On Wednesday night, the dominos of the global coronavirus pandemic began to rapidly fall within the sports world. Utah Jazz big man Rudy Gobert tested positive for coronavirus. A few minutes later, the NBA announced a suspension of its season indefinitely.
NBA owners and executives have slammed league office with a myriad of procedural and bigger picture questions. The league’s response: Sit tight until Thursday and let us work through it all. Some teams are planning to close facilities today and give players a couple of days away.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) March 12, 2020
I’m no medical expert, nor do I claim to be, but I believe we still don’t get it. Based on plenty of Tweets, personal conversations I’ve had, etc., we somehow still don’t understand that this isn’t about us as fans, reporters, writers or even just the players. We’re not thinking about this in big enough terms if we’re only considering our safety.
This is about safety and taking steps to ensure we deal with this pandemic as a unified society.
This isn’t an NBA issue. This is a global issue for humankind.
In order for games to happen, teams have to travel. They take flights and head in and out of airports. They take cars or buses or Ubers to hotels. There are scouts flying around the country. There are the coaches, assistant coaches, the families they come in contact with back home. There’s the arena personnel, the security traveling with teams, and countless others who are involved with the team that needs to be taken into consideration.
There is the world to consider, and NBA personnel come into contact with a lot of corners of the world, much less just in the U.S.
By nature, all rational actors will make choices in their best interest. Owners of teams see dollar bills and try to push through the season. Players certainly don’t want the game they love to be taken away from them or to have uncertainty left dangling above their heads.
That’s why we needed the league office to step in and make this determination.
The most rational outcome for all—for the players, the fans and the business—is to put nobody at further risk. As many have brought up, even if you yourself are not in a “susceptible” age or health range, you very well may be the cause of illness or even death to someone who is if you’re not part of a collective taking proper precautions.
It’s how we all should be acting, and it’s why a “better safe than sorry” approach is always the best course.
While, again, I’m not a medical expert, there are a few easily-confirmable facts that make this clearly the right decision for the league to make:
Symptoms can appear for the first time up to 14 days after exposure, according to the CDC website. Players can carry coronavirus and show no symptoms for almost two weeks.
People can transmit coronavirus without being symptomatic. Although this is rare, the ability for a virus to be passed without the need for symptoms means we may not even know we are putting others at risk.
Its ability to spread is, therefore, difficult to contain unless we can accurately retrace our steps within the last two weeks to know both how we could have become infected and who we came in contact with.
This is not like the flu. You may read statistics talking about volume, where the amount of people who die from the flu far outweighs those who are affected by the coronavirus.
But think about the difference between volume and efficiency here: Paul George has more 3-point makes than Landry Shamet, but that doesn’t make him a better shooter. The same can be said with this pandemic: More people die of the flu, but coronavirus has a much higher mortality rate.
The CDC advises avoiding mass gatherings, where people are far more likely to come into contact with folks who may be carriers.
So far, the only known way to make sure the virus doesn’t spread is to self-quarantine and stay home. Places such as Singapore, who have had success in limiting the spread with aggressive quarantine procedures, don’t offer much in the way of a national blueprint but do illustrate the effectiveness of avoiding contact once symptomatic.
The capitalistic concerns over money lost in the face of this pandemic, or simply pretending this is all an overreaction, is easy to say behind a computer screen. We, as spectators, don’t face a risk to our own health when we watch basketball on television.
But are we so indecent that we cannot exercise empathy for those who we cheer on while their health and safety is in question?
We say we care about these teams and players, but it seems some may only care about the entertainment they provide. If we really care, we’ll understand if the games have to take a back seat due to the logistical nightmares that come with keeping players safe.
We’ll understand that, once one player is exposed to the virus, all others in this community must take measures to steer clear of risk.
Basketball will be gone for a while. We’ll miss it while it’s gone. We’ll miss the entertainment it provides and the temporary distraction from the real world.
But the real world caught up on Wednesday.
We can’t just pretend to “stick to sports” on this one because sports are inherently unimportant in the grand scheme of things. We, as a people, have more important matters at the moment. We have to understand the scope of this pandemic.
It isn’t business as usual. Life is getting interrupted. As a whole, we have to recalibrate our priorities.
Be safe, folks. Be good to one another and help be responsible for doing the right things in a time we need it most.
Adam is currently a college basketball coach at the Division III level working at Dickinson College. He loves watching for offensive schemes while specializing in individual skill development, shooting technique and coach-speak. Born in New Hampshire, Adam grew up as a Celtics fan but now claims to just love “good basketball”, which does not include mid-range jumpers.