Mark Bradley: Sports are moving toward playing. Is this good or bad?

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Every pitcher has an ERA of 0.00. Every hitter is batting .000. Every team is in a 30-way tie for first place (also last) at 0-0.

Depending on the sport, we’re seeing movement toward the resumption/commencement of play. We could know something about MLB by week’s end. The NBA and MLS are casting eyes at Disney World as a home base. Tom Brady played golf and split his britches. (Is it just me, or has TB’s brief time in Tampa Bay been the height of goofiness?)

To borrow from Churchill, the Brit equivalent of Yogi Berra when it comes to catch-all quotes: “This is not the end; it is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

College football is clearing a path for its players to re-gather on campus, even as we’re unsure if colleges themselves will allow other students to do the same. Our vice president came to Georgia and lunched with our governor in a restaurant on Atlanta’s west side, neither man wearing a mask nor keeping a social distance. Our neighborhood pool is open for fun and frolic, though the slide remains closed.

For better or worse — or maybe both — we’re moving toward the resumption of normal activities, or at least normal activities in a newly normal way. There’s no COVID-19 vaccine, but there’s growing hope that the virus can be semi-managed if, and this is a monstrous “if”, we avoid super-spreader gatherings. Sporting events fall under that heading, which is why it could be 2021 before any fans get to see any sort of ball played in person.

We mentioned last week how odd the resumption of German soccer, minus supporters, appeared via television. By the end of July — yes, our sports leagues are moving slowly, and good for them — we could be experiencing the same strange vibes re: MLB/NBA/MLS. Baseball will attempt, or so it’s believed, to play games in home stadiums behind locked gates. Players in all pro sports figure to be under some form of quarantine. Testing will surely be done on something approaching a daily basis.

Still unknown is whether any of this will work. On the Monday in May when we remember those lost in wars, we note that nearly 100,000 Americans — roughly the combined populations of Marietta and Mableton — have been claimed by the virus. Some of us have gone back to work, and our sports could soon be available to watch/livestream, but never will look back on the first half of 2020 and attach the word “normal.”

No, we can’t stop living. Neither can we ignore that leaving the house brings a risk of being infected with a disease for which no cure exists. As a card-carrying sportswriter, I miss having games to chronicle. As a human being, I continue to struggle with the role sports should play during a pandemic. As a worrier about anything/everything, I have concerns about these athletes as fellow humans. Just because MLB — or the NBA, or MLS — says, “We’re pretty sure we’re good to go,” is being “pretty sure” reason enough?

Apologies, again, for being a downer. It’s just that, at such a time, celebration seems inappropriate. Even the relief we’ve begun to feel could prove premature. As much as we’ve learned about the coronavirus, there’s much we don’t know. (Like how to cure it.) Churches are free to reopen, but church services have been identified as potential super-spreaders. How do you walk that fine line?

As much as this Memorial Day might seem the end of the beginning, what if, two weeks hence, we find it was but a lull in a still-raging storm? Do we reclose that which has just reopened? Do college athletes cease their “voluntary” campus workouts? Do MLB and MLS and the NBA say, “Never mind”?

In the grim light of hindsight, we waited too long to shut down. We were, however, dealing with the unprecedented. Thing is, we still are. We’ve come a long way over the past three months, but we can’t know how far there is to go. As much as I’d like to be monitoring Ronald Acuna’s OPS and Mike Soroka’s ERA, any enthusiasm for the return of such diversions is undercut by fear. What if sports reopen too soon? What if any erring is done not on the side of caution but commerce?

OK, enough. I’ve bummed out everyone, myself included. Time to rewatch the clip of TB12’s wardrobe malfunction. That’s a beauty.

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