Remember when LeBron scoffed at the notion of games in empty arenas and said "I ain't playing" in front of no fans?
That was only 40 days ago. Our world has changed so, so much since.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease expert in the country, said Wednesday morning that the only way we'll see sports return this summer is if they are played in empty stadiums or arenas and the players are quarantined in hotels.
"Nobody comes to the stadium. Put [the players] in big hotels, wherever you want to play, keep them very well surveilled," Fauci said around the 2:45 mark of this Snapchat Original video. "Have them tested every week and make sure they don't wind up infecting each other or their family, and just let them play the season out."
No solution will be simple. One of MLB's ideas is to play the entire season with all 30 teams in Arizona. Another proposal would split the season between Florida and Arizona as in spring training.
There would be issues with any solution. Playing outdoors in Arizona in the summer is a good way to wear players out. The average temperature in Phoenix last July, for example, was 97 degrees with an average high of 108. You might say, these are professional athletes and they should be ready for any setting. But Chase Field in Arizona has a retractable roof for a reason and the surrounding spring training sites that would be hosting these games do not.
There's also the issue of separating players from their families. Unusual times lead to tough circumstances. First-year Phillies starting pitcher Zack Wheeler and his wife Dominique are expecting their first child in three months. Wheeler explained Friday that he's not willing to miss that birth if players are isolated and would be willing to miss a few weeks of baseball if he has to be quarantined after traveling and seeing his family. Could players be quarantined in hotels along with their families?
It's going to be complicated. The players are guaranteed only 4% of their 2020 salaries and many will want to not only play but play as long a regular season as possible since their salaries will be prorated.
"Only way the season might be played is with empty seats, which is no fun for anybody, but if we can get some baseball going, that's a good thing," Scott Kingery said Tuesday via Instagram.
If baseball can return this summer, it has a chance to not only serve its loyal fans but also attract many new eyeballs because of the craving for live sports.
"People say you can't play without spectators, but, well, I think you'd get enough buy-in from people who are dying to see a baseball game, particularly me," Fauci said. "I'm living in Washington and we have the world champion Washington Nationals. I want to see them play again."
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