The NBA has a 113-page manual on health and safety for the coming restart at the end of July. Every league is said to be preparing for what will be the most unique set of circumstances in the history of sport. But, what few are openly discussing is the real possibility that it will all come crashing down.
Every league has its own problems when it comes to making money. Some are better off than others like the NBA or NFL. But, one of the real issues comes not from empty stadiums or lost television revenue, but rather from the real possibility that any league could find itself at the center of its own mini-COVID-19 outbreak.
Leagues can lay out every protocol known to man, enlist the aid of immunologists and experts, and even, as the NBA is planning, play in a "bubble," but there is little escape from a virus as pervasive as the one we are facing right now. We've already seen reports of players in every league infected. That's with no games happening. Put them in close proximity to one another, in locker rooms and on the field or court, and suddenly, you have a super spreader event that, even if localized to the teams, would spell disaster for the league.
It is not uncommon for a virus to spread through a locker room or clubhouse, infecting everyone from the players to the staff. It happens every year with the flu or stomach viruses. So, it is not a stretch to suggest that we could see an entire team taken down by COVID-19.
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Imagine if half a team was forced to quarantine. Now, picture that team being the Lakers or Bucks. It's not fantasy. It's a reality and one that must scare the NBA to death.
While few would argue the merits of sports getting back on the field, pitch, ice and court, the risks are incredible, not just for the safety of athletic young men, but for everyone around them and the sport itself. If the pandemic races through a league, it could be forced to cancel a season as quickly as the restarted, a potentially devastating consequence of a year that has given us just about all we can handle.
We all want something, anything, to give us respite from all the stresses of this year. But it is a massive risk for the sports leagues and the cost could be high.
They can talk about how to stay healthy all they want, but disaster is waiting around every corner and we all better be prepared.