ST. PAUL — As recently as a week ago, many of us were lamenting the loss of sports during the coronavirus pandemic, mourning a traditional distraction from the daily grind just as we needed it most.
With more than 200 reported deaths, Wednesday, March 25, marked the deadliest day in the United States since the novel coronavirus found our shores in late January. The country has since officially passed 1,000 deaths, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were more than 68,000 confirmed U.S. cases as of noon Thursday.
When the outbreak is contained, likely region by region, the world will celebrate in waves, and there is no doubt that sports will be a major part. Gathering to attend a sporting event, one guesses, will, in fact, be the most symbolic, enjoyable mass celebration of our joy.
We won’t just be celebrating the end of danger or the resumption of normalcy, but our health and the indomitable human spirit. Nothing will provide a happier release than coming together to watch a baseball, soccer or basketball game.
But we’re not close to being there yet, and it’s difficult to understand why the NHL and NBA haven’t simply canceled the rest of their seasons. Few, if any, are in the mood.
Forget attending a game, verging on suicidal at this point. Who even wants to watch one? In light of the past three months, what would, say, the NHL or NBA finishing off their seasons in empty arenas mean to even the most diehard fan?
Right now, the rapid spread of the coronavirus and the toll it’s taking on the world is too profound to be forgotten for a few hours of baseball or hockey; the experience would be as empty as the stadiums and arenas.
Sports won’t feel important enough to care about, and so won’t be.
While colleges and high schools have canceled the rest of their seasons — the NCAA particularly proactive — the NHL, NBA and Major League Baseball continue to weigh their options. Both hockey and basketball suspended their seasons indefinitely, and MLB and Major League Soccer have postponed its season through at least mid-May.
One can understand baseball holding out for a truncated season, but the NHL and NBA are just about past due on calling their seasons off. It’s a difficult call, no doubt. While players and executives will survive intact, those further down the chain could be hit hard.
But here’s the thing: When we’re well enough to move on, we’re going to move on. Few will be interested in the rote suspension of completing a suspended season, and that, one suspects, will include the players.
The NHL appears to be hanging on to the possibility of resuming play in July and completing the postseason in August — despite the fact that the June draft already has been canceled.
We’re going to have to do better than flatten the curve to make us forget reality long enough to enjoy watching sports again. It’s one thing to re-live a moment by watching an old playoff game on TV; it’s another entirely to invest in a basketball season when you’ve lost a job — or worse, loved one — to a disease we just learned about three months ago.
More than half a million confirmed cases and nearly 23,000 deaths worldwide as of Thursday afternoon, including 59 new cases — and the second death — in Minnesota.
Baseball seems to have a shot at playing half a season, and MLS maybe an entire season. If they do, it will be glorious because we will be more than ready, and we’ll all be turning the page.
There’s no going back now. It’s time for the NHL and NBA to accept it.
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