Rovell: NBA Makes Right Call, Now Society Must Be Prepared to Heal Without Sports

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Mar 12, 2020, 11:39 PM EDT

Editor’s note: On Thursday afternoon, the NCAA canceled all of its winter and spring championships, including the 2020 men’s and women’s basketball tournaments.

The images have been seared into the brains and minds of sports fans for all time.

Mike Piazza hitting that home run in the first Mets home game after 9/11. President George W. Bush later walking out before Game 3 of the 2001 World Series and throwing what still might be the most perfect first pitch…while in a bulletproof vest. Bo Kimble’s left handed free throw in tribute of his fallen Loyola Marymount teammate Hank Gathers. More recently, when Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash, players around the league, including the Boston Celtics’ Kemba Walker responded with the “he would have wanted us to play.”

And it would be hard to argue.

The phrase “The show must go on” was believed to have first been used by circuses in the 1800s, when an animal or performer was hurt. There was just an understanding that they had to move forward.

But sports promised more. Sports promises to not only be a distraction. It makes us forget, if even for a moment of the pain of the past.

And it also offers the potential to heal.

We somehow smile at a home run. A pitch that means more than a pitch. A free throw that brings us to have the hair stand up on the back of our necks.

And that’s what makes Wednesday, March 11 so hard to wrap our collective heads around. For all of time, we have believed sports was a solution to our pain when the world has been gripped by tragedy.

But sports can’t be a solution now. In the age of quarantine, we are told we are risking further tragedy by being together. And, in the close quarters of athletic competition, we must be reminded that the men trading sweat and playing right on top of each other are humans too. Even with empty arenas, the human in Adam Silver knows, at least in this moment, that once Rudy Gobert tested positive for the Coronavirus, nothing could be salvaged.

There will be other days to think about the business ramifications, but right now it’s about society. We will have to heal without the NBA. And we might have to heal without the NCAA Tournament.

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