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The COVID-19 pandemic has created turmoil in the sports world

Society’s ugly side has been prominent during these tough times.

Training masks, like the one former Eagles running back Jay Ajayi wore here, would be one approved by the league for players to wear during practices during the coronavirus pandemic.
| Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

The COVID-19 pandemic has created fears, doubt, and uncertainty for many across the world. It has affected the many ways we go about our lives while also altering our perspectives.

Well, maybe not so much.

There are many people that view sports as an outlet, an escape from life. It allows folks to remove themselves from reality and clear their minds of their everyday problems without having to face them. Sports has even given people a sense of life, and for some others, a sense of purpose. But take all of that away and we see the cruel side of humanity.

We saw that when Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout immediately vocalized his displeasure about playing baseball this season. His concerns of getting the coronavirus and spreading it to his loved ones were valid and still hold true. The main focus for him is his health and the health of his family. Some fans and media don’t view it the same. They only see this scenario as a younger and healthy human being that can easily fight off the virus.

Yet, something is missing there. They only see the athlete. They don’t see outside of the athlete. They don’t see the athlete’s friends or family. They don’t see those that may have an underlying condition that puts them at high risk. They don’t see the potential of the virus spreading.

They only see what they want. They want sports, at all costs.

We’re seeing those same reactions now with Buccaneers left tackle Donovan Smith who recently posted on his Instagram account his concerns about playing football in 2020. Smith, like Trout, raised valid concerns and cited the upcoming birth of his newborn as one of the main reasons he is worried. Rightfully so.

And Smith is joined by hundreds of NFL players with the same concerns.

None of that matters

Social media is filled with derogatory remarks. Comment sections include reactions to stories where fans say that the team(s) can play better without said player. Fans just want their sports.

Folks will argue about the CDC being wrong, about the virus being a hoax to some level, or about some other misconceived notion that the virus isn’t really around. Anything to argue their point that sports should carry on as normal.

Reporters have to virtually interview players.

Some are not happy with that.

Fans will have to sit further away from the field or may not even be allowed in stadiums.

Some are not happy with that.

Protocols are being implemented to safeguard teams as well as the media and fans. It’s an excellent decision to consider even those outside of the team. But none of that matters and it will not matter to those that want normalcy in sports.

That is all being justified by twisting figures to support a narrative whether it’s for or against a season kicking off.

We’re talking stats

But not those that pertain to the upcoming season. Instead, we’re arguing COVID-19 stats and how they can relate to the NFL. Percentages, graphs, charts, etc. all for how it will or will not affect an NFL player.

Where does a player live? What city does the team play in? What if the NFL limits travel to just a certain region for teams?

What states have the most cases? What teams would be a higher risk based off of where they travel from?

I can go on.

All those questions come up when discussing how the NFL can approach the season, how they can somehow manage to have their teams play. The answers to them are usually filled with a graph about cases going up. Or they are answered with percentages on how the majority of the population aren’t really affected by the pandemic.

Just like a quarterback’s interception numbers or an edge rusher’s sacks, stats are twisted and debated to fit the argument. Coronavirus stats are handled the same way, but in a way so that they relate to the NFL and how they should have a season.

A season happens, but...

Yes, people want their sports. Fans want their NFL to play. Bucs fans want to see Tom Brady throwing touchdown passes to Mike Evans. Fans want to see Patrick Mahomes pull another backyard football play out of his bag of tricks. They want the 2020 season to go on.

But let’s say a star player tests positive for the virus. Let’s say that player does not have two negative test results in the league’s five-day testing period and is forced to miss a game. Now that team loses the week’s game because that star player was ruled out due to testing positive for the coronavirus.

That’s just the bare minimum that can happen, right? Let’s take it a step further.

A player with asthma tests positive for the virus. Within days, the virus starts hitting him harder than a player without an underlying health condition. Now that player has to miss two games. The team now coincidentally loses those two games.

Let’s say, in either scenario, those losses are the games that force the team to miss the playoffs. Was it worth it? Will teams and/or fans point to the coronavirus as the “excuse” why they missed the playoffs? Or even “worse” for teams, the quarterback tests positive the week leading into the Super Bowl and has to miss it?

Look at what happened in the MLS. Nashville SC players test positive and their whole team was removed from the tournament. Now as more cases have surged in the league, MLS games are being postponed and the tournament may even be cancelled. That tournament is being held at Disney’s Wide World of Sports where the NBA is also slated to play their tournament. Then you have to ask what will happen with the NBA?

Lots of uncertainty for the NFL. Some season huh?

There’s no wrong, yet never a right

Guys like Tom Brady, Russell Wilson, and other stars are still out there holding workouts with their respective teammates. Many others within their own brotherhood — the NFLPA — are asking those workouts to stop. These scenarios fuel the debates and since not much has come out of these workouts from the standpoint of positive tests, the crowd that supports the athletes returning to work use this “stat” as justification that they should go on business as usual.

That isn’t, however, the tell-all means for saying “Hey, everything’s fine!” The proper precautions still have to take place. Some players are adhering to them, others feel superior to them.

Players who continue to workout aren’t wrong in doing so. Fans who want a season at all costs aren’t wrong for wanting it. The media isn’t wrong for wanting to cover sports.

But it’s never right to criticize an athlete for their beliefs. It’s never right to write articles telling a player to shut up and play. It’s never right to not look at the bigger picture.

That bigger picture is that lives are affected, no matter what side of the fence you’re on.

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