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Only Science Will Bring Back Sports

Every story about the pandemic starts with some preamble of "I don't mean to freak you out, but holy, Jumping Jehoshaphat!"

And then the story reveals facts that only an idiot would not transmute into panic.

So I'll uphold our rules about pandemic panic alerts. Yes, be scared bleepless. It's the safer approach.

If they exist, even sober sports fans are edgy, and how much reality can Chicago fans endure before unraveling emotionally?

As an illustration, the pathetically yearning fans of the Chicago Bears, who have barely survived their non-viral version of a pandemic with Mitch Trubisky's quarterbacking, knew this would be the year of redemption and resurrection. Isn't it always? Mitch sits in the corner wearing a Dunce cap, and Nick Foles ascends the quarterback throne and guides Da Bears to 10 victories, two of which will be wins over Green Bay.

This seems logical because Packers' QB Aaron Rodgers turns 83 this year, and might be less effective scrambling and tormenting the Bears than he has been. He now takes direct snaps in a wheelchair.

But I must tell emotionally fragile Bears fan that, and as the lord is my defense lawyer, I don't want to scare you all to death . . . but . . .

There is almost no chance of anything that looks like an NFL season in 2020. The Bears will not beat Rodgers at least until he's 85.

It's the pandemic, of course.

For those keeping track of competing memes, there's the happy-as-porkers-in-mud view that we'll be good to resume our regular lives any day. Let the games begin again. We must reopen because we want to reopen. Who has the nerve to disappoint America's sporting public?

Sports franchise owners and operators - from pros to colleges - particularly pose as if resumption is almost assured, but without any evidence that "back to normal" has any meaning.

Those gripped by the psychotic break of hallucinogenic spasms even put dates on the return. Safer to aim for Easter. Next Easter, that is.

As for Major League Baseball, Opening Day and the Fall Classic can both occur on the same weekend. How about Halloween?

Fans remain hopeful, because hope is a manufactured moonbeam, and fans above all are a hopeful species. There's a high degree of lunar wackiness on display now though we skeptics hope to be wrong. We all own different kinds of hope.

In the other lane of the meme superhighway are the people who know stuff. They have verifiable information, facts, data, medical experience, scientific experiments, disaster management aptitudes, computer projections. These are the people who cured polio and smallpox.

These scientists and senior doctors never are too hopeful about this pandemic unless President Trump is in the room with them, and then they must be irrationally optimistic, because it's a federal law.

With very few exceptions, none of the people gripping facts seem to be speaking for the U.S. government. Two words on that observation: Jared and Kushner.

No baseball or football season, you say? But, but I heard . . .

Never mind that. Panic is more useful.

The Bears season, as well as everyone else's season nudging up to spring 2021, might depend on two related events. Neither of them has occurred, and little suggests their arrival as scientific saviors will be early.

The first necessity is the basic, massive testing of "how many of us are sick; how many of us are infected but show no signs; where is the pandemic going to strike next?"

The tests. We must have the tests.

Will we? Scientists hardly ever amplify answers to such questions with an unadorned "dunno," but that's the essential state of affairs now.

We barely know what we don't know.

This fact-drought means thousands will die because of ignorance. At the irrelevant end of the pool, no team should be designing World Series tickets next month just in case.

All those questions can be answered with specific viral ID tests which, if you've ever taken the SAT, you'll know we're not a country that designs tests very well. This explains the Electoral College.

Iceland and South Korea have figured out the test conundrum, but we play Lower Slobovia in this performance. On tests, the D.C. mob has chosen to go the "no, you do it" cheap way, which is a deadly path.

By one forecast, America may need 35 million Covid-19 tests per day - that's every day for those who weren't listening - before people, including the Bears, Cubs, White Sox, Bulls and Blackhawks can return to work safely.

Right now, however, the U.S. struggles to test even 100,000 people per day. We tested fewer last week than the week before.

And not just one test per person. You must test millions repeatedly, preferably before they die. Being dead is the only way you can guarantee you'll be tested now.

Even if we could launch this full-court press on tests starting today, count on it taking seven months.

The issue of how we're moving ahead with testing seems to bring out the Three Stooges Effect in Washington. Not one of the moonbeamily hopeful, you-can-count us promises has come true.

But only a vaccine for "severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)" will bring fans back for sure. Or perhaps a set of intermediary antiviral drugs will stem the symptoms. After all, we don't really care about cures. We only care about not feeling ill. We don't cure alcoholics; we just demand the imbiber stops drinking.

But conquering the virus is not a matter of our will or preference. We can't beat this mutating microbe because we choose to have a brighter 12-step program. It won't be bullied or bluffed just because we can't visit Wrigley Field.

Only science will bring back sports.

If science fails, maybe ice fishing and the biathlon (ski, shoot, ski, shoot, ski) will become the new national sports. They are one-person-at-a-time experiences that don't need spectators and, in fact, people hanging around the events cause a problem.

Every poll suggests that fans will not go to games staged, even of their beloved teams, without a COVID-19 vaccine in their veins. Who wants to catch a deadly disease just to see the White Sox blow a 9th-inning lead?

The athletes face a considerably higher risk because they sweat, spit, snort, sneeze, bleed and exchange other incidental bodily fluids. They breathe into each other's faces. All that bodily secretion makes athletes the perfect breeding petri dish for the contagion.

Even two occasional but unrelated duffers sitting in the same golf cart are risking death. Is playing a round of 103-stroke golf worth it?

As for football, you can't germ-check an entire NFL team's roster at every quarter timeout just to see if they've been exposed. Games would last 72 hours.

No one would sit with 60,000 other sneezing, coughing, boozed-up, potentially virus-ridden Bears patrons in Soldier Field, even if they get rid of Mitch Trubisky. You can't sanitize an NFL stadium and test 60,000 fans on the same day.

Also, fans can't leave the premises. It's locked down.

Imagine being quarantined at Soldier Field for 72 consecutive hours in January. On hour 73, you get to watch the Bengals. How is that a good trade?

Would the Yankees risk $300 million in talent on the theory that probably no one will get the virus? Players have unions to protect them from such insanity, and no team could rationally coerce players to perform if they felt at risk.

Liability lawyers would go berserk over risk management, and they're not completely stable anyway.

The other necessity is a vaccine that is safe enough and effective enough to make even anti-vax celebs Jim Carrey and Jenny McCarthy shut up.

There are 30 companies and six nations dashing to win the race for a vaccine. What works? As scientists now say: dunno.

Of course we can count on the wisdom, maturity and restraint of the federal government for guidance and protection, right? Nobody in their right minds risks millions of lives for entertainment, games or season tickets, would they?



Recently from David Rutter:

* Kris Bryant's Future Bar Trick.

* Mansplaining To A Millionaire.

* Status Check: Chicago Sports.

* The Week In WTF Redux: Blago Is Back Edition.

* What Is A Chicagoan Anyway?

* Glenn Beck's Turn In The Volcano.


David Rutter is the former publisher/editor of the Lake County News-Sun, and more importantly, the former author of the Beachwood's late, great "The Week In WTF" column. He welcomes your comments.

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