So if we’re going to be optimistic, let’s assume – or, at least, hope – that the 2021 Rose Bowl will be the party to end all parties.
If Mayor Eric Garcetti nails his assessment, New Year’s Day in Pasadena might be our first opportunity to again witness a sporting event live, in person, with thousands of fellow Angelenos.
Or maybe not. Maybe even January will be too soon.
The antsiness to resume some sense of normalcy in our lives continues to run up against, and bounce off of, the science. The deadliest virus of our lifetimes has brought society to a halt, and Garcetti clarified in remarks to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer Wednesday what we’ve all feared: The length of time in which we aren’t going to be sitting or standing shoulder to shoulder at concerts or sporting events or other large gatherings is going to be much greater than we’d hoped.
Garcetti spelled it out thusly when Blitzer brought up an internal Fire Department memo that suggested large events in L.A. would be out of the question before 2021:
“It’s difficult to imagine us getting together in the thousands any time soon, so I think we should be prepared for that this year. I think we all have never wanted science to work so quickly. But until there’s either a vaccine, some pharmaceutical intervention or herd immunity, the science is the science, and public health officials have been very clear. We’ve got many, many more miles to walk before we’re back in those environments.
“… We get together (at an event) and hundreds of people come down with coronavirus here in Los Angeles, we might only have five or 10 percent of people who have come down with COVID-19 by the fall. That means that 95 percent, 90 percent of us still could get that and it could still spread rapidly. So nothing I’ve heard would indicate that we’ll be in those large thousands of people gatherings any time soon, and probably not for the rest of this year.”
This couldn’t and shouldn’t have been unexpected. As this pandemic has continued, we’ve seen the effect the stay-at-home mandate has had in reducing the spread of the virus. To go away from such prudence now would basically throw away any progress already made.
And let’s face it: On the spectrum of most essential to least essential businesses, in determining what should resume first, large gatherings and spectator events have to be toward the back of the line, as much as we desperately want them to return.
Smaller events, such as high school football, would be just as much in jeopardy under those conditions. And while Garcetti only speaks for the city of Los Angeles, the actions of the biggest city in our region carry a lot of weight throughout the rest of Southern California.
His words were the loudest Wednesday, but there were other developments involving the immediate future of sport. Earlier in the day Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in the first of a Snapchat interview series that he believes the only feasible way for sports to return in the coming months would be behind closed doors and likely in a quarantine situation.
“Put [the players] in big hotels, wherever you want to play, keep them very well surveilled,” he said. ” … Have them tested every single week and make sure they don’t wind up infecting each other or their family, and just let them play the season out.”
This Space remains dubious about how well that would work. Remember, we’re not just talking about players but also managers and coaches, officials, support personnel, broadcasters, TV technical personnel, etc. The more you spread that umbrella, the greater the risk.
And at least one prominent player has some reservations.
.@miketrout wants MLB to come back soon as possible, but brings up a number of issues that would have to be worked out logistically before baseball returns in any fashion. #LunchTalkNBCSN pic.twitter.com/TdPfIVI8Jp
— NBC Sports (@NBCSports) April 15, 2020
“What are you going to do with family members?” Mike Trout said in an interview with NBC Sports’ Mike Tirico. “My wife is pregnant. What am I going to do when she goes into labor? Am I going to have to quarantine for two weeks after I come back?
“There’s a lot of red flags. There’s a lot of questions … The mentality is we want to get back as soon as we can, but obviously it’s got to be realistic. We can’t be sittin’ in a hotel room, just going from the field to the hotel room and not be able to do anything. I think that’s pretty crazy.”
Then again, that might also be the only way those plans could work.
Meanwhile, the NFL – which will go ahead with its draft next week and seems at least publicly committed to proceeding as scheduled in the fall – is creating contingency plans for shortened schedules or games in empty or half-full stadiums, according to the Washington Post. And a source for that story made it clear that “the other leagues (MLB, NBA, NHL) have to go first” in figuring out how to resume play.
That certainly would be a grand opening for Inglewood’s SoFi Stadium, wouldn’t it?
So consider some of the things we in SoCal will likely miss in the upcoming months, in the interest of public health: The debut of the grand stadium project that was the catalyst for the NFL’s return to L.A. The MLB and MLS All-Star Games. The Mookie Betts Era of Dodger baseball. And that Lakers-Clippers playoff series in Staples Center that we’d all anticipated.
Sometimes the phrase “Wait’ll next year” sounds downright funereal, if unavoidable.
@Jim_Alexander on Twitter