‘Bubbles’ Are Working. But How Long Can Sports Stay Inside? – The New York Times

‘Bubbles’ Are Working. But How Long Can Sports Stay Inside? – The New York Times

Michele Roberts, the executive director of the N.B.A. Players Association, said in an interview this week that the league and union were watching closely for any “adverse consequences of being segregated from family and community for extended periods of time.”

And still, because the concept is working, Roberts told ESPN on Tuesday that the ongoing spread of the virus could lead the N.B.A. to play the 2020-2021 season, which it hopes to start in December, inside a bubble, too. “So it may be that, if the bubble is the way to play, then that is likely going to be the way we play next season, if things remain as they are,” she said.

The size and structural ambitions of certain leagues can make bubbles seem impractical. The N.F.L., for instance, features 53-man rosters and almost innumerable staff members, and it typically runs a six-month season, making the sequestering of players a greater logistical, financial and emotional challenge than the one tackled by the N.B.A.

Keeping players inside a strictly controlled environment for more than a few months also has limited appeal. The teams that reach the N.B.A. Finals, for example, can expect to be inside theirs until October.

Lisa Baird, the commissioner of the N.W.S.L., said her league’s compact tournament schedule and the stresses of quarantining in a hotel had required a high level of sustained intensity from players that would be difficult to keep up over a longer period. She said the league was still planning its next move, including a possible return to play this fall, but that another restricted-campus setup was not on the table.

“There’s the old adage, ‘It’s a marathon, not a sprint,’” Baird said. “But with our format, it was both a sprint and a marathon.”

The leagues’ successes inside their respective bubbles will continue to raise moral questions about their very existence, particularly in light of the sheer number of daily coronavirus tests and laboratory resources required to keep the operations running, all while testing logjams persist around the country.

In this context, the contrasting fortunes of baseball and the sports world’s bubble-dwellers could lead one to a discomfiting conclusion about the state of the industry:

Bubbles, Binney said, “may be the only way you can safely have sports in the U.S.A. right now.”

That premise will soon be put to the test.

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