By Drew Stevens (@hismindonpaper)
Adam Silver is a busy man, he stays busy I’m sure, and does so in the name of many ambitions he has for the National Basketball Association, but I wonder at times if Silver has left any stars for the rest of us basketball lovers to cast our own dreams upon.
Even with his league’s transportation to a fabled land gushing with jubilation and renowned for its spellbinding enchantment, the NBA commissioner couldn’t have pictured a more storybook manifestation of the plan he helped concoct earlier this year to revive a season many considered beyond rescue or unworthy of resuscitation altogether.
Out of almost nothing and with no real precedent to guide it, the NBA has plopped itself in the middle of a virus hot zone and is competing as if it didn’t have to reset it season amidst a crippling pandemic. The approximation still stuns after a week plus of games, with the digital wall of fans and ambient arena noises layering an on-court experience that has been as intense and competitive as any run-up to a postseason can be, whether starting in August or April.
And yet as the NBA reaches beyond its third consecutive week without a single player on the Walt Disney World Resort campus having tested positive for COVID-19 Wednesday, Silver has proven capable of conjuring up some magic of his own.
Meanwhile, those of us who live beyond the jurisdiction of Silver’s invisible sphere of sanctuary do so cautiously — or that’s the approach we’ve been urged to take anyway — as the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, continues to lurk throughout our nation in similar obscurity but with much different results.
As of Thursday, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported 53,685 new cases of the coronavirus nationwide with 7,650 of those logged in Florida, the very state that’s home to the second-most cases in the country and also playing host to the NBAs “Whole New Game” for the next three months.
Illinois, too, has seen an uptick in cases, particularly among individuals between the ages of 20 and 29. That demographic, once thought to be a model of resiliency, now accounts for the most cases of any age group according to the Illinois Department of Health.
Additionally, amid the threat of a strike vote by the Chicago Teachers Union and a swell of concern from parents for the health and well-being of their children, the Chicago Public School system shelved plans to experiment with a hybrid method of learning earlier this week in favor of an exclusively remote model until, at least, November.
Conversely, on Wednesday the Archdiocese of Chicago informed parents of its intention to proceed with full-time, in-person instruction this Fall. While the superintendent of Catholic schools insists this is in the best interests of children, I count it as a premature step in a still very much dicey direction. Furthermore, the the archdiocese’s stance is indicative of the parochial approach modeled by President Donald Trump and mimicked by a growing portion of people in our society who have strayed away from recommended preventative measures or never bothered to adhere to them in the first place.
“We can look at our country and realize from the top we don’t have the ability to organize for all the reasons we know,” San Antonio Spurs head coach Greg Popovich told Mark Medina of USA Today Wednesday.
“As a population, you worry about the fiber of our country to some degree because we just don’t have the discipline. All we want is this instant gratification,” the 71-year-old five-time NBA champion head coach and former Air Force officer continued.
“People don’t understand the long-term effects. It would’ve been a lot more wise spending time worrying about how to open schools than how to open bars.”
So, here we are, some five months since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic — one that, as of Thursday, has led to 157,631 deaths and resulted in the biggest economic disaster since the Great Depression — and there still isn’t even a nationwide mandate for people to wear face coverings in public.
A much different set of circumstances than those currently being enjoyed within the NBAs own version of the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow.
NBA players, coaches and staff are currently in the last of a six-phase protocol that began in June, long before anyone descended upon the Walt Disney World Resort campus. Beginning in Phase 4, players had the option of wearing a “proximity alarm” that alerted them if within six feet another person wearing an alarm for more than five seconds. Players were also allowed to wear a smart ring to track some of their vital signs and help with early detection of COVID-19.
Given the lengths to which the NBA has gone to guard against the infiltration of COVID-19 into its bubble, Silver has created a blueprint for other sports leagues to follow for the foreseeable future, a guiding North Star that illustrates how to effectively create an environment in which the biggest threat to player safety is the recent offensive onslaught of Indiana Pacers forward T.J. Warren.
Now, anyone care to help me find any stars Silver may have missed out on manipulating in the Florida sky? We could use something to wish upon so his presence, or at least his influence, could reach the White House.
Drew Stevens is a writer based in Chicago