Game On….with Rob Kriete

Socially distancing in the sports world is as impossible as socially distancing students in schools, and here come the protocols for both. With the NBA, MLB, and NHL solidifying plans to return from their months-long hiatus during the global pandemic (and the NFL trying to figure out a safety program), questions remain on how to protect players effectively. Depending on the sport itself, players are required to interact, with contact, with their teammates and opponents during games. Professional athletes are typically in great shape, and yet the concerns around Covid-19 are understandable, and their security needs must be met.

Protocols for testing players and implementing proximity control outside each game will be apparent steps in helping create safe environments. MLB is considering replacing baseballs after three players have touched it. The NBA is creating a “bubble” of sorts in Orlando to keep its playoff teams away from the increasing number of cases in Florida. Health care professionals will be integral in creating and monitoring safety measures. But, will these leagues be able to complete their schedules despite these protocols?

I think it is a safe bet that MLB will be able to play ball in the next few weeks, but I have some real reservations about their ability to complete all sixty scheduled games. A lot of things must go right for this to occur.  The biggest issue is not a player contracting the virus, but a substantial number of teammates. Each organization in each sport must be able to field a Covid-free team to compete, or at least play. How will this ability, or inability, affect the quality of the games played as well?

We could be watching professional sports wherein more than half of the players on a given team are not legitimate professional athletes, but minor leaguers or practice squad players. Remember when the original “Dream Team” of NBA stars played for Team USA in 1992 and the domination they had over most countries? Sports fans could see this type of lopsided contest as teams need to field full squads of players.

As sports fans, we can consider the issues mentioned above in answering the question of the legitimacy of these shortened, altered seasons. If your favorite player wins the MVP award, is there an asterisk? If your least favorite team wins the championship, does it seem diminished in your eyes? I am getting more excited by the day to get these Games On!  As a fan, I don’t take a lot of stock in preseason and exhibition games, but will view these non-traditional 2020 “seasons” as legitimate and will view the champs and award winners accordingly. Otherwise, we would all be watching a glorified practice.

Looking forward to the return of professional sports, I hope they create protocols that can keep players and their families safe. And as these protocols are found valid, I suggest we find ways to implement them nationwide to help protect our students, their families, and the people who work with and teach them. Be safe out there, everyone!