4th and a Mile with Paul Muth

Coronavirus has officially changed the game

Expect a lot of empty stadiums in the coming months. Photo by Paul Muth.

Here's what we know from the major sports leagues so far (UPDATED 3-13-2020)

  • NBA: Season suspended indefinitely.
  • NCAA: Tournaments have been cancelled.
  • NHL: Season suspended indefinitely.
  • NFL: Not currently affected. Draft still scheduled to go on in public as planned.
  • XFL: Season has been cancelled
  • MLB: Season suspended for 2 weeks, spring training suspended immediately
For a more detailed list, click here.

Why it matters

It may seem weird for people to be so up in arms over sports being cancelled, but it shouldn't. For most, sports are seen as a constant. A lot of memories are attributed to "the year x team won the championship." Personally, I found a sense of comfort in streaming the Astros games from my zip-locked phone, tucked away in the chest pocket of my waders as my friend and I did welfare checks through neighborhoods in waist-deep water after Harvey. It was a semblance of normalcy during a week that was anything but. Now, we're beginning to lose even that.

It's also about community. It's about the legions of disjointed Astros fans anticipating opening day so they can finally be together after an off season where outsiders were hell-bent on ripping them apart. It's about taking nephews to the last basketball game of the season, or meeting up with pops to show him what that "newfangled XFL league" is all about. It's El Batalion and Texian Army. It's Red Rowdies.

Sports has always served a purpose beyond merely spectating athletic ability. We may now discover to what extent.

Moving forward

The NBA cancelling their season was just the first North American domino to fall. Expect other leagues to take similar precautions, either by locking fans out or cancelling the season entirely as early as today. I expect my Roughnecks season tickets to be affected, and I expect Astros opening day to be affected. If it doesn't happen, OK. I'll happily admit that I'm wrong, because I very much would like to go to these events. But in the event that I'm right, and no one is allowed to these events, there are alternatives.

Provided you are healthy, and exercise caution, go watch it at your neighborhood bar. The service industry is very likely about to take a beating and those ladies and gentlemen have taken care of all of us at one point or another beyond what we deserved. This is one of the few times you can chalk up throwing back a few cold ones with the boys as a legitimate community service.

The games are going to feel weird. It's hard to imagine a WrestleMania in a potentially empty stadium or a Tomahawk dunk reverberating like a solid putt to set up a birdie. It's an alien reality that never seemed truly plausible, but here we are. We may not have caused it, but collectively we're the only ones who can get everyone through it. And while sports may take a backseat to everything that is unfolding, they still matter for reasons beyond box scores.

Don't panic, but don't downplay

It's hard to find the right tone about something like this.

On the one hand, it's not productive to be an alarmist and shout from the rooftops that the sky is falling. Besides, there are plenty of other outlets that are more than happy to accommodate.

But on the other hand, it's foolish to downplay it's effects. As we speak, the economy is shuddering, the NBA is shuttering, and sports leagues across the country are no-doubt taking subsequent queues. Yet in spite of the physical evidence in front of us, we have people continuing to downplay the seriousness, claiming that coronavirus is simply another SARS or Ebola scare.

It's not.

Let's get two things straight:

  1. There is currently no vaccine.
  2. There are not enough testing kits available to identify and track it.

This is why things are shutting down. It's not because everyone will die. In fact most wont. If you're a thirty-something like me and in generally good health, it will probably just knock you for a loop for a few days and you'll be right back at it.

But it's not about you. It's about your grandma you go hug. It's about someone else's grandma using the same ATM as someone who was infected but didn't know. It's the unknowing.

If you don't agree with the measures being taken, that's fine. They might seem insane to some, but what is equally insane is telling everyone that it is being blown out of proportion, that it's just hysteria about nothing, or that it's some conspiracy. Preaching caution to a thing that might be overblown will simply result in over-preparedness. Downplaying and convincing people to let down their guard over a thing that could potentially be 10 times as fatal as influenza can have more dire consequences.

We're in uncharted territory. So if you're not qualified to read the map, please don't give out directions.

NOTE: The beginning of the article has been updated to accurately reflect the current state of the leagues mentioned

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