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Why is the return of sports part of the conversation?

Some things are bigger than sports.

Kansas National Guard by The National Guard is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Why is the return of sports part of the conversation?


Estimated Reading Time: 6 Minutes

Coronavirus hasn’t gone anywhere

We’re in a global pandemic, and people want sports back in order to instill some normalcy. To me, that’s shortsighted and ill-timed. Maybe it’s the fact that I haven’t felt this gaping hole that I thought I was going to feel. But maybe it’s also the fact that we have much bigger things to focus on as people than making sure I can watch my beloved Harry Kane try to help claw Spurs back into relevance. Or watch Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown win the Celtics banner number 18.

We’re all inconvenienced by the fact that COVID-19 has hit. The death toll from Coronavirus has exceeded 110,000 in the United States alone. People were so excited for Memorial Day that they ignored stay at home orders, celebrated wildly, and now it looks as though cases are spiking again. Why is it so hard to both believe it is serious and understand that it CAN happen to you?

Plenty are talking about how it’s “safe” to bring sports back behind closed doors. They’ve quarantined players. Fans won’t be in the stadiums. Temperature checks will happen on a regular basis as well as players being tested for COVID-19.

Let’s think back, though. Hospitals were overloaded and understaffed, grocery stores cut their hours and made new rules to keep people safe, and front-line workers didn’t – and still don’t – have the proper equipment they need. Think about that for a moment. We have doctors and nurses on the front lines who, for months now, have been finding ways to make their PPE last. They’re wearing garbage bags. Masks are lasting for longer than they’re supposed to. But we’re talking about bringing sports back.

What’s the plan?

Herein lies the problem. How many players, per sport, are going to be back in action? Germany has had its Bundesliga back for a few weeks now. Most other major European leagues are following suit.

The NBA and NHL have approved proposals that will bring a tournament style playoff system back later in the summer. They have prioritized player safety, and are only operating in “hub” cities. Hockey will be in a few different places, while basketball will descend upon Orlando.

MLB and the MLBPA could not be further apart on a resolution, making all parties look like assholes. And then there’s the NFL. Despite holding their draft virtually, on the dates it was originally planned for, they seem to be operating as if they’ll be able to kick off the 2020/2021 season as planned.

What does the return of sports mean?

Back to my question. How many players, per sport, are going to be back in action? Further, how often will they be tested? How many tests will that require?

  • NBA is sending 22 teams to Orlando. An active NBA roster is 15.
  • NHL is sending 24 teams to [insert cities here]. An active NHL roster is 23.
  • NWSL is coming back with all 9 teams. An active roster is 22.
  • Premier League is rebooting with all 20 teams. An active Premier League roster is 25.
  • Serie A is rebooting with all 20 teams. An active Serie A roster is 25.
  • La Liga is rebooting with all 20 teams. An active La Liga roster is 25.
  • Bundesliga has been running for a few weeks now. Their roster is roughly 25 as well.
  • Eredivisie has 20 teams and operates with a 24-man squad.
  • MLS is sending all 26 teams to Disney. An active MLS roster is 30.
  • MLB carries a 25-man active roster in normal times. They’ve talked about expanding that if baseball returns this year, but MLB and the MLBPA are too busy spitting at each other to come to any kind of solution.
  • NFL carries a 53-man active roster.

Based on my conservative math, that’s 6,732 players across those leagues. There’s no doubt I’m missing leagues and these numbers will be quite a bit higher. But with one test per player, and player only, we’ve removed 6,732 tests from going to people who need them. All for the name of entertainment.

But that’s also looking at leagues across different countries, most of which have done a much better job than the United States in handling Coronavirus. If we strictly focus on the US teams, that number is 4,299. That’s 4,299 tests to hit every player, and player only, in each of those leagues one time. The NHL is looking to test daily, and they account for 552 of those tests.

Doing that math actually made me throw up in my mouth a little. Why are we okay with that? If we were to dive deeper, we’d be looking at how that affects staff and families of both the athletes and that staff and suddenly those numbers are astronomical.

Risk

I was talking to a friend, and he cited this analogy he heard on some podcast, but couldn’t remember which. If you’re in a rainstorm and dry it’s because you’re holding an umbrella. Do you stay dry when you take down the umbrella? Of course not. Same idea with quarantine and taking steps to shelter people from exposure. The rates are going down (we’re drying out) because we’ve got a strategy to mitigate risk (the umbrella). But when we think “oh it must’ve stopped raining because I’m dry, I can take down my umbrella” we’re absolutely going to get soaked again.

What about everyone else?

Aside from the risk factors, one huge piece of the story that’s not getting enough attention is the loss of jobs. I specifically think about MLB when this piece comes up. We have millionaires fighting with billionaires over where the money should go, all while the people who make roughly $12/hr (totally conservative estimate, some are more and some are less) to sell me my $11 beer aren’t seeing any of that.

Why? Because they’re hourly and we’re not bringing fans back to the stadiums. What happens to them?

In my mind, MLB and its players have missed a massive opportunity. They’re barely civil, and completely ignoring the workers in their stadiums, and the effect this all has on them. Not to mention the fact that MLB has cut so many minor leaguers who already were struggling on their ~$400 per week stipends from their teams. It’s an all-out shit show.

While you saw stories of Zion Williamson and Kevin Love paying for out of work stadium employees, the only person in MLB to outwardly show that kind of faith was David Price. DAVID PRICE. Though, it’s not exactly the same because that’s him taking care of the Dodgers’ minor leaguers. But that’s still important and he’s doing something.

There needs to be something in place that funnels money to those workers who help create that game experience. Without them, we don’t get beers or hot dogs or that awesome new hat at the merch counter. Yet nobody is talking about them.

Over 42 million Americans have filed for unemployment. The unemployment rate as of June 5th was 13.3%. The President of the United States boasted about it. In the middle of a pandemic and civil unrest across the country. I’ll be back with Part 2 of “Why is the return of sports part of the conversation?”, and I’ll be diving into racial injustice and how that’s more important than seeing Zdeno Chara lift another trophy.


We here at The Turf have always been of the mind that standing up for what is right and standing up in opposition to hate and violence is necessary. For resources on how to help the fight against systemic racism in the United States please check out the following links: Black Visions CollectiveLGBTQ Freedom FundNational Bail FundReclaim the BlockColor of Change, and Black Lives Matter

Kevin is an actor, director, playwright, and musician who works in tech and lives in Brooklyn. He is die hard New England sports and an avid Tottenham supporter. His qualifications include scoring 1 point in his elementary school basketball career, 4 years of mixed little league results, and breaking his arm with a skip-it days before pre-season workouts started for Freshman football.

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