During a pandemic and a period of civil unrest, some say sports should be the last thing on your mind.
But mainstream sports have always been a constant.
In western Pennsylvania, we rise with Roethlisberger and sit at the edge of our seats watching Sid.
On the other side of the state, Simmons and Embiid were supposed to fully blossom this spring and make a championship run while Bryce blasted homers into the South Philly night.
Instead, without them, our days are dull and our nights are for Netflix.
The doctor is ready for sports to return
If sports is the cure for what ails us, it’s time to call a doctor. So that’s what we did. We asked a doc to give it to us straight: Do sports have a chance of returning and making it through the season?
Dr. Christopher Drumm (pictured, right) is a family physician with Einstein Healthcare Network and recently landed on Philadelphia Magazine‘s list of “Top Docs.” Drumm and Peter McKenney (pictured, left), a lay leader at a Free Methodist evangelical church, host the “Doc and the Deacon” podcast. It is based around man-of-science Drumm and man-of-faith McKenney’s quick banter. Despite their differences, they both worship a cold beer, humor — and sports.
The intro rap penned by friend Dave Tuturice (pictured, middle) hints at their allegiances:
“It’s the Doc and the Deacon/stethoscope and hope/talkin’ everything from poop to the Pope … so don’t get it twisted like a Philly pretzel/Foles already told y’all that Philly special.”
The most recent episode, “Say My Name,” delves into Tommy John’s surgery and the medical breakthrough it was at the time. Early in the podcast, Drumm says that of all the things that are coming back after coronavirus-related shutdowns, he is most looking forward to sports returning.
Drumm answered some questions from PlayPennsylvania about major sports’ planned return and when it will be safe for fans to pack the stadiums again.
Q&A time with the doctor (and sports fan)
Are you a sports fan, and if so, who are your favorite teams?
Drumm: I love sports, especially the 76ers, Eagles and Phillies. Of things I want most, number one would be a vaccine for the coronavirus, but second would be that Ben Simmons gets a jump shot.
As a sports fan, do you think pro sports should return?
Drumm: As a sports fan, I am ready now. I have found myself watching The Basketball Tournament and Joey Chestnut to get my fix of sports.
As a doctor, do you think pro sports should return?
Drumm: As a physician, I absolutely think it is too early. But there will not be a perfect answer/date for return until we have a vaccine or herd immunity.
If a professional athlete was your patient and they asked you if they should return to play, what would you say to them?
Drumm: This would be a difficult decision. The risk for older family members with comorbidities is quite high. I would ask them if the benefit of playing and getting paid outweighs the risk of being isolated from his/her family for an extended time.
Sports in a bubble?
The NBA and NHL are planning to return to play at the end of the month. They are in bubble environments. Do you think that can work?
Drumm: I think the bubble environments could work. Each family has essentially created their own bubble in our current world. It will be a sacrifice to these players. They really have to limit their interactions and family experiences for a few months so sports can be played.
Once players get tested, then they can enter the bubble. [Those with] positive tests can be quarantined, but all of the other factors will complicate this. The worries are about the staff and others that are associated that are not having to stay in the bubble.
Positive tests and life outside the bubble
Obviously, some athletes are testing positive. Do you think there is a certain number of positive cases that would cause the leagues to shut it down?
Drumm: I think if enough players on one team test positive so that they could not field a team, the season would be shut down. If one player gets severe respiratory issues, then they would also shut down. And if LeBron (James) gets sick, then the NBA will shut down immediately. I think there will have to be significant sacrifice for this to work, but the bubble idea could lead to us getting sports back.
MLB is the only pro league so far to attempt to get back to work outside of the bubble. What are your thoughts on that?
Drumm: This leads to more variables. Luckily, baseball is less of a contact sport than hockey or basketball.
The fate of the upcoming NFL season
The NFL has already shortened its preseason and of course, there is concern that they will have a shortened or no season, especially if there is a second wave. Do you think the NFL will play a full schedule?
Drumm: It is amazing that it took a pandemic to get rid of the risk of preseason games. Now preseason games are going to be reduced. I think the NFL will have to shuffle its schedule and bye weeks to accommodate teams having an outbreak. They will really have to limit the size of teams and support staff to limit the exposure.
I do think that they need to add extra weeks in and to have flexibility. Again, I think it can be done, but with significant sacrifice. There is a good chance that a starting quarterback gets sick and cannot perform. This is where Nick Foles comes in.
Will there be fans at NFL games this year?
The Philadelphia Eagles recently gave season ticket holders the option to opt out this year. The Pittsburgh Steelers told season ticket holders they have the option for a full refund this season. Do you think it would be safe to go to an Eagles home game in October? If not, when do you think it will be safe?
Drumm: I would not take my family to an Eagles game, not because of how crazy the fans are but because of how crowded those games are. Also, now games on TV come in so clear. I would take one year off and be ready a year later.