As I was working away last night, going between chatting with my ladyfriend in Japan and finishing my profile on Stuart Inman, I heard an alert ping on my phone. That kind of thing happens all the time, to everybody, so I dismissed it. I finished my article, said good night to my lady, and went to bed.
Little did I know that the alert was the news that the National Basketball Association has taken the unprecedented step of suspending the 2019-20 season in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, and in response to Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert contracting the virus.
The dominoes fell quickly in the United States after that. In Europe, they were already playing soccer matches in empty stadiums; the worst thing to do with this disease spreading like wildfire is clump tens of thousands of people into an enclosed dome. That made the most news, but sporting organizations of all sizes and nationalities have been altering or even cancelling their events both before and after the NBA’s announcement last night.
First, the impact on the NBA and on the Portland Trail Blazers (thinking locally): Given that the league’s Governors have given Commissioner Adam Silver a 30-day period to reevaluate the state of things (In addition to Gobert, teammate Donovan Mitchell has also tested positive for coronavirus—be prepared for more positive tests to come), my personal feeling is that the NBA’s regular season is probably done. Mark Cuban can make all the noise he wants about playing until August, but unless the Association’s Governors and players feel comfortable starting the next season at Christmas (which was being talked about before the NBA was launched into full-blown crisis mode), I imagine they might just call the last 15 or so games and commence the playoffs. If they even can.
The Blazers should probably think about self-quarantining, as much for our safety as theirs. They’ve been out on the road recently and have come into contact with people who have played the Jazz. In fact, every team should do this procedure, and get tested; after all, what else are they going to do with their time?
As for the world at large, the process of cancellation began slowly and then turned into a deluge of nixed events after the NBA’s announcement. A few days ago, the Overwatch League had announced the cancellation of all homestands in March and April. The OWL’s eastern North American teams and their two European teams (London and Paris, both of whom flew to these shores before the pandemic reached Europe) were the only teams playing regularly, along with the two Texas teams. The West Coast teams have barely played at all this season (by design, I think), while the OWL’s five Asian teams (four based in China) haven’t played at all. God only knows what the many Asian players in the OWL are thinking, halfway across the world.
Now it seems that Blizzard, the video game giant that created Overwatch (and Warcraft, World of Warcraft, StarCraft, and Diablo), has waved the white flag for now. They’re hopeful they can resume Local Area Network (LAN) matches in May, but they may have to resort to their $20 million teams playing against each other remotely, online.
Wizards of the Coast, the makers of the popular trading card game Magic: The Gathering, have postponed and rescheduled all professional tournaments taking place over the next several months. Play is scheduled to resume in June/July, with a double season (with double prizes) to compensate for the block of qualifiers and major tourneys wiped out by COVID-19.
Major League Soccer, including the Portland Timbers, have suspended operations as well, along with Major League Baseball. MLS is facing the prospect of a shortened season for the first time ever, while baseball is likely going to have its first non-strike-shortened regular season since World War 1. Let that sink in for a moment: If the 100,000-plus cases and 4700 deaths aren’t making this serious enough for you, the coronavirus is doing to baseball what the Great Depression, the Second World War, or the constant threat of nuclear annihilation couldn’t do.
The NHL, its subsidiary hockey leagues, the G League, and basketball leagues here and abroad have followed suit, and even the NCAA—after their predictably tone-deaf announcement of going ahead with March Madness with empty arenas—wiped out not just their men’s and women’s basketball championships, but all winter and spring postseason activities. The sporting world has ground to a complete halt, and who knows when the gears will start churning again.
Right now, I’m honestly not caring so much, despite my position as a writer here. I love sports of all kinds, yes, but I also love life. I’m fervently hoping my girlfriend in Japan continues to be alright, that my day job (which brings me into contact with thousands of people in Downtown Portland) won’t get me sick, that everyone cares for themselves and their brothers and sisters by doing these simple things: wash your hands, cough and sneeze into your elbow crooks, don’t touch or shake hands with others, and staying away from others if they feel ill—even if you don’t have the coronavirus, you have something that will make its effects exponentially worse.
Please, stay safe everyone. Godspeed.