John Oliver analyzes attempts to resume sports amidst coronavirus pandemic
Now that many Americans have been living in coronavirus quarantine for more than two months, there's a growing desire to return to some elements of normal life. In particular, there are a lot of people who would very much like to see professional sports return to operation sometime soon. But as John Oliver outlined on Sunday's episode of Last Week Tonight, bringing back sports is a lot easier said than done.
It's not just fans who have a need for sports in their lives; at one point during the episode, Oliver played social media videos of various Olympic athletes doing makeshift workouts in their homes (climbing their fireplace like it's a rock wall, turning their shower into a treadmill). But beyond fans' desire to be entertained and athletes' desire to stay in shape, there's also the owners' desire to make money. Oliver quoted Oklahoma State University football coach Mike Gundy "saying the quiet part loud," that since athletes are young they should be able to survive the coronavirus, and doing so would be worthwhile to get money flowing in Oklahoma.
"I don't know whose medical advice is worth the least in the middle of a pandemic, but 'guy who doesn't mind unpaid college kids contracting a potentially deadly disease so everyone else can make millions' is right down near the bottom next to 'funeral parlor magnate' and 'the coronavirus wearing a fake mustache,'" Oliver said.
Some sports organizations have tried figuring out ways to get around the lockdown. WWE has been staging professional wrestling matches in front of an empty audience in Florida, where restrictions are more lenient than elsewhere, while UFC boss Dana White has been talking about hosting mixed martial-arts matches on island called "Fight Island." (Oliver's take on the moniker: "Is it a clever name? No. Is it the perfect name? Yes.") Dr. Anthony Fauci has proposed that sports could reopen if athletes were kept isolated from the general population and tested constantly, but that brings up new problems for people like MLB superstar Mike Trout, who is expecting a child soon.
"One of the things that sport does best is bring people together in times of crisis, like when the Yankees resumed playing after 9/11. Unfortunately, bringing people together is the exact thing we should not be doing right now," Oliver said. "While sport was genuinely helpful at the start of this crisis for showing us how serious this virus was, if it comes back too soon, it won't be inspirational, it'll be a cautionary tale. As hard as it is to hear, we need a little more time to make sure we get this right: Phasing sports back in slowly, with tailored approaches that take into account each sport's level of contact, and robust systems of testing and tracing. I know there is currently an absence in people's lives, so what you'd want is something to fill that gap for awhile, until sports return."
Oliver's proposal? Jelle's Marble Runs, a competitive marble-racing league based in the Netherlands and available to watch on their YouTube channel. We take what we can get in quarantine, and maybe the best competition we can ask for right now is racing marbles.
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Last Week Tonight With John Oliver