When the Blues went into SoCal and defeated Anaheim 4-2 late Wednesday night, they collected two important points for their flight home to St. Louis.
The win mattered. The points mattered. After a quick and successful business trip, the Blues still held a small lead in the NHL Central division standings: St. Louis 94 points … Colorado 92.
In the wee hours of Friday morning, after processing the latest sports bulletin — the NBA’s decision to suspend the league schedule — I wondered if this would be the Blues’ final game of the regular season.
We received that answer on Thursday afternoon.
The NHL became the latest sports entity to halt play due to the intensifying effects of Covid-19, the coronavirus disease. On Thursday the league announced its decision to suspend the season indefinitely.
Pardon my dose of irreverence here, but did the Blues just clinch the Central division?
OK, this is all quite serious … so I’ll try to be.
The Covid-19 is disrupting our national way of life in many ways. Health, safety, the economy, jobs, and the capacity of a medical system that could become stressed by an overload of coronavirus patients in need of care.
And sports have a significant place in our American life. Sports are a passion. And even an obsession. And while sports and games are obviously a low priority during a pandemic.
And yes, the Covid-19 has been classified as a pandemic by the World Health Organization. Covid-19 is a new disease that’s traveling around the globe at a rate that’s exceeded expectations. By a lot.
It’s getting worse. It spreads so quickly, transmitted easily through the simple act of breathing. Victims can go about their normal routines for four or five days, without feeling or experiencing symptoms. And then it hits. So it sneaks up on you,which makes it more challenging to get prompt medical attention. And the more that people unknowingly walk around with the virus, the risk of endangering others increases.
If our immune systems offered protection against the new disease, the result would be less damage. But our immune systems can’t block Covid-19. Not right now. We have no fail-safe internal shield to defend and secure our health.
Oh, and Covid-19 does not attack based on the victim’s political party or leanings. It doesn’t attack based on your viewing habits, whether it be Fox News or MSNBC or another stop on your channel guy. The Covid-19 does not care if you voted for Clinton or Trump or prefer Sanders or Biden. It doesn’t matter if you read the New York Times, or Breitbart. And Corvid-19 does not listen to your wackadoodle conspiracy theories.
And if you are a world-class athlete — fit and strong and the image of perfect health — Covid-19 can invade make an unwanted visit. And maybe it will be a quick stay, but you just don’t know if the virus will move in for a while. And this is true for All-Stars and MVPs. And this is true for a minor-league backup goaltender, or a football long snapper, or a point guard nursing a strained hamstring.
The Covid-19 doesn’t pay attention to your scoreboard — even that scoreboard shows St. Louis 4, Anaheim 2. The only scoreboard that counts with this virus is the number of people that are sick, or dying, or already deceased.
The news –the real news — and the sports news — is happening fast. Can’t keep up with it. It’s a blur.
As I type this, the NBA has suspended its season. All college basketball conference tournaments have been canceled. The NCAA on Wednesday announced plans to hold its two annual basketball tournaments to determine the national champions, but fans will be barred from attending for health-safety reasons.
There’s more to come. Will the NCAA take the next step and cancel March Madness? That would hurt. But not as much as being taken down by an illness … or a virulent virus.
The NHL made the smart move to shut down for a while. Major League Baseball has suspended spring training games in Arizona and Florida and almost certainly will delay the start of the regular season.
(Please keep in mind that I am writing this late Thursday morning. Additional breaking-news developments aren’t included here but the updates don’t alter my point of view. Simply because there have been a lot of cancellations, postponements and suspended competitions and we can expect more cancellations, postponements and suspended competitions.)
We’re in a time crunch here, but it has nothing to do with the schedule. I’m referring to the urgency to do something to stop the advancement of Covid-19.
The Utah Jazz are –unfortunately — Exhibit A in revealing the potential hazards that come with playing these games during the Covid-19 outbreak.
And it was informative, to see the NBA’s swift response after learning the news on Jazz center Rudy Gobert. He was diagnosed with Covid-19. The scheduled game at Oklahoma was postponed. The league suspended the regular season indefinitely. And today there’s news of a second Utah player being stricken with the virus. (Guard Donovan Mitchell.)
