It was March 8, 2020. I was at the Calgary airport, heading back to the United States after watching 3 hockey games in Alberta–2 Jackets games and a Junior game in Red Deer. I had no idea those would likely be the last sporting events I would see live in 2020.
While at the airport, the news about the spreading coronavirus appeared on TV’s the way it might in a movie to foreshadow what was to come. A few weeks before, I had been at a Junior game in Everett, Washington. On the way to that game, my wife and I heard the news of the first major U.S. outbreak of the virus at a nursing home in Washington. The line for security was long. We were packed in like sardines. I thought, perhaps, there were additional precautions due to the virus. Nope. They were more concerned about whether I was bringing any agricultural products back with me. That would all change in the blink of an eye.
The NHL season would abruptly be suspended on March 12 after an NBA player tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Less than 2 weeks after I left Canada, on March 21st, border between Canada and the United States would close. It is still closed as I type this. I had hoped to return to Alberta this winter to see the World Juniors in Red Deer. Those plans are long gone as it has already been announced that the World Juniors will not have spectators this year. In fact, it was just announced this week that there will not be scouts present in person. The baseball season is nearly complete. One of the best seasons my beloved Dodgers have ever played. A team that usually brings in 1,000,000 plus fans a year will have finished the season playing before perhaps 1/10 of that…not a single one saw them play in LA. A team that routinely sells out Dodger Stadium is left to play out a World Series before a mostly empty stadium with a few fortunate, wealthy few able to see them. The Big Ten opened its season this week with the President bragging about his “accomplishment”…with no fans in attendance at the massive 100,000 seat stadiums and no tailgate in site.
Oh, we all kid ourselves. We watched a Stanley Cup playoffs! We are watching a World Series! We are watching College Football! But the sports we watch are nothing more than Potemkin Villages to perpetuate a lie–that everything is normal, or soon will be and that our government has it all “under control,” that we are “turning a corner,” that a vaccine will be available in “weeks.” Lies upon lies perpetuated with phony crowd noise and camera angles that cut out the empty stands while some cardboard cutout sits in the seats we once occupied.
Now, let’s be brutally honest and admit what you and I know to be true. We won’t again be sitting in those stands together or having a beer at a tailgate with 100’s or 1,000’s of our like-minded fans until the spread of this virus is controlled. Oh, maybe a chosen few will be allowed into an arena (at an exorbitant cost and with some substantial risk of catching the virus). Maybe some foolish state (Florida seems a good bet) will be so foolhardy as to allow full arenas and to see what happens. But, only a truly foolish team owner would take the risk of liability in such case.
And, yet, there is someone more foolish than any team owner or college president and that person is holding events with 1,000’s of unmasked people regardless of the threat to the health and safety of those people. And that person is the President of the United States. And his Chief of Staff, just this morning, announced that the policy of this Administration is that they cannot–no, let’s be brutally honest, WILL NOT–stop the spread of this virus.
You and I won’t be at the Big Ten championship. We won’t be at opening night for the Blue Jackets. We won’t be at high school basketball games. We won’t be at concerts. We won’t be at movie theaters. Not any time soon with this Administration’s policies.
That isn’t the worst of it all. But it is the only way some of you will listen to our reality. “Stick to sports.” Yeah, I was one of those guys. It is easy to be that guy when the policies of this Administration don’t directly impact your daily life. It isn’t your child pulled from your arms because you came here to find a better life. It isn’t your sister recklessly shot by police with no justice for those who committed the crime. It isn’t your family told they can’t come to our country on the basis of their religion. Well, fine. I’ll “stick to sports.” The only way we are going to get back into the stands is to vote out this Administration and its enablers and put people in power who will make some attempt to get this virus under control. Because there is no guaranty a vaccine is coming soon and even when one is available, distribution will not be instantaneous.
So, let’s make game plan to make it happen with just over a week left before this election. If you live in a state with early in-person voting and you are comfortable voting in-person, do it as soon as possible. Avoid Election Day lines. If you have your absentee ballot, DO NOT WAIT. If it is an option where you live, turn it in at a dropbox. If you must mail it DO NOT WAIT, mail it ASAP. Avoid election day lines. Avoid the possibility your vote doesn’t arrive on time. If you are not sure about the options in your jurisdiction, you can find more information here: https://www.ncsl.org/research/elections-and-campaigns/early-voting-in-state-elections.aspx
It is time to put people in charge who will take this virus seriously and who will do what is necessary to get fans back in the stands and to banish the fake cheers to bad sitcoms. So, get out there and vote and make it happen so that we can all grab a beer at a tailgate sometime in the not-too-distant future.