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EDITORIAL: Pro sports high stakes and gambles

Michael de Adder cartoon for July 30, 2020.
Michael de Adder's cartoon for July 30, 2020.

There are bubbles and then there are train wrecks. Watching the return of North American pro sports this summer on the tube, laptop, iPhone or whatever device has offered a glimpse of both.

Let’s start with Major League Baseball, the most likely candidate for conjuring up a return-to-play plan that seems doomed to failure.

No semi-protective bubble plan with this crowd. Just a truncated schedule that calls for all 30 teams to criss-cross the United States, which has the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the world and, not surprisingly, the highest amount of COVID-19-related deaths — about 160,000. (Thank goodness the Canadian government denied the Toronto Blue Jays’ request to play their home games on this side of the border.)

So, we have an estimated 1,500 players, coaches and managers travelling to different airports, different hotels, different buses, different restaurants and, ahem, different bars. And also going home to see their families from time to time. What could go wrong?

Plenty, as we’ve discovered, starting with 19 positive cases involving the Florida Marlins. This was followed by positive cases involving the Philadelphia Phillies and the St. Louis Cardinals. Plus numerous postponements. And to think opening day was less than two weeks ago. Another such outbreak and the season could be in jeopardy.

In the meantime, the National Hockey League and National Basketball Association have resumed play with bubbles firmly in place, and early reports seem positive. The NHL announced on Monday no positive COVID-19 test results during its first week of testing inside the hub cities of Toronto and Edmonton. The NBA, which has set up shop in Orlando, Fla., also announced zero confirmed positive tests last week, the most recent information available.

Of course, things could go south in a hurry. Bubbles are not virus-proof. Everyone in Atlantic Canada knows (or should know) that. But one gets the feeling that the NHL and NBA have a better chance of completing their seasons than the MLB — that any positive cases that might occur in their bubbles can be contained for the most part. That the season won’t be lost.

Closer to home, the Canadian Premier (Soccer) League has adopted the bubble model and all eight teams, including the Halifax Wanderers, will play behind closed doors at U.P.E.I. Field in Charlottetown beginning next week.

Of interest here is that all CPL games will be available to subscribers on a live streaming channel. One wonders if this model will be adopted by other regional leagues desperate for revenue should paying customers not be allowed to return to the rink or courts anytime soon.

The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Maritime Junior Hockey League and National Basketball League of Canada come to mind here. All have a core group of fans who might be willing to subscribe, if the price is right.

Let’s hope so, because no revenue surely means extinction, at least temporarily, for all these teams. Bubble or no bubble.

SaltWire Network

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