View: Face The Facts, We May Not Have Our Beloved PA Sports Back Until 2021

Posted on June 25, 2020 - Last Updated on June 24, 2020

I should be writing about sports right now. The Phillies’ return. PGA Tour odds. Pumping up the Flyers, who were playing their best hockey in recent memory before the season paused.

But I can’t do it today. Coronavirus broke me. Just because we are tired of it doesn’t mean it is tired of us. It doesn’t seem to get tired. Instead, it continues to kill, infect, cancel and exhaust.

Sports in the grand scheme

There are many more serious matters in this world than sports. The 123,000 people who have died and the climbing case numbers. Those hit by the loss of jobs and income.

To many, sports is a favorite distraction/pleasure/thrill that we welcome like an old friend each changing season.

But today, I just can’t write about sports. Long before I wrote about them, I loved sports. Instead of New Kids on the Block, my bedroom walls were plastered with pictures of Eric Lindros. My diary was full of notes about the utter disappointment of another season ending without a championship for a Philadelphia team.

It pains me to say it, because it’s been a part of my life for so long, but it’s time for me to start accepting the real possibility that there will be no major sports until there is a vaccine or major treatment breakthrough.

The players can choose not to go to work

“Stop living in fear.”

It’s the response thrown around social media to anyone not fully resuming their usual activities or expressing any concern about going to back to “normal.”

As of June 23, there were 2.39 million confirmed COVID-19 cases in the United States and 123,000 deaths.

Some feel that of the 382 million people who live in the country, the number of those infected is low. Some also believe that professional athletes in top physical condition would be extremely likely to recover.

I don’t care how much they get paid, they are not here to sacrifice their lives for your viewing pleasure. If Bryce Harper doesn’t want to play because he doesn’t want to risk contracting the virus, possibly putting his career and life in danger, that’s his decision.

But you have to go to work anyway

Hire Scott Boras as an agent to negotiate better terms.

I was in the hospital getting blood transfusions and a (former) employer kept calling to ask if I was going to show up for my shift in an hour.

The working conditions for everyday workers and professional athletes are vastly different. If you think your compensation/health care plan/sick leave/maternity leave is inadequate, you aren’t the only one, and it’s an issue much more pressing than “When will major sports return?”

A number of players have openly discussed doubts about returning to play. One of the most recent and powerful statements came from Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Brett Anderson, who tweeted, “What happens when we all get it?”

Three reasons sports might not return soon

Here’s why I don’t think major sports can return until a vaccine/major medical breakthrough emerges:

  1. The safety of the players and staff
  2. The integrity of the game
  3. Coronavirus is acting like an asshole

The safety of the players and staff

The threat of coronavirus is not contained. Even if you go with the “bubble” plan like the NBA, there is still a chance of an outbreak. Yes, the players might be asymptomatic or easily recover due to their age and health. But too much is unknown about coronavirus and its long-term effects.

Then there is the thing no one wants to think about, let alone talk about. What if a player has to be hospitalized/intubated or dies?

Just because I don’t fully understand science doesn’t mean it’s not true. Many scientists and doctors believe that a vaccine is the key to getting back to “normal.” It’s speculated that a vaccine could be available by the end of 2020.

Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the leading public health expert on President Trump’s coronavirus task force, who at first was revered and now seems to be grating on many people’s nerves with his steadfast commitment to not always saying what they want to hear, commented during an April 28 New York Times interview:

“Safety, for the players and for the fans, trumps everything. If you can’t guarantee safety, then unfortunately you’re going to have to bite the bullet and say, ‘We may have to go without this sport for this season.’”

On Tuesday, Fauci said he’s seen a “disturbing surge” in the number of new cases.

The integrity of the game

Reconfigure the postseason all you want (NBA and NHL). Shorten the season (MLB). Move forward like the behemoth you are (NFL). But what happens when players test positive during the season and have to quarantine? What if a whole team has to quarantine and then forfeit the season?

In D1: The Mighty Ducks, the Panthers got the measles (also an airborne illness) and forfeited the season. This opened the door for the Ducks, with new equipment, a few Hockey 101 lessons and DUI-serving head coach, to sneak into the playoffs.

That was Disney fiction, and 28 years later, people are still questioning why a whole team in Minnesota in 1992 wasn’t vaccinated (and why the bottom-seed Ducks didn’t play the top-seed Hawks). Now, this can really happen.

The Eastern Conference top-seed (currently) Milwaukee Bucks could have a certain number of players in quarantine and have to forfeit their season. Or, what happens if four starters have it?

The teams aren’t just competing against each other. They are also fighting off coronavirus. This is going to create an uneven playing field, since certain teams are going to have a higher number of positive cases.

Coronavirus is acting like an asshole

How else would you describe it? Why has no one else said this? It’s upended our lives. Unlike other “this day in history” events, it’s not confined to one day. It’s been going on for months.

Listen, I want sports to return. I may be out of a job if it doesn’t. But I’m really starting to think major sports is not going to happen until early 2021. I need to prepare myself for its even longer absence.

Right now, the biggest game is the Coronavirus vs. the World.

Can’t negotiate with COVID

Last week, five Philadelphia Phillies tested positive. Twenty-eight Clemson players tested positive. Just Google “teams/players who have tested positive.” The more testing, the more players who are going to be shown to be positive.

Each league needs to decide what number of positive tests will warrant shutting it down. Until they do, there is going to be a looming doubt from now until the games actually occur that a season will happen and will be completed.

I love Philadelphia sports teams even though my brain says they have hurt me too many times.

But when your heart is with a team, your brain doesn’t stand a chance.

Games will likely be played without fans at least for the near future, which I don’t mind. But when I saw a story about stuffed animals filling the stands, my heart didn’t leap at the thought of stuffed Phillie Phanatics filling the seats.

I just don’t see baseball, basketball and hockey resuming games by late July. I don’t even want to say what I think about the NFL because it hurts too much.

The Major League Baseball Players Association tweeted yesterday that “all remaining issues have been resolved,” which made me LOL. Maybe your economic issues are under control, but unless you had coronavirus at the negotiating table, it might all be moot.

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Katie Kohler

Katie Kohler is a Philadelphia-area based award-winning journalist. She covers the Pennsylvania gambling industry with an emphasis on sports betting, online casino/poker and the lottery.

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