Coronavirus, NBA, and March Madness
Today was a very sad day. Wednesday, March 11th, 2020 will go down as one of the most disappointing days in recent memory, as the COVID-19 virus finally dug its ugly, disgusting claws into the sports world for good. Throughout the day multiple conferences and sports leagues were announcing their games and tournaments would be played with limited fans (if any at all), which is disappointing for those who were planning on going, but all-in-all wasn’t a huge impact. Then the news came out that the Ivy League was cancelling all of its spring sports, a massive blow for those student-athletes and a very unfortunate sign of things to come.
It quickly became very evident that the leaders within making these decisions were erring on the side of extreme caution, but it all still seemed so preemptive without a major case actually infiltrating its way into our news cycle. Then, just as it seemed things were calming down for the day, the game scheduled between the Utah Jazz and the Oklahoma City Thunder was suddenly delayed, pulling both teams off the floor during their warm-ups. Then, not even an hour later, the biggest news of the day was announced as it was determined that Jazz center Rudy Gobert had tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. Very soon after that, the NBA suspended the season indefinitely.
While this is obviously incredibly sad for everyone involved with the NBA, from the players to the fans to the arena staff, it has put the entire country on notice. What does this mean for March Madness? Are we talking Grayson Allen at Duke suspended or Ron Artest after the Malice at the Palace suspended? If one player has it, someone else in the locker room has to have it, right? These are all questions that cannot be answered tonight, but as someone who planned on watching a lot of sports the next couple of weeks, I have begun loading up my Netflix instead. While we all love sports, the fans being satisfied should never trump the health of the players, and presidents and commissioners know that very well.
If you ask any athlete on a team that has locked up a bid to March Madness or a team fighting in their conference tournament for a shot to go dancing what they wanted to do, they would say 100% they wanted to play. These are competitors to the highest level, people who have worked their entire lives to be in their current positions, of course they’re going to want to play. From what we’ve seen so far, them contracting the virus would knock them down for a little bit and they would most likely all be fine in a couple weeks, but that’s not the issue. This is over eight-hundred athletes and coaches all touching the same basketballs, using the same microphones, drinking from the same coolers, it’s just asking for problems. As devastating as it would be, if the NCAA cancelled or postponed the tournament, it would be totally understandable.
Do I think we could all look at this one day in the future and realize it was a massive overreaction and that COVID-19 was panic for no reason? Possibly. Do I think it’s worth trying to mitigate the outbreak by taking every precaution possible so we don’t end up like Italy all quarantined to our houses with barren grocery stores? Absolutely. The best thing we can do now as fans is expect the worst and be pleasantly surprised. If we don’t get to fill out brackets this year, it’s going to suck. If there’s no NBA playoffs after one of the most interesting regular seasons of all time, we’ll all be incredibly upset. But, all of these decisions are being made in the name of public safety, which can never be over-prioritized. At the end of the day, this isn’t about banners or trophies; it’s about keeping as many people healthy and safe as possible. And hey, if we make it out of this pandemic, there’s always next year.