to these examples and many more, it is no surprise that all major professional sports leagues want to get back on track as soon as possible.
Now is not the time to do so, however. The main idea that has been floated by the leagues to get back in action as soon as possible, likely with the crisis still ongoing, is to centralize their leagues in one isolated location. The MLB has reportedly been eyeing staging their regular season in Arizona, and the NBA has also specifically discussed certain contingencies that would see an abbreviated postseason played in a single location. On top of this, according to a report from ESPN, UFC president Dana White has secured a private island where he wants to host UFC events for international fighters. As fun as it sounds for the UFC to host what in essence would be a real-life representation of Mortal Kombat, now is not the time to be considering these ideas.
For starters, while the temptation is there to resume these major sports leagues’ seasons in isolated locations, this would bring with it a number of logistical nightmares. First, you’d need to ensure there was a facility large enough to host all of the teams competing — in the NBA’s case, for the playoffs — which would include, at minimum, 16 teams worth of players, staff and equipment managers, while still maintaining enough space to effectively isolate the teams from one another as much as possible.
Next, the players themselves would have to be comfortable leaving their families in the midst of this crisis to go play in these games. I believe the crisis would need to worsen and the players’ salaries would need to be frozen for them to consider this course of action.
Then there’s the problem of ensuring the players’ safety. If you were to bring all of MLB to begin the regular season, all players and personnel would need to be tested for the virus. In the midst of a health system that is being overwhelmed by skyrocketing cases, it would be irresponsible to devote so many testing kits to something that, in the grand scheme of things, is a luxury and not a necessity. The need for continued actual testing of any personnel involved in these operations is critical as well, with asymptomatic transmission appearing as more and more of a danger during the crisis — just taking the temperature of those involved won’t be enough.
We all want sports to come back. We all miss them. We want to know how the NBA season is going to end. Will Lebron and Anthony Davis bring home the title for the Lakers? Will Kawhi assert himself as the best player when it comes to winning championships in today’s game? We want to know how the MLB season will play out. The entire country is left on a cliffhanger, and we don’t know when we’ll get our answer.
Now is the time for restraint, however. When the virus is under control, we can get back to the sports we love so much. The private island can wait, Dana — there will be plenty of chances to make money once the world returns to stability.