The NBA and NHL have both decided to conduct their postseason tournaments in bubble cities. Major League Baseball and the NFL aren’t going this route with regards to beginning and completing their 2020 regular seasons and postseasons.
Who’s going to come out looking healthier and safer as major professional sports leagues try and play amid the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic?
It’s still early for the NBA and NHL. In fact, the NBA playoffs tipped off Thursday night, while the NHL drops the puck on Saturday. However, if recent test results are any indication, bubble cities may be the way to go. Why do I say that? The NBA just reported no positive tests for a second-straight week. As for the NHL, it tested over 800 of its players between July 18 and July 25 and didn’t report a single positive result.
If only Major League Baseball was so fortunate after one weekend of real action.
Following an opening weekend series in Philadelphia, both the Phillies and Marlins had their seasons suspended when it was revealed that 14 Marlins players had tested positive for the Coronavirus (the number has since increased to 17 members of the Marlins' traveling party). This meant the Miami’s series against the Orioles had to be postponed, while the Phillies series against the Yankees was also suspended.
Why did this all happen? Nobody will ever know for sure, but we do know that some Marlins players went out on the town while in Atlanta to play an exhibition game against the Braves on July 22.
“Well, I think a couple guys went out in Atlanta,” said baseball writer Bob Nightengale while appearing on 93.7 The Fan . “That’s what happened. I don’t think it was any kind of fluke, from the bus driver or a pilot, any of that. I believe some guys got careless, at least one guy did for sure, he went out, and came back positive and spread it around.”
Unlike the NHL, who will be hosting its Stanley Cup playoffs in Edmonton and Toronto, and the NBA, whose playoff series’ will all be in Orlando, NFL and MLB teams will be flying from city to city just like any other year—sans fans in stadiums, of course.
There are certainly no guarantees when it comes to a virus that can be transmitted so easily, but traveling certainly doesn’t help to lessen the risks. And when you combine traveling with carelessness, well, that’s why the Marlins and Phillies’ seasons were quickly put on hold (at least two members of the Phillies’ staff have now tested positive for the virus since last weekend).
This should be one huge wake-up call for the NFL and its players. When you’re dealing with something like this, it’s not going to take much to screw things up to the extent that the entire league could get shut down.
Fortunately, baseball was able to work through its first COVID crisis by quickly scheduling the Yankees to play the Orioles. As for the Phillies and Marlins, the nature of baseball being what it is, they’ll have open dates to make up their games. And, of course, baseball has been known to schedule a double-header or two in its day.
Should it face a Marlins-level Corona outbreak, the NFL may not be so fortunate.
Could bye weeks be utilized if teams had to postpone games? Logistically, I don’t know how they would do it, and I certainly don’t want to try and figure it out, but I’m guessing it wouldn’t be an easy problem to have to navigate through.
I believe it would be much easier for football players to just stay home or in their hotel rooms as much as possible. Not only stay home, but wear masks when out in public, wash their hands a lot and just do what most of society has been doing since about mid-March or so.
I’m certainly no medical expert (as you may have guessed), but if hundreds of people get tested on a regular basis, and all of those people come back with negative results, banging into one another for 60 minutes on a football field shouldn’t matter as it pertains to that pesky virus.
But if even one of those players decides to hang out with some friends or strangers the night before a game, it could be an encounter which ultimately leads to a lost season for that player and thousands of other folks who make their living through the National Football League.
Would a night on the town be worth all of that? How about a fling with a gorgeous woman from a club?
I’d like to think not.
I’ll leave you with a quote from Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, who spoke virtually with reporters on Thursday about all-things training camp, including how his players should conduct themselves during this pandemic:
“You guys know I like catchphrases. You’re talking about conduct that is detrimental. If you’re not exercising caution... that conduct is detrimental.” ... “Its one fail, all fail in this environment.”