Dr. Anthony Fauci is kind of a big deal.
As the longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who moonlights as the Justin Timberlake of Trump’s coronavirus task force boy band, anything that comes out of his mouth is as good as gold. So if he says there’s no Santa Claus, your kids will just have to cry that shit out and deal with it. If he says Cardi B has ghostwriters, then dammit, guess who the hell has ghostwriters? And if he says that some sports leagues might have to skip the rest of their seasons, then—wait, what?!
This bastard really fixed his face and said:
“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.’”
While completely rational and pragmatic, this ain’t what those of us who can’t wait for LeBron to take an L in the playoffs are trying to hear. But Fauci wasn’t done there; he expressed the very real possibility that if and when sports return, that they’ll look nothing like we’ve ever experienced before. Stadiums could require fans to wear gloves and masks, as well as maintain social distancing in order to mitigate the “density of the infection,” or outright refuse fan entry entirely.
“I’m not saying this is the way to go, but you want to at least consider having players, if they’re going to play, play in front of a TV camera without people in the audience,” he said. “And then test all the players and make sure they’re negative and keep them in a place where they don’t have contact with anybody on the outside who you don’t know whether they’re positive or negative.”
But if canceling the season proves to be the only available option for pro sports leagues, the outcome could be catastrophic. Leagues like the WNBA were set to kick off on May 15, and because it’s attendance struggles require it to be subsidized by the NBA—which is dealing with its own issues during this pandemic—what’s the NBA’s incentive to prioritize a league that has yet to prove profitable? Would the NBA cut its losses and cancel the entire 2020 WNBA season? Or force it to operate concurrently with the NBA and compete for media coverage and broadcast times when games resume? That’s a battle the WNBA has no chance in hell to win.
MLB is another league that’s in serious trouble.
From Yahoo Sports:
MLB—between its gate revenues from 81 home games per team and position in the sports calendar—seems to have the most to lose if widespread testing doesn’t arrive in the next few months. The league has already floated a number of possible ways to hold a season in isolation, and MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has said he is willing to get creative to hold baseball games this year.
I mean, hell. The NCAA already canceled—not postponed—March Madness, the NHL and NBA are on an indefinite hiatus, and the NFL and NCAA College Football are considering skipping bye weeks and other alternatives as they prepare for their own upcoming seasons. What more does COVID-19 want from us?!
“I would love to be able to have all sports back,” Fauci said. “But as a health official and a physician and a scientist, I have to say, right now, when you look at the country, we’re not ready for that yet.”
Clearly, we aren’t. And without a vaccine, many of us are beginning to wonder if we ever will be.