There’s much we do not know about COVID-19, the coronavirus, the now pandemic that’s rapidly growing as testing becomes available for the first time. Children aren’t as affected, but vulnerable populations like the elderly and those with compromised immune systems are particularly in danger.
Yesterday — one of the most earth-shattering days in sports history — the scale of this news finally engulfed the hoops world. What slowly started with the Ivy League cancelling its conference tournament quickly turned into a March Madness without fans and the suspension of the NBA season.
We never made it to an empty Chase Center on Thursday. Within a minute of news breaking that Rudy Gobert contracted the virus, the NBA pulled the plug. Basketball is over for the foreseeable future. All those bench scoring concerns, trade deadline second-guesses, and hand-wringing over the Celtics’ late game performances disappeared into thin air. The Celtics remain self-quarantined in Milwaukee given their recent game against the Jazz (including another nearly two weeks ago).
Sports always seemed to exist in a different universe. Under a different set of rules. A different reality even. But what started as social spacing in NBA locker rooms between the media and players evolved into potentially playing the games without fans. But now, with the season officially on hold, the reality of this pandemic has finally interrupted what for so many people was an escape from that reality.
It’s something Jaylen Brown addressed earlier in the day. It’s not about us. It never was. The NBA will continue, perhaps even in time for the playoffs in May or maybe even later this summer. It could take until the fall, but may need to eventually accept.
Our hospitals and health care can only hold so much it’s NOT ABOUT YOU please take the proper precautions— Jaylen Brown (@FCHWPO) March 11, 2020
This is bigger than basketball. Certainly those most adversely affected would avoid 10,000-plus stadiums filled with screaming fans. They may not have been able to avoid people who just took the subway across town for the game though, or went to work the next day and shook hands with someone bound to go see their grandmother that night. With a virus that doesn’t immediately show symptoms, caution has become mandatory. The NBA knew this and what might seem to some as a drastic measure is exactly what needed to be done.
Brown went to Instagram to express this: “you might not be affected by it, but someone you know will.”
Earlier tonight, before the NBA announced the season was supsended, Jaylen Brown went on IG live to talk about coronavirus: “This is urgent. The way they stop viruses is by shutting things down.” pic.twitter.com/0rm2Y7UxzC— Nicole Yang (@nicolecyang) March 12, 2020
All I could think about in that moment was my grandma, who will celebrate her birthday this weekend around family who have been in hospitals, in other people’s cars, and at school. Is it worth it?
Those are the questions we’ll all ask, and the NBA’s commendable decision is a wake up call that maybe we’ve all used sports as too easy of an escape from these pressing world issues. We can’t just stick to sports now. We can read up, educate, get tested where possible, and support those who need to decide between staying home from work sick or making money.
"This is crazy. This can't be true. ... It seemed more like out of a movie than reality."— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) March 12, 2020
—Mark Cuban explains his reaction to hearing that the NBA was suspending its season. pic.twitter.com/MHyrAD4D0f
As Brown said, everyone can do a small part in stopping the spread even if it’s as simple as regularly washing your hands. Stores are selling out of cleaning supplies. Masks are becoming more visible. Things that might appear to be panicking could legitimately save lives.
It stinks that the Celtics season is on hold. We feel for the concession workers now out of jobs. Our own Keith Smith left his day job to cover the NBA, now with no NBA to cover. These decisions affected people in more real ways than our misery over not having games to chat about daily. Now, all we can do is wait — and maybe even reflect a little on why.