BY Art Thiel 06:00AM 04/16/2020

Thiel: If one team can’t go, a season can’t count

Given the absence of a vaccine and effective national testing, and the ubiquity of the coronavirus, pro sports leagues shouldn’t risk firing up mid-pandemic.

The new SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, CA., home of the Rams and Chargers, is scheduled to open this summer, but may do so without fans. Is that an opening?

You don’t have to be an epidemiologist to have come to an understanding by now that confirmed cases of coronavirus can erupt anytime, anywhere, from an aircraft carrier in Guam to a prison near Seattle to a pork plant in South Dakota. That randomness haunts the nights of every elected in the country, perhaps save one.

That’s why, in the absence of a vaccine or a concise federal plan, it’s so hard to re-start sports — they are in every major market, all with different conditions and politics, in an industry that demands uniformity.

A fresh outbreak in any metro market this spring, summer or fall threatens to cancel games played even at empty stadiums. It’s also true for college football games at big stadiums in smaller cities, many of which have yet to be hit hard by the virus and have fewer public-health resources.

The frenetic national conversation about when and how to green-light the return of big-time sports in a pandemic took a turn this week — not for the good, but likely for the best.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti was quoted in an internal email to city department heads saying that he may recommend “large gatherings such as concerts and sporting events may not be approved in the city for at least one year,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

The idea for 2020 of taking out of play Los Angeles, arguably the most significant sports city in the country, illuminates an overlooked consequence in the debate about recovering from a wicked-bad virus: In pro team sports, if one franchise can’t play, there can’t be a legitimate championship season.

No matter what President Trump thinks is good for business, a pro sports league is built on a premise of equal rules, conditions and fairness for all franchises. And since no sports team would ever go against the public safety mandates of a mayor or a governor, a championship season can’t be conducted without all members playing equal games under relatively equal terms.

The inviolate nature of a traditional league operating in every major market of the country is a symbol of order, norms and calm. It’s plain why everyone wants the return. But not under any conditions. Incomplete seasons for Rams or Chargers would make the NFL season a glorified exhibition.

Games can be played without fans. Games can be played without a full season. Games can be played at neutral sites. But no games by the Rams, 12 by the Seahawks, seven by the Chiefs and five by the Packers? No.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom followed up Garcetti’s thoughts Tuesday with a more specific proposal, announcing a list of six conditions that had to be met before sports and other large gatherings are allowed in his state:

  • The ability to monitor and protect communities through testing, contact tracing, isolating, and supporting those who are positive or exposed;
  • The ability to prevent infection in people who are at risk for more severe COVID-19;
  • The ability of the hospital and health systems to handle surges;
  • The ability to develop therapeutics to meet the demand;
  • The ability for businesses, schools, and child care facilities to support physical distancing; and
  • The ability to determine when to re-institute certain measures, such as the stay-at-home orders, if necessary.

Those requirements, the first of their kind in the absence of federal leadership, start to explain what the California world needs to look like in order to green-light sports with fans. It is a very high bar.

“It’s difficult to imagine us getting together in the thousands anytime soon, so I think we should be prepared for that this year,” Newsom told CNN Wednesday night. “I think we all have never wanted science to work so quickly. But until there’s either a vaccine, some sort of pharmaceutical intervention, or herd immunity, the science is the science.

“Public health officials have made very clear we have miles and miles to walk before we can be back in those environments.”

One of those public health officials, the ubiquitous Dr. Anthony Fauci, of the White House task force, nevertheless offered up a little hope Wednesday. In a Snapchat interview, he sounded surprisingly cavalier about the prospects of quarantining and testing players  so that they can play partial seasons.

“There’s a way of doing that,” he said. “Nobody comes to the stadium. Put (players and other personnel) in big hotels, wherever you want to play, keep them very well-surveilled, have them tested like every week, and make sure they don’t wind up infecting each other or their family. And just let them play the season out. If you could get on television, Major League Baseball, to start July 4 (even if) nobody comes to the stadium — you just, you do it.”

