Bursting the bubble: Why sports aren’t coming back soon

Photo Illustration by Cameron Chatt

The NBA, NFL and MLB are dreaming up ways to play amid a pandemic, with talk of isolating players in Arizona or Las Vegas or maybe on the moon. It all sounds great, until you talk to people who actually know science.

By Stephaniem Apstein | Sports Illustrated

The proposals multiply almost as fast as the coronavirus: The NHL can play in North Dakota! The NBA can play on a cruise ship! MLB can play in a biodome! The NFL can play in its stadiums, with 70,000 fans packed in!

These are fun thought experiments, at least as good a way to spend time in isolation as watching Tiger King. And everyone wants to believe we will be buying peanuts and Cracker Jack this summer. But fans deserve a reality check: According to the experts—medical experts, not the money-making experts in league offices—we will not have sports any time soon. And when we do, we will not attend the games.

Most of these ideas are essentially the same: The players live in quarantine, shuttling from the hotel to the stadium, for the duration of the season. They undergo daily COVID-19 tests. They bring joy to a terrified country. That seems reasonable on the surface. But look closer.

First, let’s do away with the suggestion, put forth by President Donald Trump, that football season could go on as normal, beginning on time in September and unfolding in front of crowded stadiums.


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April 2020