Playing sports during a pandemic still doesn’t make sense.
Duke Head Basketball Coach Mike Krzyzewski questioned after a game last week whether or not playing basketball at this time is wise. “For the good of the game and mental and physical health of players and staff, we need to constantly look at this thing,” he noted.
Coach K’s comments afterwards drew both cheers and jeers on social media.
“I appreciate Coach K’s taking a position at all, because no one wanted to address whether or not we should be playing because of the financial ramifications,” Minnesota WBB Assistant Coach Danielle O’Banion told me last week. “I also have a problem with folk who are saying he is only taking that position because he lost two non-conference games. I believe that’s far from the truth.”
“We are all wondering what is going on here,” said Rutgers Coach C. Vivian Stringer. “It’s amazing we’re playing basketball in a middle of a pandemic. We have to pay attention to many things that are going on.”
Added Rutgers junior guard Zipporah “Zippy” Broughton, “It is mentally challenging, [but] at the end of the day, we’re here to hoop.”
This reporter last week sparked a Twitter dust-up after I opined that the state high school league decided to sanction sports this year because they cowed down to mostly White parents’ and coaches’ complaints.
I said that we haven’t heard from Black coaches and parents that playing sports during COVID-19 is a good thing so much as we have heard it from others. Although some disagreeably but intelligently and respectfully debated with me, others instead resorted to name-calling in their arguments. One wrongly called me a racist.
A group called Let Them Play MN that claims 23,000 members filed suit last week against Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz for his current partial shutdown orders, scheduled to end Dec. 18, because of COVID concerns. The group contends that youth sports aren’t a risk for catching the virus so much as other places.
A New York Times analysis recently found that over 6,000 college athletes, coaches, and staff have tested positive for the coronavirus thus far; this number might be larger because data was available from only 78 of 135 Football Bowl Subdivision schools that reported. The University of Minnesota had 336 positive cases, tops among FBS schools.
This state last week averaged nearly 100 deaths a day, according to the COVID Tracking Project. The APM Research Lab says nationwide one in 800 Blacks, one in 750 Indigenous, one in 1,100 Pacific Islanders, one in 1,150 Latinx, one in 1,925 Asians, and one in 1,325 Whites have died from COVID-19.
A Morning Consult poll last week reported that more than one in two adults (56%) say the worst of COVID has not yet been seen.
“I have to really take a step back and make sure that I was comfortable in this environment,” admitted O’Banion, a cancer survivor. “It’s been a struggle…”
Sports aren’t a virus repellent. Playing sports for the sake of so-called normalcy under the misconception that it is safe from catching the deadly virus is risky at best.
Some whine that kids shouldn’t be disappointed, deprived if they can’t play sports. Life is full of disappointments. We all have them. Part of growing up is learning how to get over it.
“We’ve done a lot of things unnatural,” observed Stringer. “I’m praying that the mental health of the team survives. It’s crazy.”
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.