Opinion: It’s July 1914

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Image: SpursWeb

Or at least it was until the Arteta news broke. Just as the stunning development that All-Star Center Rudy Gobert had contracted the coronavirus sent the NBA into action in suspending their season, followed in a matter of hours by Major League Soccer, baseball, all college sports and even golf, so will the news of the Arsenal manager’s plight cause a similar stoppage in England, in this case the caboose of a European train rapidly steaming toward total shutdown.

So the beautiful summer is over. The laughter in the squares, the smiles on the faces, the feeling that while war was coming, life was still something sweet and precious enough to be savored for just a little while longer, and it won’t really be that bad, will it? I went to Madrid for a week barely a month ago. Spain’s first Covid-19 case occurred when I was there—just a footnote on a story that was still centered mainly in Asia with the hint of a serious problem developing in Italy. Now there are more than 3,000 cases in Spain and nearly 100 deaths and the Galacticos are in quarantine. As are Arsenal. And now Chelsea too with the news of Hudson-Odoi’s illness.

The lights are going out—not only all over Europe but throughout the planet. Just 12 hours ago my mate in the Northeast stuck his chest out at the Premier League’s decision to keep playing, saying “we’re often ahead of the curve” while my daughter texted me from her London office, desperately hoping I would come from Chicago for the Spurs-United game we had purchased tickets for more than a month ago, saying “things are relaxed here. Big outdoor crowds aren’t so dangerous”.

Maybe they’re both right. But it’s academic now because aside from our health and the 60,000 others on Sunday—and more than a million throughout England over the weekend, there is the delicate matter of the men we pay to see. Because now we know that even when we’re not present, they are at risk—and once one of them get sick—as in a college dormitory or a jammed tube car—they all become susceptible.

And it matters not that their relative youth probably protects them, for the Governor of Washington Jay Inslee said it best to a questioner, a young questioner, who asked him “what if I don’t get tested? And I don’t follow all these precautions and behaviours? What is my risk?” “You could kill your grandfather.”, was the blunt and deadly accurate reply (LA Times).

We all could. So the season will come to an end. Neither European club competition will be played. The Euros will be delayed a year. Clubs may fold. Others may hang on desperately. The Olympics will almost certainly be another casualty. But so will our innocence. It is not the war to end all wars. It is not, thank god, a nuclear holocaust. Nor even a climate disaster. But it is a shock to our sports and entertainment system—and to our modern economy and expectation that everything is at the tip of our fingers or touchpad—and we can find our instant gratification wherever we like. Until we can’t. The games stop. The tanks roll.

And nothing will quite be the same again. And oh by the way, if this is it for the season, give Liverpool their trophy no matter what—even if they can’t celebrate the way they wish. They deserve it—and it should not have any tarnish. Because it could have been us. Just as Mikel Arteta can be.

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