The NCAA on Wednesday decided to play its Division I men’s and women’s basketball tournament games in empty arenas. The NBA’s owners should have made that call weeks ago. But they were greedy, and they were cowardly, emboldened by the dim-witted and the ill-informed, desperate to grab every buck they could before the walls of the coronavirus closed in.
Will the NHL be cowards, too? The NCAA?
The Utah Jazz did not play their game Wednesday night at Oklahoma City because Jazz players Rudy Gobert and Emmanuel Mudiay were at the hospital being tested for coronavirus. Gobert reportedly tested positive. Considering the quarantine protocols for COVID-19 victims and those who come into contact with them, that test effectively spelled the end of the NBA season.
The Jazz played the Raptors at home Monday after traveling to Detroit, Boston, and New York within the past week. They took with them their 7-foot-1 disease vector, who apparently did not take the CDC warnings seriously. Earlier this week, as he finished a press conference, he went out of his way to touch all of the microphones and tape recorders.
Karma comes at you fast, and arrogance is a deadly weapon. Who knows how many fans, arena support staff, restaurant employees, hotel and airline workers Gobert contaminated?
It’s only a matter of time before the NHL and the NCAA sacrifice one of their own to their own particular brand of greed. Not just one of their own, but also who knows how many workers and, yes, fans.
Earlier on Wednesday, the NCAA and several of its conferences closed their Division I postseason men’s and women’s basketball tournaments to fans. That’s not enough. Not nearly enough. To continue with the NCAA Tournament, or any of the conference tournaments, truly would be March Madness.
The experts have sounded the claxons.
The World Health Organization on Wednesday classified the coronavirus as a pandemic, the first since the H1N1 “swine flu” of 2009. The director-general of the organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said he was “deeply concerned, both by the alarming levels of spread and severity and by the alarming levels of inaction” by governments, such as the one in the United States. We are failing.
A correspondent based in China on Wednesday told her employer, National Public Radio, that she sees the U.S. making the same mistakes that devastated the populations of China and Italy, the two hardest-hit of the 114 countries reporting the more than 120,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, which have killed more than 4,000 people. We are failing.
This is not a hard choice. Thanks to a tragically slow response and thanks to criminally poor preparation, Americans passed the possibility of containment weeks ago and have entered the stage of mitigation; of hoping the irresponsible actions of our leaders and citizens won’t overwhelm our health-care system, as it has done in Italy, where undersupplied doctors must now decide who is to die. In mitigation, we cannot afford to fail.
This choice was forced upon the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday. Their game Thursday night was to be played in an empty arena after San Francisco Mayor London Breed banned public gatherings of more than 1,000 people. She took a lot of criticism for that. Let’s see how much credit she gets.
The NBA learned its lesson too late, just like China, where the virus originated. Quicker, more severe action in China might have cut the number of cases there by more than 50 percent, according to one study completed at the University of Southampton in England.
The federal government, state governments, and most local governments won’t do the brave thing, or the right thing. Independent bodies are acting instead. Colleges are extending spring breaks and jumping online. The Ivy League, where rich people send their smart kids, not only canceled its postseason basketball tournament but all spring sports. A marquee tennis tournament in California canceled itself Tuesday; two arts and music festivals called off festivities due to safety concerns.
But the Flyers played to a packed house at the Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday night, and the Sixers battled the Pistons there Wednesday -- proof that not everyone shares the intelligence and humanity of the Ivy League.
This, as the city urged people to avoid congregating in numbers greater than 5,000. We clearly cannot be trusted to protect ourselves.
It’s not just sports.
Every director of every indoor event should cancel everything; cut off coronavirus at its knees. No arena, no concert hall, no school classroom, auditorium, or gymnasium should remain open one more day; several area school boards were discussing immediately moving their classes online Wednesday night, sources said. If schools close, don’t you think we should shut down Broadway and turn out the lights at the movie theaters? Subscribe to Netflix.
This will cost billions, with a “B,” in lost revenues. It will mean a lean spring for workers at arenas and stadiums, many of whom depend on those part-time jobs to make ends meet.
This is unsavory, and unusual, but it is necessary, especially as President Trump’s administration willfully disseminates misinformation. You cannot trust them. Period. A member of the White House’s coronavirus task force spoke Wednesday at a congressional hearing. He went rogue: He repeatedly contradicted Trump, who, for example, compared coronavirus to the flu. “The flu has a mortality of 0.1 percent," Anthony Fauci said. "This has a mortality rate of 10 times that. That’s the reason I want to emphasize we have to stay ahead of the game in preventing this.”
Indian Wells was ahead of the game. South By Southwest and Coachella were ahead of the game.
The NBA wasn’t ahead of the game.
Will the NHL be? Will the NCAA?