People want their lives back. The financial and social impacts of locking down as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic have already been harrowing, which is deeply frightening considering most experts believe we are still in the early stages of learning to live with the virus.
Hope springs eternal, though. History and science suggest there is another side with slightly greener pastures that won't in any way resemble the sun-baked field we were enjoying before the dark clouds rolled in.
Discussions about how and when to bring sports back into lives are not easy. No one has a crystal ball and the logistical nightmares further unravel if you tug even slightly at a thread. There have been a parade of positive and negative indicators for the future that have either buoyed or crushed hope that there will be a return to athletics.
The most depressing and alarming may have become public today, and it comes from an unlikely source. The New York Times reports:
As President Trump presses for states to reopen their economies, his administration is privately projecting a steady rise in the number of cases and deaths from the coronavirus over the next several weeks, reaching about 3,000 daily deaths on June 1, according to an internal document obtained by The New York Times, nearly double from the current level of about 1,750.
The projections, based on government modeling pulled together in chart form by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, forecast about 200,000 new cases each day by the end of the month, up from about 25,000 cases now.
The numbers underscore a sobering reality: While the United States has been hunkered down for the past seven weeks, not much has changed. And the reopening to the economy will make matters worse.
Again, this is a model from the same administration that's been employing a full-court press in the effort to get people back to work and to put the pandemic behind them. To say nothing of the politics, this is an entity with an invested interest in trying to underestimate the actual impact. Perhaps you noticed how quickly those rosy predictions of only 60,000 fatalities gave way to reintroducing the 100K figure back into play last week.
Let's say these are spot-on projections and the country is seeing 3,000 people dying every single day, 200,000 more contracting the virus, and no assurance that this is even the peak. Are discussions to bring the NBA and Major League Baseball back going to actually be far down the road? Are fans still going to be hellbent in insisting the college football and NFL seasons are going to go on as scheduled?
If the answer is yes, then the subtext will be that we've given up, dropped any pretext, and are headed into the monumental sacrifice that will be trying to reach a level of herd immunity. A project, it should be pointed out, that will result in untold tragedy and may not be as successful as predicted, considering all we don't know about COVID-19's life cycle and the dangers of contracting it a second round.
This is not to say the balls won't be tipped or kicked off on schedule. Making predictions about what should happen is a lot different than what will happen. Another month will dull the senses even more. Rising numbers will become the norm and the abject absurdity of playing games with people's lives won't be as absurd as before.
Perhaps the responsible thing is to gird ourselves against what could just be an inevitability at this point. Sports will be back and they'll be rushed back against a backdrop where the most vulnerable are seen as an acceptable sacrifice. They'll be a distraction from the horror show of real life and will reflect either resiliency or a sardonic and twisted worldview, depending on where one sits.
Right now it seems as though there are three doors. Door One is no sports amid a national nightmare. Door Two is sports amid a national nightmare. Behind Door Three is the empty hope of having sports and our normal lives come back to us soon.
There are big decisions to be made and the ramifications will be deep. Not sure any broad announcement that games will be played should be met with anything more than a sober nod, considering the math coming from The White House.