I see the sentiment a lot the past couple days that it’s March 2020 all over again. But it isn’t. We are armed with so much more information than we were then, and there are vaccines. The one thing…well, I won’t say “miss” about March 2020 and beyond, because it sucked, but perhaps the biggest difference was the certainty. Back then, sports were shut down for four months, and it was the only answer. There wasn’t really much argument, we all knew it was the right choice. The arguments came months later when it came down to figuring out how to bring them back. Whether the leagues got that right, guess it doesn’t matter now. But at the start, it was definitive.
This time around, the answers aren’t so clear. Each league doesn’t even know how to deal with this, and is basically trying their own thing. The NFL is lessening testing and quarantine for asymptomatic players. You’ll find doctors who understand that and some that are wary of that. The NHL is pausing, partially due to the complications of cross-border travel. The NBA is not, at least not as of yet. The players are chafing under protocols they’ve put up with for almost two years now. You can understand that on some level. Most of the ones being held out, in whatever league, feel fine. They wonder why they have to wait 10 days or more to play again when they’re asymptomatic. Again, it’s understandable.
More targeted testing can be seen as rational. Or it can be seen to sneak more players in under the curtain to play and perhaps save the leagues on the cost of testing and canceled games. In most cases like this, it’s probably both. Also, most testing outside of sports is at the behest of suspected exposure. But then again, athletes and their work environments put them at exposure much more often than you and me. You’ll be shocked to hear that the writers of a sports website don’t share a locker room, I know. I’m told Carron Phillips can snap a mean towel, though. Hope I never find out.
There have been whispers that Omicron isn’t as severe as previous variants, though we’re far from confirming that. But hearing that probably only frustrates the players more. We hope that’s the case, but the definitive answers on it can’t get here fast enough to satisfy everyone. And you can’t rush them.
Again, it’s not 20 months ago. If sports had tried to continue even just a little longer at the dawn of the pandemic, and we saw anything like these numbers testing positive, we would have feared mass death and critical illness for everyone. At the moment, it’s not completely gone, but that fear is much less severe. Those of us who are fully vaccinated don’t leave the house now wondering if the worst isn’t riding on the next breeze. We still fear the virus, but are fairly confident that our lives probably won’t be all that disrupted. We know how to protect the vulnerable ones in our lives much better. The despair level isn’t quite what it was then.
The easy thing, and maybe the prudent thing, is to shut everything down again sportswise. And we know the ultimate driving force of sports — money — is more powerful now than it was then because the overall threat is less, at least as far as we know. Things can obviously change on a dime, which is scary for everyone.
There’s still a lot we don’t know, but now it’s combining, or at odds with, all that we do know that we didn’t before. To figure out what’s right…it’s beyond me and it sounds like it’s beyond most. There’s a lot to balance, and it seems like too much. And perhaps that’s more frustrating than when we didn’t know anything so we just went to DEFCON 1. Hitting pause on everything at least allowed us to learn everything linearly from the basest starting point.
It’s clear we’re not going back there, which makes everything seem on the fly, and more confusing. I’m on the more cynical side as you probably know by now, and will lean to the side that the plowing through by most of the leagues now is purely due to greed. Still, players seem split, too. Some sound like they want to keep playing. Some are wary. That’s on both sides of the pond. They’re obviously not scientists, either, but as this article from Elliotte Friedman shows, scientists and doctors aren’t completely on the same page themselves.
So we kind of just move forward, feeling around in the dark. It’s a pretty insecure feeling, but with each passing day I’m not sure there’s another way.