Each day during the sports pause stemming from the coronavirus pandemic, NESN.com is publishing a diary full of random thoughts, opinions, takeaways, and other cool tidbits we’ve stumbled across in the absence of actual games. Because why not? We’re all in this together.
It’s been a long 2 1/2 months since professional sports in the United States paused their seasons due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And while both UFC and NASCAR have returned, and with professional golf not far behind, some fans are getting excited about the return of sports.
But could it be a bit too early to celebrate?
Much to fans’ delight, the NBA, NHL, WNBA and MLS reportedly are planning on completing their current seasons in “hub” or “bubble” cities. The NBA already has locked down Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., while the NHL, WNBA and MLS eye their respective options.
Major League Baseball, meanwhile, is looking at allowing teams to host games in their home cities while reconfiguring the league, eliminating the American League and National League for one season in favor of three divisions — East, Central and West.
No matter which format is selected, the question still remains: Is it safe enough to return to play?
While numbers in major hot spots like Boston and New York City are declining, that’s not always the case. Numbers in Texas, home to a dozen professional sports teams, have skyrocketed in recent weeks.
On Thursday, the Pittsburgh Penguins reported its first case of COVID-19. A player for the team recently contracted the virus, but has since recovered and is “feeling fine.”
College football has proven it’s not immune, either. As many as five members of Alabama’s football team have tested positive for coronavirus after returning to school this week. According to CBS 42’s Simone Eli, the players impacted include a lineman, a couple of skill position players and a quarterback.
Three members of Oklahoma State University’s football team also have tested positive for the virus, per the school’s senior associate athletic director Kevin Klintworth.
Though the NBA hasn’t seen a spike in cases since the beginning of the epidemic, more than a dozen NBA players and staff tested positive for the virus in the last three months, all of which reportedly have recovered. Only three NFL personnel — New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton, Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller and Los Angeles Rams’ center Brian Allen — has tested positive in the league so far.
But that doesn’t mean more players won’t test positive in the future. And what if it happens?
Luckily, it appears the NFL is anticipating something like this happening.
“We fully well expect that we will have positive cases that arise because we think that this disease will remain endemic in society,” said NFL executive vice president of communications, public affairs and policy Jeff Miller, as transcribed by Yahoo! Sports. “So it shouldn’t be a surprise that new positive cases arise. Our challenge is to identify them as quickly as possible and to prevent spread to too many other participants. We’re working very diligently on that, and we’ll have some detailed plans to share about that at a later time.”
But what about other leagues? While they might not be public, most professional sports leagues likely have a few contingency plans. But does that make them safe? Let’s start with the NHL.
The Pittsburg Penguins reported its first case of COVID-19 on Thursday, according to the team. The team states the player was not infected in Pittsburgh and had since recovered from the illness.
Oklahoma State University and the University of Alabama have combined for at least eight players positive with that virus, with at least one Alabama player attending “player-led workouts” Tuesday and Wednesday.
So, here’s the real question: Can professional athletes safely compete in their respective sports this season? While they would LOVE to answer this question for you, the answer for each league genuinely remained unknown.
Anyway, here are some more tidbits from Thursday’s news cycle:
— Despite fans’ and players’ desires, Major League Baseball appears to remain at a standstill.
Despite the rejection of the players’ 114-game proposal, the league remained adamant on a 60-40 game season, according to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drelich.
Now, the league appears to be in a deadlock.
— Quick shout out to Sam Mewis for her subtle but meaningful work regarding race in womens’ soccer.
The U.S. womens’ national team star and Weymouth, Mass. native wasn’t afraid to demonstrate the concerns she faces in her hometown:
Breaking footage of me going for a handshake on national television pic.twitter.com/GkS3irioi4
— Samantha Mewis (@sammymewy) July 9, 2019
— Remember that Green Baret, Nate Boyer, that stood behind Colin Kaepernick’s protests? Well, that’s not where he stands anymore.
“The only disrespectful knee I’ve ever seen was the one in George Floyd’s neck,” Boyer told Barstool Radio, referring to the Minneapolis police officer who killed a black man he was restraining by kneeling on his neck for almost nine minutes.”
Stat of the Dat
The real question… will he make it?!?!
When NBA games resume, James Harden is on pace to win his 3rd straight scoring title, averaging a league-high 34.4 points per game.
He is looking to become the 1st player to lead the league in scoring in 3 consecutive seasons since Kevin Durant (2009-12). pic.twitter.com/VNIuvHaPo9
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 5, 2020
Tweet of the Day
Wow, such a mood.
TFW you hear the NBA is coming back! pic.twitter.com/SpqL0Cxbuj
— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) June 4, 2020
Video of the Day
A word from Brad Stevens…
Listen, learn, engage, participate and act.
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) June 5, 2020
Thumbnail photo via Timothy T. Ludwig/USA TODAY Sports Images