By Orrin Farries
Is the NBA coming back for a conclusion of its 2019-2020 season? That’s the question that has been on my mind and I am sure a good deal of other NBA fans and pundits.
On March 7 of this the year of our lord 2020, the seeds of doubt were planted when the league warned teams to prepare for games without fans in attendance. Just four days later WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic, Rudy Gobert tested positive for the virus, and NBA commissioner Adam Silver swiftly suspended the season. Four months later and amidst reports of the league’s impending return, all of the cards are being stacked against a return, and it may seem that the pandemic may yet make the 2019-2020 NBA season a lost one.
Adam Silver is a very smart man. I want to make this abundantly clear. Since taking the reins of the league from David Stern, Silver has been met with many a PR-crisis and has handled them all with dignity and tact. A pandemic, however, is not something that I think any major sports league commissioner could ever be wholly prepared for.
It was announced that the NBA season would resume in a bubble in Florida, a state that is riddled with Coronavirus, but has also deemed ‘Sports and Entertainment’ as ‘Essential Services’. This is likely due to a couple of under-the-table deals to keep multi-billion dollar businesses profitable.
After some ludicrous contingencies were put in place to keep the sanctity of things like ‘home court advantage’, it was announced that a second bubble was to form in Chicago for the teams vying for ping-pong balls in the draft lottery. The consensus has been that billionaires need to keep the money machine a-turning.
With a return date of July 31st, that was jogged back to July 30th, because you know, another day another dollar, the NBA looks to be returning. Knock on all of the wood.
Everything has been looking good for a return. There has been a full-sail return to professional sport with fans in attendance in Australia and New Zealand, where they have remarkably smashed COVID-19.
America, however, is frightening. They have not really been flattening the curve, and seem more interested in reviving the economic machine than getting on top of this virus. America, I’m sorry, I know you’re going through a lot right now with your broken justice system, your outraged citizens, your Tommy Boy president, your redneck past, your lack of drinkable water in Flint, Michigan, your gun control, your ‘melting pot’, and y’know, other things that I’m frankly clueless about. I am sorry.
America, and all of her faults is why I still wake up in the middle of the night, drenched in sweat, the sound of sneakers squeaking on the hardwood and the nylon of the nets being torched by a ball with supreme rotation and velocity, all fading into the bleak silence of a future with no basketball. Because America is in a bad place right now, and the outspoken athletes are right: sport is not the most important thing right now.
For many of us sport is a popular coping mechanism. An escape, a place where it is comfortable to let your guard down as a fan, and where you can get your hopes up and still be carefree.
It would certainly be a relief to have my favourite sport up on the television while dealing with the upshot of this pandemic. If the bubble works, and we get the sweet release of crowning a basketball champion, it should be seen as a small victory, really.
If, however, more and more athletes test positive for COVID-19 and we get to a place where the NBA has to stretch their foot into their mouth and cancel the season, where are we then?
P.s. This pandemic has been a wake-up call in an important way to the public at large. It has awakened something in the public consciousness that has been long snuffed out by the distortion of the day-to-day grind of living to keep up. In being marginalized by a villain with no face, and with newfound time and space for soul searching at the individual level, we could be on the precipice of some very real change in the world.