Easy for Fauci to say. He’s not in charge of securing and disinfecting personnel, sites and transportation on a daily basis for, in the case of baseball, 4½ months. Nor will he have to deal with the pregnant Mrs. Mike Trout.

Her husband, the best player in baseball, had something to say about that to Mike Tirico of NBC Sports Network.

“Being quarantined in a city . . . it would be difficult for some guys,” he said. “What are you gonna do with family members? My wife is pregnant. What am I gonna do when she goes into labor? Am I going to have to quarantine for two weeks after I come back? Because obviously I can’t miss that birth of our first child.

“There’s a lot of red flags, a lot of questions. Obviously, we would have to agree on it as players. But I think the mentality is we want to get back as soon as we can, but obviously it’s gotta be realistic. We can’t be sitting in a hotel room, just going from the field to the hotel room and not being able to do anything. I think that’s pretty crazy.”

“Pretty crazy” is a phrase that covers a lot of ground these days. In the absence of a vaccine as well as effective national testing, there’s no need to add to the craziness by re-inflating sports seasons threatened almost daily with deflation.


YourThoughts

  • coug73

    Thanks Art. An excellent report on the COVID-19 dilemma facing not just sports resuming but all human activities.

    • art thiel

      You’re welcome.

  • tor5

    Really interesting insights, Art. Thanks. What you spell out with respect to sports I’m afraid will apply to many aspects of getting society and the economy “back to normal”: that is, the nitty gritty planning and logistics and coordination will be extremely complicated… even in the best of circumstances. I hope we have leaders who are up to it. I’ve given up on federal leadership.

    • art thiel

      I agree with the sentiment that there is no getting back to normal. There is only the new nomal.

  • Effzee

    The establishment Demoncrats will sacrifice every aspect of our lives and freedoms out of a pathological hatred for a single human being. These people are sick.

    • Joe_Fan

      …and there you have it. The opening volley of stupidity.

      • Effzee

        Do your own research. Not exactly a mystery what’s going on. #provemewrong

        • Husky73

          (My) authority is total….Article 2….when I took over the United States….I don’t take responsibility at all….we’re a back-up….you’re a terrible reporter….we’re trying to make it much much less bad….It will be better on Tuesday…..it’s going to have a good ending for us…it’s their new hoax…

        • art thiel

          The Mad Magazine of the robber barons.

          • Husky73

            Mort Drucker died recently.

    • Kirkland

      Lincoln suspended habeas corpus during the Civil War. In national emergencies, some civil rights get thrown out the window by leaders of any stripe.

      • Effzee

        Scott Adams calls Trump a “Master Persuader”.

        I think he said the absolute power thing to bait governors into clamoring for the right to be bosses of their own states. So he could then give it to them.

        But that is exactly what he’s said he’s wanted since the 1980s (smaller government).

        I think he tricked them into demanding what he wanted all along (smaller government).

        It’ll be better. Washington State needs different things than New York. Maybe we can reduce federal taxes? The amount spent on stealth bombers alone probably could pay for a good chunk of UBI!

        Plus, he won’t be pres forever. A lot of the garbage Obama did was because of how expansive the president’s powers have grown to be.

        (i.e. Congress now doesn’t have to declare war any more. The president can just move troops around the map, or order air strikes.)

        • tor5

          I guess that’s one way to look at it: Trump was brilliantly out-smarting the governors in order to advance his long-held, principled commitment to smaller government. Another possibility is that it was just impulsive, self-aggrandizing, chaotic blathering.

          • Effzee

            If you watch any video of him in the 80’s, his message is phenomenally consistent to today. All he talks about is selling our economy (jobs) out to China, spending our money to rebuild other nations while letting our infrastructure crumble, etc. Its the exact same stuff. I think the man came in with a plan to remove these old power structures (“new world order”) and restore the Republic. His chaotic blathering is a persona. He *toys* with the media. Its Mensa-level trolling. High comedy.

