There’s that famous scene in “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” in which the Black Knight scoffs at his injuries during a sword fight with King Arthur, even as his limbs are being lopped off one by one. By the time the cutting is done, the Black Knight is basically a jeering head atop a torso.
That’s how it feels in the sports world, with every day bringing some sort of reduction, thanks to the pandemic.
Nobody is cavalierly saying “Tis but a scratch” or “It’s just a flesh wound,” but leagues are trying to soldier on despite the steady drumbeat of bad news.
What many of us saw as inevitable, a COVID-19 outbreak, happened this week. Seventeen members of the Marlins organization, including 11 players and two coaches, tested positive for the virus. Somehow, that didn’t lead to what seemed like the inevitable other shoe dropping, the shutdown of an already shortened baseball season. Instead, Major League Baseball postponed six Miami games, hoping to beat back the flames with a paper plate.
You ask yourself why baseball would continue in the face of such a contagious disease and then you ask yourself if you’ve always been this naive. It’s money. TV money. Lots and lots of TV money.
And, in a way, we’re complicit with the owners. We want our games. But just because we want something doesn’t mean we should get it. More and more, it’s feeling like we shouldn’t be doing this.
We’re giddy because the games we love are trying to help us take our minds off the pandemic. That’s our emotional side reacting. Our clear-thinking side sees it as a fool’s errand of repeated setbacks.
One day, you have the Marlins announcing their outbreak, another you have Clippers guard Lou Williams breaking an NBA bubble regulation by going to a strip club that also sells chicken wings. He was there for the wings, he said. He’s in quarantine for 10 days. He should also be in time-out.
Because of the coronavirus, many universities have cut fall sports not named “football” — football being king and moneymaker. And even at that, college football feels like it’s hanging by a thread. Who thinks a bunch of kids on a college campus are going to obey Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines? And how does one keep a keg tap sterilized?
There’s steady news of athletes testing positive for COVID-19. White Sox manager Rick Renteria stepped away from his duties Monday because of “a slight cough and nasal congestion” and, admit it, you had him testing positive and watching the Decades channel while in isolation for two weeks. I did. But he tested negative and returned to the Sox bench Tuesday.
This is the death of sports by a thousand cuts. Or death by a thousand nasal swabs.
It might be better than nothing for the consumer, but with the threat of canceled seasons hanging over sports, how much better? As for the athletes – you know, the clump of people trying to stay apart from each other while the rest of us work from home – they have to worry about introducing a disease to their families and extended families. Talk about pressure.
Bears defensive tackle Eddie Goldman has opted out of the season due to concerns over the virus. Those concerns might have something to do with the fact that football players often have to tackle and block each other, both of which involve touching. Breathing on each other is also a distinct possibility. It’s why Goldman isn’t alone in the opting-out department.
Inside football question: Will coaches hold it against players who choose their health over their team? If I know football coaches as a group, and I think I do, somewhere in their DNA strands is a molecule or two that will believe those players quit on their teammates.
It feels like we’re watching a losing battle. We’re watching a sport called attrition-ball. Players opt out. Players disappear for two weeks. Players take a step or two outside the NBA bubble, a real out-of-bounds violation, and they’re quarantined. It’s not like watching glaciers calve. That’s spectacular. Watching teams shed players due to the virus is like watching a shunning. No fun.
The return to sports always felt rickety. Now that it’s here, it feels even less structurally sound. The coronavirus doesn’t care how much we need sports in our lives. It has its own plans. If we truly value life and limb, restarting sports in 2021 is the way to go.