Scott Van Pelt's One Big Thing Focused on the One Big Moment That Changed Sports


Scott Van Pelt anchored a surreal late SportsCenter on one of the most surreal sporting days in history. It should surprise no one that he was up for the moment and able to adroitly present the widespread shutdown of America's pastimes in proper real-world context. He offered his thoughts on the unknown to come while looking back to the moment that served as an accelerant for serious response: Rudy Gobert testing positive shortly before Wednesday night's Jazz-Thunder game.

"Maybe the diagnosis of the big man from France did our country a huge favor," Van Pelt said. "This much I know to be true: He hit the warp-speed button on all of this. And by taking away the games, which are our society's greatest gathering place and common ground, it forced everybody to take all of this a whole lot more seriously."

This is absolutely correct and it goes hand-in-hand to the idea that serious thinkers will eventually see Gobert as an avatar for people facing the coronavirus. At first he was dismissive and a bit careless. Then he was vilified for his ignorance. Pending a full recovery he'll become a symbol of so many who will overcome this illness and be changed by it.

I'd add that Adam Silver and the NBA's decisive action provided the blueprint for other leagues and entities too paralyzed or too afraid to do what needed to be done. At a time when leaders are in short supply, the best tend to emerge.

Van Pelt's monologue struck just the right mix of optimism and realism. And perhaps it's a bit dramatic to say, but I really believe television personalities writing the first draft of history have both incredible power and responsibility in shaping public opinion going forward.

The knee-jerk reaction to sports hitting the pause button tended to be deriding ESPN and other sports networks' ability to program. What people forget or don't want to accept is that the talent giving them scores and highlights each day are human too. Leaning into connectivity and the common cause will be the script in the coming weeks and months -- in 3D life and on the TV.