Ratto: When do the restops begin?

The real trick is the one nobody discusses

Ray Ratto
May 28, 2020 - 10:43 am

The Premier League announced that it will resume games on June 17, and there was much rejoicing. The NHL announced only a plan to restart, and there was much rejoicing. The NBA is talking about how many family members per player get to be party of their restart, and there is much rejoicing. The Hungarian government announced that its soccer league will resume with fans, and there was much rejoicing, at least in Hungarian. Baseball argues about money, and there is not only no rejoicing but great recrimination.

The rules seem to be clear everyone is cool on restarts and the mechanisms by which they happen. The real trick, though, is the one nobody discusses. That's the one where someone explains what happens when the virus makes its much expected second run specifically, who among the great restarters is in charge of determining when the restart has to stop.

Amid the army of people who love to explain why and how games should resume, all the way down to the most granular formatting issues, there seems to be no taste for discussing what happens when the worst case scenario doubles down on all of us. And based on the worst case scenarios we are all stuck in to already, the notion that it can only get better from here seems laughable or would be if any of this was funny.

But DefCon 1 has to be dealt with, and with the same fervor as the restarts. Adam Silver needs to explain how a second shutdown would happen and what it would take to do so. So does Gary Bettman. So does whoever has his hand inside Roger Goodell's back. We can already guess that Dana White would never close UFC because he likes apocalyptic scenarios when other people face them, but that is neither here nor there.

But with all due respect to revenue streams and programming needs and even athletic closure, the health of the product is the overriding concern. Or it should be, unless you are comfortable with the idea of entirely disposable players. And this isn't about a body count, but about how many athletes and other workers can catch it, how many people will catch it from the athletes, and how many will have their health damaged as a result. You think Silver is signing off on the possibility that LeBron James' heart or lungs will be permanently impacted, or Bettman with Connor McDavid, or Goodell with Patrick Mahomes? Unlike most industries, the workers are the product, and that requires repeating. THE PLAYERS ARE THE PRODUCT. You don't get your games when they're in quarantine, or have you forgotten Rudy Gobert?

So amid all this potential rejoicing (and in the case of baseball, groin-kicking), it would be helpful to know that there is some thought being applied to protecting the people who provide our entertainment by the people who gets rich off their work. And yes, that includes how to make it stop, who will decide to stop it and under what conditions. It is at least as important an issue as a play-in tournament to decide a 16-seed.

Or it will be, and probably before any of us are ready.

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