Christine Brennan, USA TODAY
Published 8:51 a.m. ET July 11, 2020 | Updated 9:33 a.m. ET July 11, 2020
SportsPulse: Dan Wolken and Paul Myerberg discuss if there will be college football this fall. As Wolken put its, all it takes is one bad outcome due to the pandemic to send the sport into chaos.
It was four months ago today that the sports world changed, most likely forever. On the evening of March 11, the alert went out to phones and TVs across the nation: the NBA was suspending operations due to a player’s positive coronavirus test.
To a country whose president had called the pandemic a “hoax,” to a massive population mostly unaware of the impending viral tsunami, the news was shocking. If the NBA was shutting down, would the country follow?
The answer of course was yes.
On March 11, few if any of us would have given a thought to July 11, much less wondered what life would be like then. But if we had, what would we have guessed our sports world would look like?
Could we possibly have imagined this?
Fall college sports on the verge of collapse. Our biggest pro leagues starting up soon, with questions about how their testing programs will hold up, and what happens if they don’t. The NBA and WNBA gamely planning to play in bubbles in Florida, a state where the virus is exploding long after its governor declared victory and opened up too soon.
MLB stars such as David Price, Buster Posey, Ian Desmond and Ryan Zimmerman opting out of a truncated baseball season. Three pro soccer teams – two in the MLS and one in the NWSL – forced out of their tournaments because of a rash of positive coronavirus tests. NASCAR embroiled in a fraught discussion about Black Lives Matter and racism while thankfully, finally, banishing the Confederate flag.
Men’s golf moving along nicely without spectators, thanks to the game’s built-in advantage of being all about social distancing before there was social distancing. Even it, though, has seen big names withdraw because of positive tests or an abundance of caution. The women’s game is still sidelined, scheduled for a return in Ohio soon.
Oh, and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell apologizing for not listening to protesting players for years and now encouraging them to speak out and peacefully protest in the wake of George Floyd’s murder on Memorial Day. Goodell didn’t mention Colin Kaepernick, which was a glaring omission, but it was clear he was talking about him.
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“I personally protest with you, and want to be part of the much-needed change in this country,” Goodell said in a video.
All this while 134,000 Americans have died from COVID-19, while cases are alarmingly spiking around the nation.
In some ways, things could hardly be worse. Due to an appalling lack of national planning, the country appears disorganized and uncertain, and sports do too, even though they actually do have plans. We once could rely on sports for definitive answers, rock-solid results and clearly defined boundaries. Now, almost everything seems to be up in the air.
Few have articulated this extraordinary situation better than pitcher Sean Doolittle, one of the stars of the Washington Nationals’ 2019 World Series championship season.
“We’re way worse off as a country than we were in March when we shut this thing down,” he recently told reporters. “And look at where other developed countries are in their response to this. We haven’t done any of the things that other countries have done to bring sports back. Sports are like the reward of a functioning society. And we’re trying to just bring it back, even though we’ve taken none of the steps to flatten the curve.”
It has been four months of fits and starts, hope and despair. The next four months will tell us if the United States has the ability to support its myriad sports leagues and conferences, from high school to college to the pros, or if it will all come crashing down. We hope for the former and fear the latter. We’ll have our answer Nov. 11.