Let’s follow the sequence:
— When Gobert got into a skirmish with a Toronto opponent late in Monday’s game, the players shoved each other an elbow was thrown. After the game, Gobert put his hands on the recorders set up by reporters for the postgame interview. Result: after Gobert’s diagnosis, the reporters are being tested for the virus. All because of Gobert handling the recorders.
— Utah teammates were tested. Gobert and Mitchell have the virus. It would surprise absolutely no one if more Jazz players join this medical list.
— Toronto players were tested. And according to media reports, all Toronto players were told to quarantine themselves for 14 days.
— And what about the NBA teams and players who recently played Utah? When the Jazz faced Toronto on Monday, it was their sixth game in 11 days. The Jazz had games against Washington, Cleveland, New York, Boston, Detroit, then Toronto. And they were about to play Oklahoma when the game was called off.
— Were those teams at risk? Did this airborne virus do any harm to the players that were competing hard against the Jazz. With huffing and puffing and jostling and sweating? when competing against the Jazz?
— The NBA officials. That’s part of this. With nine minutes remaining before tipoff of Wednesday’s scheduled game at Sacramento, the New Orleans Pelicans remained in their locker room instead of warming up. They decided not to play the game. That’s because NBA ref Courtney Kirkland, who was assigned to the Pelican-Kings game, was on the crew tthat worked Monday night’s game between Utah and Toronto.
This isn’t about one NBA player getting sick. It’s about the many people who were in direct contact, or even indirect contact, possibly becoming ill after being exposed to the virus. Not just players, but the game refs and team personnel and media that are there to cover the game.
From everything I’ve read — and I’ve been doing a helluva lot of reading, but never at the kook sites — the Covid-19 has something of a multiplier effect. If one person gets it, and is part of a group or just a big crowd, then it becomes two, then four, then six, etc.
That’s been the pattern in China, and Italy and South Korea. Not that everyone who has the virus will die. But compared to previous virus-related crises, those that suffer from Covid-19 are more likely to die based on the current trends and percentages.
We’re also learning that the virus can be contained. The risks can be lowered. How? Accelerating and expanding the testing capacity… rapidly isolating sick patients, or suspected patients … introducing policies that limit public gatherings … especially large gatherings … employees should work from home if possible. Those recommendations have been effective in places such as China, South Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore.
The term for this — as you’ve probably heard by now — is social distancing. And it is exactly as it sounds. Avoid crowds, don’t get packed with others in limited spaces, give yourself plenty of room, and isolation is helpful. And even better if you can do your work in a satisfactory manner while isolated in the comfort of your own residence.
And where do people gather in large crowds that are packed in tight, shoulder to shoulder, opening their mouths to yell at the refs or umpires, and cheer for their teams? SPORTS. And sports venues. Those dangerous little virus particles, invisible to the eye, can be blasted from one person to the person in the next seat over … or in the row in front of you … or in the row in back of you. And you have hundreds of fans visiting the bathroom, and buying food and drink from concession stands.
I’m no germaphobe, but of course it makes sense to be extra cautious, extra safe, and smart. It’s much better to be cautious than reckless. Much better to be intelligent than ignorant. Much better to be careful that careless.
And the sooner we do this, the sooner we can contain the virus and speed up the process of getting back to normal.
As a nation we were slow to take meaningful action to curtail the spread Covid-19. And by the way, this isn’t just the “flu.”
Covid-19 is at least 10 times more deadly than the regular flu, according to Congressional testimony given by Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Fauci added: “It’s going to get worse.”
The NBA, NHL, MLB and MLS are doing the right thing by powering down, closing the doors to the venues, and giving our health experts an opportunity to zero in on Covid-19.
It’s best to slow it down — and settle Americans down.
Our beloved sports games will go on — but only after a timeout.
And it could be a lengthy timeout at that. But the games will return.
And when the games resume we’ll stand together at the venues — happier and healthier and more secure. Fans, athletes, team personnel and venue workers won’t have to worry so much about leaving the building with a virus. That’s a really hideous souvenir to take home with you.
Or as Anaheim Angels manager Joe Maddon told The Athletic: “We all take a month off, sit still, see where it’s at, move forward. The world might get a chance to hit the reset button. It might be good for all of us.”
Oh, we’ll hear cheers again. Hopefully soon. And we’ll be cheering for our teams, yes. But also cheering in reaction to Covid-19 being placed on waivers.
Thanks for reading …