That Rudy Gobert silenced American sports, that it took only one man to bring March Madness, the NBA, spring training, golf, all NCAA sports, soccer to a halt has less to do with Gobert’s influence and more to do with the nature of viruses. They multiply and multiply. What makes Covid-19 so dangerous is that person A can have no symptoms but still have the virus and person B can have the virus and be sick and in ICU, clinging to life. So far, testing is only for the severely symptomatic and not the mildly coughing person we try to avoid. With restaurants, bars, St. Patrick’s Day parades, malls, movie theaters, schools, libraries in shut down mode, it’s very human of us to want our entertainment streams back. We can be a selfish group, caring only about how we are affected. But we live in a community.
Nevertheless, for the sports addicted, unless you like watching reruns on NBAtv- Shaq scoring 60 on the Clippers on his birthday was awesome- it’s growing weary, this forced absence, and we are not even a week in.
The CDC wants extreme social distancing for 8 weeks and it sounds like a reality show, albeit a different kind of take on interpersonal relationships than the Netflix hit Love Is Blind. What are we supposed to watch on television without NBA League Pass?
Sports is escapist fare but it also triggers tribal emotions of joy, pissed off-ness, disappointment, pain and arrogance. I know a crazed NBA fan whose team won the title. He was so over the top with bragging rights, he called a stranger who lived in the city his team just beat and began talking smack. The stranger was an elderly woman who had no idea what he was talking about and ended the conversation with “be a good boy dear.” Lol.
Being a good boy/girl/man/child in a Coronavirus world means losing what we love. Basketball is taken away from us and it feels as if we are being punished for something that started in China, exploded in Italy, and was ignored in a Washington nursing home.
Americans are an independent group and we pride ourselves on freedom. We love our habits and routines and lifestyle. We take pride in our tribal loyalties. We work hard and play hard. The play hard part, at least playing with others, is gone. Erased. Will it come back?
The NBA is looking at an abbreviated summer schedule and I suppose that makes sense for billionaire owners and millionaire players who need to recoup on that television contract. A summer season means they’ll compete with the Olympics.
ABC would love a summer season for Olympic counter programming to grab viewers away from figure skating and curling on NBC. But I for one don’t want to watch the NBA in the summer. Summer is for outdoor play. Swimming. Jet skiing. Kayaking. It’s for barbecuing and going to the lake and family reunions. It’s for front runners wearing tees of the NBA champion, as if they had been fans all along. I don’t want the NBA in the summer. The summer is when free agents make up their mind. I am not supposed to be glued to the WCF and Clippers v Lakers.
A summer schedule means the U.S. Olympic team won’t have LeBron James and Anthony Davis on it. Or Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. Or James Harden and Russell Westbrook. Or Jimmy Butler. USA Basketball can survive with Steph Curry and Dame Lillard and Bradley Beal but the top 3 NBA players: Giannis, LeBron, Anthony Davis will be competing for a title in someone’s gym. At the very least, it will be peculiar.
Same with playing games at the end of May in team training facilities. Although, that would be an interesting look, a pick up game feel, it’s not the NBA. The NBA is more than the players. It is the intercession between players and fans, anxiety and stress on both sides, decisions, failures, exceptionalism. It’s a roller coaster ride that Adam Silver is now trying to keep in tact in a reduced speed for everyone’s benefit. The PR nightmare of massive infections at NBA games would be catastrophic. So it’s the fans and the players that have to take the hit.
The easiest solution is to end the season. The Lakers and Bucks are the regular season champions for their conference. The regular season awards are still announced. The season happened. But for the first time in NBA history no champion.
It leaves a bitter taste for the fanbases whose teams are contenders. But the longer the entertainment shutdown continues, the new normal gets extended longer and longer and sports will be an afterthought. Fan desire can’t compete with public health when people are ill and dying.
Sometimes fate just steps in. Sports isn’t the only one to take a sucker punch. So have graduations, weddings, birthday celebrations, quinceaneras. I know someone who had a one year birthday party for their baby and 45 people showed up, damn social distancing. I know another person who was turning 30 and cancelled their party. There is no definitive way to handle this crises. Many are cautious. Some are not.
The NBA often errs on the side of caution for safety reasons. But they didn’t cancel the season when Magic was tested HIV positive. They didn’t cancel the season after 9-11. There’s an understanding that sports gives something positive to the mind and the culture and when it is taken away it is depressing for everyone.
It’s why the NBA won’t cancel the season. They’ll do their best to play games somewhere in the world, probably without fans. Don’t despair, even as it looks grim now. There will be a 2020 NBA champion.