Sports Should Not Be Happening Right Now

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Illustration: Eric Barrow (Getty)

We all realize all this is completely insane, right?

I’ve grown used to the idea that, in this country, concepts like “truth” and “data” and “facts” are abstract theories to 40 percent of the population, but the gusto with which so many fans are barreling forward to embrace their team’s re-starts surprises even me.

Yesterday, the U.S. set a record with 38,672 new positive COVID-19 cases, more than at any time since we shut everything down two months ago. Yes, tests are more readily available, but still not THAT available to the general public. I tried to take one at my local CVS, which has been advertising them like crazy. I was shut out because I didn’t have a doctor’s permission. Which means, it’s still not true that anyone who wants a test can get one. And if you subscribe to the Donald Trump school of “more testing means more positives,” you should remember that LESS testing means the same number of people are still walking around with the disease, and they’re unknowingly spreading it to everyone they come in contact with.


I was aggravated over Memorial Day Weekend, a full month ago, when a good portion of my neighborhood here in Illinois collectively decided they were tired of social distancing and weren’t going to do it anymore. One person had a pool party. What MLB, MLS, NWSL, NBA, and WNBA are doing right now is that pool party on a massive scale.

Let’s start with the fact that three of those leagues, the NBA, WNBA, and MLS are all holding their starts/re-starts in central Florida. Theoretical bubble or no, they could hardly have picked a worse place to send hundreds of people. The state of Florida shattered its previous record for positive COVID cases yesterday, and that’s after weeks of reports that the state is fudging its numbers in order to encourage businesses to return, including recent claims that Governor Ron DeSantis is ordering the state Department of Health to delete COVID deaths from their official numbers, not counting people whose main residence is elsewhere, even if they contrated the virus and died in Florida.


Just this week, the Orlando Pride had to pull out of the NWSL’s tournament in Utah (another place where cases are spiking), because a bunch of their players went out to a bar and subsequently tested positive.


Meanwhile, the states of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut have announced that anyone traveling from from states with high COVID rates will have to be quarantined for 14 days. As of right now, that mandate applies to Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, the Carolinas, Utah, and Texas. What do all those states have in common? Most of them have governors who told their constituents to go about their lives, business as usual, and refused to succumb to the “scare tactics” from notable fear mongers like (checks notes) the World Health Organization, the Center for Disease Control, and every other industrialized nation that has dealt with the disease far better than we have. We have reached the point where states are not letting people from other states in. Think about that for a minute. And yet baseball players and team personal will soon be zig-zagging all over the place?

So here we are. Much of Europe has managed to get their COVID rates under control. New Zealanders lost their shit because, after basically eradicating the virus, two people made it into the country and tested positive. Kiwi Prime Minister Jacinda Arden had to go on TV and take responsibility for this massive failure. Because, after months of no discernable cases, TWO PEOPLE tested positive.


Meanwhile, here in the U.S., our graph line is headed skyward with no end in sight. And this is apparently fine with a good portion of the population. That same portion that loves to thank the troops “for their service” but can’t even handle something as non-invasive as wearing a mask and sitting home on their damn couches. A simple, easy sacrifice.

I get it. This is not the summer you wanted to have. You’ve burned through everything you wanted to watch on Netflix. The Last Dance is over. Your kids are driving you crazy. You just want to head into your sports cave, crack a cold one, and watch some baseball. You want you kids’ sports leagues to start up again so you can get them out of the goddamn house. You just want everything to go back to normal.


But things are still not normal. We’re a long way from normal. And pretending COVID doesn’t exist won’t make it go away.


By enthusiastically embracing the return of sports, you’re putting your wants ahead of the safety of the athletes (and their families, coaches, and staff) that you love to cheer for. Realistically, there is no way any of the “bubbles” touted by various sports leagues are going to work. People are going to get sick. People may die. And it’s all for the love of the American dollar. We’ve heard politicians say the quiet part out loud: When it comes right down to it, there are plenty of people who care more about the economy than saving lives.

Don’t be one of those people. Sports don’t matter right now.

Sports are the result of a functioning society. Or at least of a society not in the grip of a pandemic that is (conservatively) expected to kill 180,000 people by October. Sports should not be happening. At any level. And if you want them anyway, you’re acting like a selfish jerk.


I can’t tell you how many fans on my Twitter timeline said things like “I know people are dying but I’m just so happy baseball is back!” Do you have any idea how completely deranged that sounds? I know 25 years of FOX News has completely warped any sense of perspective for a lot of people, but imagine going back to 1994 and reading that statement from 2020. “I know people are dying, but I’m just so happy to have sports again!” You’d think 2020 is a dystopian hellscape, and you’d be right.

We still need to convince 40 percent of this country to wear a mask. We’re nowhere near getting this thing under control. Pull a New Zealand, make this thing go away, and you can have your sports back. Until then, put on your adult pants and act like a grownup.