Play ball, sort of: Sports are back in a COVID-19 world

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Now that baseball, basketball, soccer, hockey and football are all set to return, Las Vegas can start taking over/under bets on how long before their seasons come to a crashing halt. Are we to believe there is actually a safe way to resume professional and college sports in the midst of a pandemic? Who are we kidding? We can’t keep hospitals supplied with enough PPEs to fight COVID-19. What makes us think the NFL and other leagues can beat COVID-19?

Pro football is a $15 billion industry. That is the number 15 followed by more zeros than even I got on math exams as a kid. Still, despite that league’s wealth, they can’t stop an outbreak of athlete’s foot in locker rooms so don’t count on them punting the coronavirus out of the 32 stadiums and practice facilities around the league.

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This is the same league that tells us they take player safety seriously while wanting to add more games to the regular season and more teams to the playoffs because as we all know, new helmets are all that are needed.

Does the NFL understand that during the season, when players have down time, their favorite activity involves partying? Partying demands saying, “F You,” to social distancing because how else are some players going to get into brawls after having too much to drink?

Drinking is a big part of football. Players, coaches, owners, and fans have a habit of overdoing the consumption of alcohol. This results in all kinds of sordid behaviors where social distancing, mask wearing, and decent hygiene fall by the wayside.

Do you really want to check out your favorite sports site on a Friday morning and read that your favorite football team has 25 players, 6 coaches, 3 cheerleaders, and a water boy testing positive for COVID-19?

College football is more likely to be cancelled because who is going to corral 85 20-year-old guys and keep them out of harm’s way while they practice, attend classes (some actually do this), and go bar hopping before hitting a few frat parties? I once attended a party in a dorm room that was designed to house two students where at least 40 people drank, danced, and in some cases tried removing their clothes, but were unable to due to the lack of elbow room. We called this Thursday night and it was a warm up for bigger things to come on the weekend. I don’t see today’s college players deciding to attend zoom parties just so the NCAA can profit off their unpaid labor.

A dream of mine may come true soon: a 60-game Major League Baseball season. Of course, in my version, teams play two or three games a week over the course of four months rather than cramming them into the 67 days they have set aside. Still, it is nice knowing that this year my team is still in it after May since no games have been played.

Fans will get to see Dodgers OF
Cody Bellinger on TV

That said, it is still baseball and with football set to return in the fall and the NBA playoffs taking place, no one will care if baseball plays this year. The players sure don’t care unless they receive full pay for one-third the work. Owners are not thrilled with the idea of having to pay high priced players who will report in various levels of fitness just to watch them blow out an arm or pull a hammy walking to first base. Their season has about as much to offer fans as two day old leftovers have to offer me at a HomeTown Buffet. It might look attractive, but in the end, it will leave you sick to your stomach.

Both men’s and women’s soccer is starting back up and the women do not seem all that thrilled about it. Many of our top USWNT players have decided to remain home instead of playing in a tournament in Utah. In fact, one team, I think it is the Punxsutawney Pigtails, have said thanks, but no thanks and will remain home.

You’d think these women were rich after being paid millions of dollars a year like MLB players, but their average pay is more like minimum wage plus gas money for driving to and from away games. As for the men’s league, there is talk of expanding their rosters as a way to deal with virus outbreaks. This is just what the league needs, more players who answer Craig’s List ads for weekend pickup games where the loser buys the first round.

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Not to be outdone in the absurdity of professional sports, the NBA plans to finish their regular season before unrolling a different playoff format unless you are one of the eight worst teams in the league at which time you do not have to bother showing up for work. How great is this? The teams that need the most work to improve will not play while the top 22 teams resume a season which was believed already over, that is, if you want to play.

You see, the NBA is allowing players of the 22 remaining teams to opt out of playing. Let’s see … go to Disney World and live in a heavily confined area in a state in the midst of a massive coronavirus outbreak while not being around family … or stay home and relax? It’s a tough call to make for anyone who has already banked millions of dollars.

As for their playoff format, the NBA is basically going with a format that places LeBron James in the best case scenario of winning another title because otherwise, he will take his talent home and film Space Jam 9. However, before getting excited about the NBA, just remember they have already had COVID outbreaks, continue having outbreaks, and my guess is they will have them while staying at the sickest place on earth.

Even golf is back and it took about 28 seconds for players and caddies to be diagnosed with COVID-19. Tennis will return with the U.S. Open set to be played in empty stadiums, but leave it to tennis players to continue finding ways to spread this stubborn virus. No sport seems immune to being shut down once it resumes play so don’t say I did not warn you.

Among some of the new protocols in sports are baseball players are no longer allowed to spit which is about all there is for them to do when they are not up to bat. If a pitcher plans to deliberately hit a batter, he must notify the umpire first and receive a new baseball coated with hand sanitizer.

LAFC F Carlos Vela will be seen at the
ESPN Wide World of Sports

Football locker rooms have to be reconfigured so players are six feet apart and instead of showering after games and practices, they will be sprayed with disinfectant before being dropped into vats of boiling water. Defensive linemen will have to line up six feet off of the line of scrimmage and tackling will be completely eliminated. Still, players will find a way to suffer head injuries while spreading this nasty bug.

Any NBA team that plays man to man defense must wear hazmat suits and in soccer, players who take a dive will be left by themselves to writhe on the ground in false agony while play is moved out to the empty stadium parking lot.

Indeed, sports is back for the time being. However, you might want to take out your old game of Rock’em Sock’em Robots or electric football for your sporting pleasure. They are proven to withstand any virus mankind can throw at us.

Photos by Claudia Gestro