As COVID-19 cases are rising across the United States since states began to reopen, professional sports are trying to conduct business as usual. Or at least as usual as local jurisdictions will allow.
Here in Chicago, both the Cubs and White Sox are preparing for 30 home games each in empty stadia. But the Ricketts family, ever loathe to pass up a buck, will still open the rooftops across the street from Wrigley Field (yes, Virginia – Wrigley Rooftops LLC, the company that counts as its assets every rooftop that isn’t behind a video board – is Ricketts-owned. But not a subsidiary of the Cubs, so not subject to MLB revenue sharing), and those rooftops will be filled with people who I’m absolutely certain will be wearing masks and practicing social distancing.
If the images we’ve all seen from Wrigleyville are any indication, I’d expect not only for lots of non-cautious behavior, but I’m putting the over/under on Cubs jerseys with “COVID 19” on the back at 5 a game.
The Sox are at least letting fans get involved by giving them the chance to have their faces put onto cutouts in seats at the ballpark. But again, cha-ching.
Meanwhile, the players and staff are all supposed to be getting tested every other day. Kris Bryant this week said in interviews that the testing has been…let’s be nice and say “sporadic”. Of course, once he said it, the swabbers were in the house faster than you could say Jack Robinson.
We’ve also seen positive tests with at least 10 teams since training camp began. That’s 1/3 of MLB with infections. The most notable players to test positive have been Texas’ Joey Gallo and Atlanta’s Freddie Freeman.
Also today, Buster Posey announced that he’d be opting out of the season, as he and his wife are in the process of adopting two babies who were born prematurely and have compromised immune systems. So between players opting out and players testing positive (13 since July 1), we’re looking at a hot mess.
But wait…there’s more!
At some point, if MLB bulls ahead with this, we’re still looking at travel, lodging, things like that. The bright spot, if there is one, is that neither of our local teams will need to travel to Florida, Georgia, Texas or Arizona. So…yay?
And travel for MLB teams is a little different than the rest of the world. Their team bus takes them right to their charter plane, which flies them to another bus. They can control a lot of their environment. But they still need to stay in hotels, and they need to eat. Sorry guys, my 36 years of working in Information Technology (which was Data Processing when I started) has me trained to look for failure points. And there are a lot of them.
Plus, the schedule. 60 games in 66 days. Everybody better hope for a two month drought. There’s also the matter of having to figure out what happens when a team has to shut it down because of a positive test, or (more likely) multiple positive tests. You can have a team out of commission for a series or multiple series. The very thing that caused this season to be truncated in the first place is also the thing that has an endless supply of spanners to be thrown into the works.
If there’s one consolation to MLB’s “plan” to push these games through in the midst of rising case numbers, it’s this.
The NHL is worse.