          • tor5

            Ah, I get it. The President of the United States blathers and projects chaos in the midst of a global pandemic, but it’s really Mensa-level trolling and high comedy. Genius! And very stable!

          • Effzee

            I don’t think he projects chaos at all. I watch the press conferences. The media are unhinged, they are chaotic and panicky, and they have an obvious agenda. I bet POTUS would *love* someone to ask him real questions. Like, “Why do you retweet Q,” or “Tell us more about the thousands of women you just mentioned rescuing from being captive,” for example. I appreciate the fact that he doesn’t coddle. My favorite part of him is that he takes no crap from nobody. None. From nobody.

          • Husky73

            Trump has two emotions—anger and paranoia. He lumbers to the podium, blathers nonsense, and then walks away in a fog.

          • I can’t even. This post is just what Effzee wants to see, not what is happening. 35,000 people are dead, to what end, to “own the libs”?

            Stable genius at work. 35,000 dead Americans who didn’t have to die. And the media sensationalized? That was the beginning. Now the media is being blamed for failure to warn. It’s never Donny’s fault. Ever notice that? He never accepts any responsibility, never makes the hard decisions like ramping up testing, warning the public in Jan or Feb that a whole bunch of Americans are going to die even if we do this right. All because the economy. That’s not leading. That’s malfeasance. That’s malignant narcissism.

            But you be impressed with “takes no crap from nobody. None. Nobody”.

            And get used to saying President Biden.

          • rosetta_stoned

            And get used to saying President Biden.

            Whatever you say, champ. You’re nominating a dementia patient. Not even he could say President Biden.

          • jafabian

            Covfefe!

          • Husky73

            Colorado border wall.

          • Husky73

            Biden has two things Trump does not– a hear and a soul. Trump knows two emotions— anger and paranoia.

          • Husky73

            Dementia? Trump thinks Colorado has a border wall, and that airports were secured in the Revolutionary War. He wants to rake forests, nuke a hurricane and water bomb an 800 year old Cathedral. He claimed the virus is a hoax, said there would be close to zero cases in late February, and wanted to buy Greenland….covfefe, Article 2, Napoleon Bonaparte, when I took over the United States, multiple Nobel prizes….NOW, WHO IS SENILE AND A SIMPLETON?

          • rosetta_stoned

            And btw, tell me what your precious leftists were doing when Trump was shutting down travel from China. In January.

            They were calling him a racist … while impeaching him.

          • Archangelo Spumoni

            When he was “shutting down” travel, several HUNDRED thousand people had arrive via a weird concept–connecting flights–and arrived. Roughly 1370 different flights.
            And the last sentence–the poster somehow (??) forgot that Drumpfh included 3 African countries for zero (0) reason.
            Facts are weird, you know. Simply repeating talking points that were delivered with the intent to deceive–not good.

          • Husky73

            MAGA = Morons Are Governing America

          • Matt Kite

            Is it infrastructure week again? Perhaps most impressive of Trump’s extraordinary talents is his ability to grow debt and leave it for someone else to pay. Fortunately, the second a Dem returns to the Oval Office the GOP will once again embrace fiscal conservancy, the rule of law, and separation of powers. I bet some will even carry little copies of the Constitution with them wherever they go as they continue to dismantle the government. Good times.

          • Archangelo Spumoni

            Just a few minor quotes, never projecting “chaos” as the poster writes:
            Feb 26: “And again, when you have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero, that’s a pretty good job we’ve done.”
            February 27: “It’s going to disappear. One day — it’s like a miracle — it will disappear. And from our shores, we — you know, it could get worse before it gets better. It could maybe go away. We’ll see what happens. Nobody really knows. The fact is, the greatest experts — I’ve spoken to them all. Nobody really knows.” He made similar comments later in the outbreak, saying on March 10, “It will go away. Just stay calm. It will go away.”
            Last, for just here, is the claim that he banned flights from China and his supporters dwelling in that bubble repeat this blindly. The concept of “connecting flights” allowed thousands of travelers to fly here; and the claim that the objection to the banning of certain flights was racist—repeaters forget that he included 3 African countries for zero reason. A simple fact unknown by those living in the bubble.

