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Ed Willes: Trump tells pro sports bosses to think about playing soon, but really?

Various N95 respiration masks at a laboratory of 3M. Picture taken March 4, 2020.  REUTERS/Nicholas Pfosi
Various N95 respiration masks at a laboratory of 3M. Picture taken March 4, 2020. REUTERS/Nicholas Pfosi

As our world unravels, there has been a very real, very necessary desire to introduce some assurances to the chaos.

This instinct is understandable. We are inundated with numbers that have lost their meaning. We receive instruction that seemingly changes daily. We know things are bad, as bad as they’ve been in our lifetime. We just don’t know how bad because the standards we use to measure things no longer apply.

In Ontario, the public authority announces that, based on its best information, somewhere between 3,000 and 15,000 people will lose their lives in the province to COVID-19. How do you make sense of such a wide range?

One day we’re told wearing masks doesn’t really help keep people safe and might even harm them. The next day it’s recommended because it will help stop the transmission of the virus.

Nothing seems real. Nothing seems permanent. Or maybe it just feels that way because everything has been turned upside down. Whatever the case, it adds another layer of stress to a situation that doesn’t exactly need another layer of stress.

The only certainty, unfortunately, is the complete uncertainty the pandemic brings.

“By and large people want to know,” said Dr. Judy Illes, the Canada Research Chair in neuroethics at UBC. “Information engenders trust and trust engenders resilience.”

And that’s great if the information is reliable. If it isn’t, well, let’s look at Saturday’s pronouncement that U.S. President Donald Trump wants the various professional leagues in North America up and running as soon as possible.

August or September seemed to be the timeline Agent Orange was suggesting and that would mean the NFL would start its season in September as scheduled. This followed a conference call with the heads of the major sports leagues in North America as well as UFC boss Dana White and WWE president Vince McMahon.

I know there’s a joke there somewhere, but I’m just not feeling too funny these days.

This development should register as great news in a time when we could use some great news. On the surface, it offers the promise that things will be somewhat normal in four or five months. Yes, that might be a long way off but at least it’s something concrete; a timeline that can be measured.

Surely we can suck it up that long because we can finally see what’s coming.

The problem, of course, is there is so much information out there of a contradictory nature. There’s some suggestion that maybe, just maybe, we’ll be able to venture out of our homes by the summer and visit restaurants, providing there’s ample distance between customers.

As for bigger crowds? Forget about it.

And that’s just one suggestion. The Atlantic recently ran an article under the headline: ‘This crisis could last 18 months. Be prepared.’

Some measure the time in months. Some in years. Everyone seems to agree that the development of a vaccine will end the pandemic. But that’s 12 to 18 months away.

The only thing people seem to agree on is that vigorous handwashing and social distancing are the most effective means of combating the spread of coronavirus. There’s your certainty. We just might have hoped for a little more by now.

Against this backdrop any discussion about the return of sports is — let’s be diplomatic here — unrealistic. Calgary and Toronto have banned all public events until June 30. Bans are in place in virtually every major city in Canada, the United States and Europe.

New York, the so-called city that never sleeps, is a ghost town. It’s a similar story in Los Angeles. But we’re going to be holding sporting events in front of tens of thousands of people in four months? That doesn’t seem possible which is something California governor Gavin Newsom was saying an hour after the Trump summit with the commissioners.

Look, my livelihood depends on those games. Saturday night the Canucks were supposed to end their regular season at home against the Vegas Golden Knights and, providing they were still in the playoff hunt, the city would have stopped for that one.

Now it’s stopped for other reasons and we don’t know when our games will return. It would be great if we could say it will be two months or three months or whatever. But we just don’t know and we won’t know for some time yet. There are only a lot of unknowns out there right now and that is unsettling.

But it’s better than raising false hopes and expectations and if you don’t believe me, just ask Dr. Anthony Fauci, the lead man on Trump’s coronavirus task force and the voice of reason during the pandemic.

“The thing that I want to emphasize, when you’re dealing with an emerging infectious disease outbreak, you are always behind where you think you are if you think today reflects where you really are.”

Perfect. And the crazy part is you know exactly what he means.

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