PONTIFICATING FROM THE SUNSHINE STATE – JUNE 19
By Leo Haggerty

NOW WHAT

First of all, and I will start EVERY article with this paragraph, sports pales in comparison with what is occurring with the Coronavirus. Hopefully, the columns that I, and the rest of our correspondents, provide you is a momentary escape from the trials and tribulations that Americans, and the rest of the world’s population, are experiencing. The COVID-19 is not a video game that you can press reset and get a new life. This is real and dangerous so, above all, be prudent and stay safe.

Well, it’s happened. Professional franchises and college teams have chose to resume training for either a resumption of a postponed season or in preparation of an upcoming campaign.

In my opinion, this was a huge mistake.  I believed it was way too soon to gather large groups of people to be in close proximity when Covid-19 was still raging.

Sadly, and I sincerely mean this, I was right.  Sports teams, both professional and college, have been inundated with positive coronavirus tests in the last couple of days and the numbers have been staggering.

Here’s a current list of what has been reported.  As you will see, the list is exhausting and may not even cover the gamut of all athletic endeavors.

Major League Baseball reported on June 15th that several players have tested positive but names and organizations were not specified.  Since then, the Philadelphia Phillies are believed to have at least five players who tested positive at their Clearwater, FL facility. The Toronto Blue Jays had one player exhibiting symptoms of Covid-19 at their Dunedin, FL site.  The Houston Astros had a player test positive at the West Palm Beach, FL training center.  Are you seeing a pattern here?

The National Hockey League had one of its star players, Toronto Maple Leafs Auston Matthews, test positive and is quarantining at his home in Arizona.  The Pittsburgh Penguins announced an unnamed player tested positive who was not in Pittsburgh.  The Tampa Bay Lightning had multiple personnel, three players and two staff members, test positive as their players began to regather in Florida.  The organization has chosen to not test all other personnel which is totally baffling.  Hopefully, if that statement is true, the Bolts need to reverse that decision immediately for the sake of the health of all their employees.

The Professional Golf Association released a statement that PGA Tour member Nick Watney tested positive.  The 39-year-old from Sacramento, CA indicated on Friday to officials at the RBC Heritage tournament in Hilton Head, South Carolina that he was exhibiting symptoms of the coronavirus.

It was reported that the National Football League had multiple players on the Dallas Cowboys and Houston Texans tested positive.  The most notable athlete that surfaced in that group was Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliot.  The Washington Redskins reported their third-round draft choice, Antonio Gandy-Golden, tested positive back in March.  He self-isolated and has recovered without exposing any other Redskins personnel.

College sports have not been immune from Covid-19.  It’s been reported 28 student-athletes and members of the athletic staff at Clemson University have tested positive with, allegedly, 23 of those being football players.  The University of Texas announced that 13 football players tested positive.  Finally, Georgetown University Head Men’s Basketball Coach Patrick Ewing isolated himself at a local hospital after contracting the coronavirus.  He has since returned home to continue his recovery.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is just the tip of the iceberg especially in Florida.  In the last couple of days, the Sunshine State has experienced enormous spikes in positive tests.  These numbers have surpassed all previous daily results and it looks like the surge in positive results will continue to rise.

So, what does all this information mean?  All professional and college athletic programs need to tap the brakes on starting or restarting.

They all need to take into consideration whether the reward for playing is worth the risk it will put all individuals involved with participating as well as attending sporting events. Obviously, that’s the right thing to do for all parties involved.