With seemingly every major sports league in “This is fine” mode, the prevailing logic on how to calm the spread of the virus is to take a break to allow the latest variant-induced wave to pass so COVID-ravaged teams don’t have to scramble to fill lineups. English Premier League clubs have been hit so hard that they had to postpone five games this weekend.
Multiple managers have complained about the integrity of competition being compromised, and Chelsea Women manager Emma Hayes even attributed the added stress of trying to play through this outbreak to her team’s surprise Champions League exit.
“Our heads were all over the place. They’re human beings. The stress, the anxiety and the worry of having to perform in a game when you’re thinking, ‘I just want to go home, I haven’t seen my family, I’ve been to the Olympics, another Christmas alone.’
“I’m not making excuses for the players, but I can tell you that the last three days we’ve been all over the place with the worry of having to play this game.”
However, Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp doesn’t agree that the EPL should take a break, even after losing a couple of starters and a rotation player the morning of a fixture with Newcastle on Thursday. Maybe his tune would’ve been different had the Reds not won 3-1, but his thought process… makes sense.
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However, before I give you that, here’s a beautiful goal from Trent Alexander-Arnold in that game as a way to apologize because unfortunately I will be writing heavily about COVID for the rest of this piece.
Look at that. Just gorgeous. Alright, now here’s Klopp’s thought process.
“I don’t see the massive benefit of (stopping the Premier League) because we come back (and) it is still the same,” said Klopp, who has been outspoken about following science, getting vaccinated and receiving a booster.
“If the virus will be gone then I am the first that stops and goes home and waits until it is gone. But that is probably not the case, so where’s the real benefit of it? We hope we can play and Tottenham can play on Sunday.”
A break appears to be a good idea until you take into account that, unlike the last time sports went on hiatus, society isn’t taking a break with them. And, even though some London bar and restaurant owners are voluntarily closing down amid a surge that saw the country’s most positive cases reported in a day since the pandemic began, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the U.K. won’t go into lockdown.
If shutting down operations meant players, coaches, front office members and all team personnel going home and sheltering in place, then, yes, it’s a good idea, but they’re not going to do that because we’re not going to do that — especially during the holidays. Players are still going to get tested and, whether it’s now or 14 days from now, there are going to be positive tests. We should just be hoping leagues are following proper protocols and procedures, something that can be said about any workplace.
There’s been no indication that we’re turning a corner on anything other than another variant. Maybe the ebbs and flows of how harsh the current wave is will change, but the only way to guarantee COVID never fucks up your fantasy lineup again is to go on leave until this pandemic hopefully, finally, mercifully ends.
Also, this is not a “Get back to work and screw caution because the wind is going to blow corona up my nose anyway,” argument, and neither was Klopp’s.
“We are clearly moving back to stricter measures around the team environment and at LFC we are absolutely OK with that,” he said.
If stricter measures need to be taken — like vaccine mandates — take them. If you don’t know what those are, that’s not a reason for a stoppage. A stoppage with the thought that nothing will go wrong when you resume play because you assumed everyone sang carols over Zoom while on holiday is insane.
If you’ve followed the trends — and as someone who laid out and copy edited a daily newspaper from the first cases in Wuhan until joining Deadspin in October, I’ve nauseatingly followed the trends — what happens in Europe eventually happens here (if it’s not already) as far as cases and how we react to them goes. It’s honestly surprising we haven’t heard similarly boisterous calls for a reprieve from coaches in the NFL, NHL and NBA.
My co-worker Sam Fels looked at the issues facing hockey, and how the league isn’t even allowing teams the roster flexibility to deal with absences. Grace McDermott and I wrote about the NFL’s bag of coal (bevy of COVID and/or injury news) delivered ahead of Week 15. Carron Phillips delved into the NBA losing track of corona-Kobe after containing him for three quarters. Basically, our entire staff has written some sort of COVID story this week.
Asking professional teams to deal with it — like the world writ large is right now — might be a better idea than delaying the inevitable. If a game gets postponed or canceled along the way, honestly, who cares? You want to bitch about things not being fair? Welcome to life during an endless pandemic.
Remember when Thanos told Iron Man he was “inevitable” right before Iron Man snapped him away? Yeah, that’s not happening to COVID during a two-week shutdown. Tony Stark isn’t inoculating the world’s population. (Though that does sound like a good comic book story arc.) Santa is not delivering that present. Unlike purple Josh Brolin, more cases are inevitable.
As long as leagues have proper safety protocols, are following them and are giving teams the ability to field a roster or cancelling/postponing games when teams can’t, have at it. Is the drop-off between Baker Mayfield and Nick Mullens really that drastic?
I’m with Klopp. Hopefully Liverpool can play and Tottenham can play on Sunday.