As the month of July rolls by, there is heightened anticipation that sports teams will begin competing this summer. The three major sports associations: The National Basketball Association, National Football League, and Major League Baseball are each preparing to play this month. By doing so, the teams face a protocol dilemma of how to practice safe distancing with the players using some form of facial covering and no fans to prevent a viral infection spread. As a result, some players have decided to opt-out of competing all together. It is quite apparent that there is a clear and definitive need for teams to put something on the field or court for economics sake because the business side of the games need to generate revenue. Understandably, teams have a wide variety of expenses, from lease agreements to payroll expenditures, and putting a ball into play brings in income. Also, monies secured from corporate advertising at game time offers substantial dollars in shared television pool money.
We all miss the excitement of sports, and we need something to normalize our minds off the Pandemic. But I pose the question, “At what expense to the players?” Most of the fans will don their respective team gear and watch the game in their living rooms, and others may choose to watch at a friend’s home or a gathering at an open sports bar or restaurant. Wherever people indulge in the games, let us hope it is in a safe environment, and all are following social distancing and wearing a mask. But will that be truly possible with screams and shouts, high fives, and hugs? We now know that the virus is aerosolized.
The real hypocrisy in all of this is that while people have the choice to stay safe and watch the games, the players do not have that option. They will be placing themselves in harm’s way without a means to safely protect themselves from exposure. Ownership of those teams benefit economically, and their fan base gets to feel stimulated, but the players are putting themselves and their families at risk. It is “gladiatorial” in a way—the players are being sacrificed in the arena for the sole purpose of pleasing the crowd.
My personal feeling on this is simple. Take a page from the International Olympic Committee’s playbook and cancel it all for the remainder of the year. Team sports should not take place in 2020. The COVID-19 virus is not going away until a vaccine, or medical treatment is available. And while players can be tested daily, there is no cure for the virus, and no one knows how it will affect those who catch it. A few more months backing up sports would be the safest way until scientists can get a handle on the virus.