SIMMONS: Tightrope walking for professional sports in North America. Is it worth it to come back?


In recent days, Auston Matthews, one of the best hockey players, Nikola Jokic, one of the great young basketball stars, and Charlie Blackmon, the eternal baseball star, have all tested positive for COVID-19.

And they are not alone.

A crowd of Blue Jays, first reported by Sportsnet on Wednesday, players and staff, tested positive for the virus from their closed spring training home in Florida. And across America, college football players, especially in states where the virus has not been properly prevented, are proving positive in fairly large numbers.

And to think about it, professional sport started stopping over 100 days ago when Rudy Gobert of Utah Jazz was identified as the first North American professional athlete to test positive. The test came, the NBA stopped, and very quickly and all professional sports followed.

A positive test essentially brought professional sports to their knees.

And now there are positive tests everywhere – the ones we know, the ones we don’t know – and the sport plans to come back next month. Aside from money, it’s hard to understand why.

The majority of our professional sports entertainment comes from the United States, the country most ravaged by COVIDES in the world. Canada has a team in the NBA, a team in the Major League Baseball, only seven teams in the NHL.

It is nine of 91 teams in the four major sports of the Major League in North America. Much of Canada is now under reasonable control of COVID-19, although there is a daily need for masks and social distancing and not to be stupid in the process. The same cannot be said of the United States.

The Blue Jays originally planned to host a training camp in Dunedin, where they train normally, and then start their season in Florida as well. This week everything has changed. Who knows what next week has in store for us? This is one of the difficulties of all of this. COVID-19 is a moving target, like a fire out of control in the United States.

The Jays have asked the federal government for special permission here, allowing them to stay home and play at the Rogers Center and MLB teams to enter the country without having to quarantine, which the current rules insist on. .

This is where Prime Minister Trudeau and Prime Minister Ford must be heard. They must say no. It’s not like being a hub for the NHL. It’s not a bubble situation. It is itinerant teams that come, leave, stay in hotels, eat in restaurants, go around the city for three to four days and then leave.

Maybe leave the virus behind.

Which makes more sense for the Blue Jays – playing the season in Buffalo. It’s not like Florida. It’s relatively safe. The key word being relatively. Tomorrow can tell a different story.

The Raptors are already in Florida for their training camp at Ft. Myers leading to the apparent return of the NBA. The plan was drawn up before the state was ravaged by the virus. Undoubtedly, the players are isolated and kept safe and certainly tested, as are the staff, but that’s not exactly where you want to be right now.

In a bubble in a way before the NBA started its bubble in Orlando, later in July, a return to the game still under all kinds of questions.

Every day, the complications of the return seem more and more.

Some NBA players have already opted for a variety of reasons, from health to supporting Black Lives Matter, family and the future free agency. They have the right to do so. Avery Bradley is an important player in the Los Angeles Lakers of LeBron James. They are certainly contenders to win this year, again, if there is one this year.

Bradley chose not to play. “I can’t imagine making a decision that could put my family’s health and well-being at any risk,” he told Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, my official spokesperson for the NBA. There will be more players making similar announcements in the next month.

Those of us who care – those who are invested in sport personally, emotionally or both – want our games to come back. It’s natural to have hope. It’s been 100 days. I have read too much, watched too much television, watched far too much news, eat too much and I am now ready for sports. I’m too ready.

I’m still trying to figure out an August with the Maple Leafs and Raptors playoff games at night, with the Blue Jays on another channel, with a need for two or three televisions at home. The first games, the last games, it could be very consumer. It could be unlike anything we’ve ever seen before.

And that could collapse.

This is a tightrope walk for the NHL, the NBA and the MLB. North American sports are faltering. It is a balance that they may not be able to achieve.


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