Coronavirus has become the new science of sportson July 15, 2020 at 1:23 am

”We haven’t even begun to see the end of it,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said Monday.

And, no, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert wasn’t talking about the Bears’ quarterback race between Mitch Trubisky and Nick Foles.

He was talking about COVID-19, which needs no introduction.

But even as the White House attempts to discredit this calm, careful, even-talking man who has dealt with epidemics and pandemics for decades and has advised six presidents, the scientist himself is begging us to take this virus beyond seriously.

When he says the coronavirus is ”clearly the most challenging” public-health crisis he has dealt with, you should know he has dealt with HIV, Ebola, anthrax, West Nile, swine flu, SARS, Zika and other bad diseases in the past.

You’d think a brilliant man who has dedicated his life to public service, who is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Medicine, the National Academy of Arts and Sciences and has been awarded 45 honorary doctorates from universities around the world, would be embraced — even exalted — by our president during this troubling time.

Alas, no. Donald Trump saw fit, even as Fauci was giving his warning, to retweet to his 83.4 million followers this intel from former ”Wheel of Fortune” and ”Love Connection” host Chuck Woolery:

”The most outrageous lies are the ones about Covid 19. Everyone is lying. The CDC, Media, Democrats, our Doctors . . . I’m sick of it.”

How does this figure into the realm of sports?

Essentially and completely. Messages of denial and stupidity from on high change our universe.

As Power Five conference universities prepare to crank up their fall programs and pro sports leagues begin their seasons or restart them, the only problem, really, is how we deal with COVID-19.

Is the caution all lies and left-wing propaganda? Or is it science, logic and facts?

There are no other bizarre things going on in our sports world, nothing that can’t be addressed in a somewhat-regular fashion. Even the Redskins finally dropping their pitifully racist name and the Indians certainly being close behind, those are easy fixes.

The Black Lives Matter movement will be resolved in pro sports faster than in most places, simply because so many pro stars are Black. Nobody will see a different game.

These are things we can handle. We know how.

But as the NBA gathers in its bubble in Orlando, Florida — in the state that just recorded the most new COVID-19 cases in one day for any state, 15,299 — the question is, how secure is that bubble?

Rockets star Russell Westbrook tested positive and didn’t join teammates. Only two of the 322 players in the bubble have tested positive so far, but 19 NBA players tested positive in the last two weeks. And, according to the Associated Press, 25 players tested positive between June 23 and July 2.

So does the NBA continue the season that has been on pause for four months, risking shutdown at any moment? Or do all the precautions — tests constantly, nobody leaves, press corps on total lockdown in Mickey Mouse-themed rooms, no fans at games, etc. — make this a new kind of ”safe” experience?

In college, the Ivy League and Patriot League already have canceled their football seasons. Here in Chicago, Loyola is going mostly online this fall. Who will drop next?

The Big Ten has said football teams will play only conference foes, but you wonder what difference that makes, except fewer games. A viral outbreak among 90 or so close-quartered teammates would put everybody in quarantine and make scheduled games moot.

Of course, all this uncertainty and anxiety is merited only if you believe, say, the best science out there. A guy such as Dr. Fauci.

The Chicago Marathon, scheduled for October, with its 45,000 runners and million-plus spectators, is gone. Boise State closed its campus because of outbreaks in late June. Many Division III schools have canceled fall sports and largely gone online. That’s a big deal because one in every six Division III students is an athlete.

But what do we hear from our president? Go to school, or we’ll cut federal funding.

There are scientific ways to slow this plague. Ignoring and demeaning it are absolutely not two of them.

Please, athletes and caretakers, be careful. Be sane. We’re counting on it.

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