Feels like we’ve been here before. The headlines from yesterday, they certainly have a familiar ring.
First the Calgary Flames were having a game postponed for fear of them getting back across the border due to Canada’s protocols. Then the Bulls had their next two games postponed thanks to having just three players, the trainer’s assistant, and an intern’s brother available to play.
Reports say that the NFL had 37 positive tests across the board on Monday. Manchester United’s game across the pond tomorrow is in jeopardy thanks to their own outbreak. Germany has had to have games played in empty stadiums in some places, reduced crowds in others.
I remember all this. Can’t say I welcome it back.
Ah, but what can the leagues do now? It’s a different setting for sure. Back when this all started, as it feels like it has again, there wasn’t a vaccine. No one was vaccinated. While the Omicron variant, at least for now, appears to be highly transmissible, there’s also scant evidence that it is as dangerous. But no one knows for sure, yet.
Still, leagues and arenas have opened the doors. Only some have made proof of vaccination a requirement to enter, and you’ll never get a blanket requirement for every building in every league to do so. Schedules have been made, and some are either too determined to keep every game as is to maximize profit to try and make up for last year (hi, NBA), or are too late in the season to do that much (the NFL). But both the NBA and the NHL especially are going to have to deal with border crossings, which could be another wrench.
It’s hard to imagine that any of the three leagues playing right now are going to go back to empty buildings or even reduced capacities. We know they don’t really care about anyone’s welfare. And fans are going to have a harder time letting go than they did the last time. The fatigue is real, and understandable, though an obstacle to getting through all this as well.
We know the next few weeks won’t get much better. We don’t know that they’ll get horrifically worse as far as serious illnesses and deaths. But as we said the first time around, not knowing should be reason enough to be as careful as possible, but is almost always used as an excuse to plow ahead.
The NBA has its Christmas Day slate. The NHL has a Winter Classic. The NFL is in its playoff push. No one’s giving any of that up, which is why they’re trying to pretend it’ll all go away.
Even the NBA, which was once at the forefront of caution, has now got the fingers in the ears and screaming, “LALALALALALA!” It’s not March 2020. It’s not September 2020. The environment is different, though how much? And how much are all of these leagues willing to let things backslide?