It’s the lack of answers that’s so frustrating

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I see a lot of the feeling in the last couple of days that it’s March 2020 again. But it isn’t. We are armed with far more information than we had then, and there are vaccines. The only thing … well, I won’t say “miss” about March 2020 and beyond, because it sucked, but perhaps the biggest difference was the certainty. In those days, sports were closed for four months and that was the only answer. There wasn’t really much to discuss, we all knew it was the right choice. The discussions came months later when it came to figuring out how to bring them back. If the leagues got it right, I guess it doesn’t matter now. But in the beginning it was final.

This time around, the answers aren’t that clear. Each league does not even know how to deal with this problem and is practically trying their own thing. The NFL is reducing testing and quarantine for asymptomatic players. You will find doctors who understand this and some who are wary of it. The NHL is on hiatus, in part due to the complications of cross-border travel. The NBA isn’t, at least not for now. Gamers are angering the protocols they’ve endured for nearly two years. You can understand this on some level. Most of those held back, in any league, feel good. They wonder why they have to wait 10 days or more to play again when they are asymptomatic. Again, it is understandable.

More focused tests can be considered rational. Or it can be seen sneaking multiple players under the curtain to play and perhaps save leagues on the cost of tests and canceled games. In most cases like this, they probably are both. Also, most of the testing outside of sports is at the behest of a suspected exposure. But then again, athletes and their workplaces put them on display much more often than you and me. You will be shocked to hear that the authors of a sports website don’t share a locker room, I know. I’ve been told that Carron Phillips can break a bad towel, though. I hope I never find out.

There have been rumors that Omicron is not as strict as previous variants, although we are far from confirming this. But hearing it probably frustrates the players more. Hopefully that’s the case, but definitive answers can’t come fast enough to satisfy everyone. And you can’t rush them.

Again, it hasn’t been 20 months. If the sport had tried to continue even just a little longer at the dawn of the pandemic, and we had seen such positive results, we would have feared mass death and serious illness for all. At the moment, it’s not completely gone, but that fear is far less severe. Those of us who are fully vaccinated don’t leave the house now wondering if the worst isn’t riding the next breeze. We’re still scared of the virus, but we’re pretty confident our lives probably won’t be that upset. We know how to protect the most vulnerable in our lives much better. The level of despair is not quite what it was then.

The easy thing, and perhaps the most prudent thing, is to close everything again from a sporting point of view. And we know that the latest driving force of sport – money – is more powerful now than it was then because the overall threat is less, at least as far as we know. Things can obviously change in a dime, which is scary for everyone.

There is still a lot we don’t know, but now it’s combining, or is at odds with, everything we know we didn’t know before. To figure out what’s right … it’s beyond me and it seems like it’s beyond most. There is a lot to balance, and it seems too much. And perhaps it’s more frustrating than when we didn’t know anything, so we just switched to DEFCON 1. Pausing everything at least allowed us to learn everything linearly from the lowest starting point.

It’s clear we’re not going back there, which makes everything seem on the fly and more confusing. I’m on the more cynical side, as you probably know by now, and I’ll think from the fact that the plowing of most leagues now is purely due to greed. However, the players also seem divided. Some seem to want to keep playing. Some are cautious. It is on both sides of the pond. Obviously they’re not even scientists, but as this article by Elliotte Friedman shows, scientists and doctors are not completely on the same page.

So in a way we move on, feeling in the dark. It’s a pretty insecure feeling, but with each passing day I’m not sure there’s any other way.


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