Empty Bankers Life for Pacers games? Let’s calm down about Coronavirus and those who might overreact to it

Bankers Life Fieldhouse could look a lot like this for Pacers games later this month.

Sports, nothing but sports.  That’s what I try to focus on everyday, but responses by the MAC, Ivy League, NBA, and the State of Ohio to the Coronavirus has commingled news and sports in a way that is impossible to ignore.

I understand the thought process that landed us at a place where organizations are forging a new normal to deal with containing the spread of this virus.

No one wants to cause the death of a fan or participant through the transmission of a communicable disease at events they sanction.  The worst case scenario is the only consideration for responsible organizers.  Those who would sit in meetings and champion a course of inaction to allow the disease’s effects to play themselves out would stand as culpable for their behavior if the worst came to pass.

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So the MAC has banned fans from its conference basketball tournaments, and the Ivy League eliminated its tourneys altogether.  The NBA is having serious discussions about playing in empty arenas or suspending operations, as the Chinese professional basketball league has.

Leagues, franchises, conferences, and event organizers are meeting across the country with health care officials and governmental agencies to discuss contingencies to determine the best course of action.

In Indianapolis, the Big 10 Tournament will carry on as planned – for now, the NCAA Regional scheduled to begin here in 15 days could be played in an empty Lucas Oil Stadium, and the Indy 500 (which attracts more than 300K people to roughly a one-half square mile area) could be postponed.

Traditional classes have been replaced by online instruction at many universities and school districts that have experienced contamination have closed schools.  Businesses are being encouraged to allow employees to telecommute when possible.

Many people are washing their hands more often than when they use the bathroom, and people are bumping elbows rather than shaking hands.

Will any of that do any good?  Who the hell knows.  It can’t do any harm, right?

News about the virus is being presented with equal portions unbridled hysteria and calm bordering on indifference.  The result is that people have no idea which polar opposite to believe, and fear is driving thinking and policy.

The only problem with these best laid plans that champion a safety-first attitude was echoed by Charles Barkley, of all people.  Oddly, Barkley is a rare voice of logic during trying times.  He told Stephen Colbert on The Late Show, “I’m like, okay, if they don’t come to games, are they not going to live their lives? Are they not going to go to work? Are they not going to go out and have dinner and things like that?  Just not coming to a basketball game, I don’t think that’s going to solve all the issues.”

Barkley is right.  It’s great to make sure no one catches Coronavirus in an arena, but are people also going to stop going to casinos (where it seems the demographic in greatest danger congregates disproportionately), churches, grocery stores, and indulge in air travel?

Safety is an inane concept.  We aren’t safe, and we will never be safe.  An expectation of imperviousness is nonsensical.  Eventually, we all meet an opponent we cannot conquer.  It could be cancer, a virus, a beer truck, a dirty needle, bullet, or our own foolishness.  One day, the bell tolls for us all.

Our inevitable demise doesn’t mean we should rush into harm’s way or cause others distress, but we should understand and empathize with those who are panicked or overzealous in trying to keep us from harm.

If events are cancelled, that’s OK.  Life goes on.  If we can’t attend a Pacers game, that’s life.  Stay calm, wash your hands, sneeze into your elbow, and this too shall pass.

Our lives will be normal again soon enough.


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