            It is impossible to rebut the claim that he is doing nothing more than “Mensa level trolling.” The only option is to hope some posters/Americans acquire a different source of their news.
            “Depraved indifference” comes to mind to describe the Oval Office’s response to this whole thing..

          • Husky73

            Mensa level? “Donald Trump is the dumbest god damn student I ever had.” (Professor William Kelly, University of Pennsylvania).

          • Husky73

            Every time a Republican speaks of smaller government, it gets bigger.

        • art thiel

          Trump didn’t have a right to give or take. Everyone knew it. And he likely didn’t remember what he said the day before

          But I do believe I agree with you on the excesses of presidential power. It derives from a gradual de-evolution of Americans’ willingness engage in meaningful local and national politics and policy. We now are intellectual six-year-olds who crave a daddy to make it all better

      • art thiel

        The issue later becomes restoration.

        • Husky73

          I don’t understand…reconstruction?

          • art thiel

            No. Sorry. The restoration of the suspended laws. The fear is that despots like those who have ruled modern Russia, China and North Korea, whom Trump admires, will never put back in place the civil rights laws pulled back during a crisis.

          • Husky73

            Thank you.

    • Husky73

      God is not happy with Trump, his henchmen and army of bigoted supporters who exist without consciences, decency and purpose other than to raise up the cult of Trump.

      • Effzee

        Actually, Trump is doing God’s work right now. Have you watched Out of Shadows yet? Evil runs Hollywood and DC. If you’re going to bring God into this, you might want to watch: https://youtu.be/MY8Nfzcn1qQ

        • Husky73

          No, the “pure evil” is Xi (whom Trump “admires”) and what he has been doing in Hong Kong and in his re-education camps; the gangster-state that is Putin (whom Trump “trusts”); and the cult-police state of Kim (“whom Trump “fell in love” with).

          • Effzee

            Did you watch the movie I posted? Or just respond?

        • 2nd place is 1st loser

          Just out of curiosity, how loud is that coo coo clock in your head? Please stop breaking your Prozac in half, you certainly need the whole tablet. Get better soon.

        • Bruce McDermott

          Oh my Lord….

    • art thiel

      Then there are political leaders who will sacrifice many lives in order to fluff stock portfolios.

      • jafabian

        As long as it isn’t their own.

  • Kirkland

    I saw social media posts from an athlete (I think soccer player) who just days after giving birth was diagnosed with COVID-19. She’s has to spend the last couple of weeks in isolation and with no contact with her newborn. Gut-wrenching, but she’s due to emerge from quarantine in a few days and can reunite with the baby. I couldn’t imagine being in a situation like this.

    • art thiel

      Thanks for sharing. CNN had a similar story about a woman who was diagnosed just before giving birth. Happy ending for both, fortunately, but so many episodes are brutal.

  • rosetta_stoned

    Lovely little ‘sports’ site you have here, Art.

    • art thiel

      As I told readers previously, you and those who share your views like to put tidy little fences around sports, as if somehow politics and real life should not be allowed in. I prefer tidiness too, but the twin contagions of Trump and the virus have forced their ways into the collective consciousness. To ignore them and their consequences to sports would be lamentable, although not as lamentable as, say, dismantling in 2018 the infectious disease panel in the National Security Council.

      https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/wireStory/trump-disbanded-nsc-pandemic-unit-experts-praised-69594177

      For a reader who enjoys a president who colors outside the lines all the time, I’m a little surprised you can’t handle a sports site than ventures into real life occasionally.

  • Bobcat

    I’m tired of reading how pro athletes can’t be trusted to honor a quarantine. I’d happily be quarantined if I could earn millions of dollars. A friend of mine is a postal carrier. They just had a baby, and they are so afraid he’s going to bring the virus home and infect the child, he is living with his in-laws until it is safe. Potentially several years. If pro athletes can’t suck it up and live in a luxury hotel for a few months, while they play baseball…