By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – These are some crazy, scary and uncertain times that we’re experiencing right now.
The impact from the Coronavirus has touched all of society, including the vast and lucrative world of sports.
For example, the Big Ten Conference is hosting its men’s postseason basketball tournament Wednesday through Sunday at Banker’s Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, but its own studio broadcasting crew from the Big Ten Network won’t even be there.
It was announced that out of an abundance of caution amid the Coronavirus outbreak, non-essential Big Ten Network personnel will not attend the Big Ten men's basketball tournament, including Dave Revsine and the rest of the network's studio team.
Instead, the network will keep Revsine and his crew at the Big Ten Network studios headquarters in Chicago to conduct their typical coverage consisting of pregame, halftime and postgame coverage, as well as "The B1G Show."
The Big Ten Network will be sending its normal amount of essential staff for game coverage, including play-by-play announcers, color commentators and other production crew to Banker's Life Fieldhouse.
So it seems that attending the Big Ten Tournament is safe for those who are needed for the games to be played without a hitch, but too risky for those who aren’t considered essential staff.
Thousands of fans will pile into Bankers Life Fieldhouse for five days and will breathe the same air and will touch the same ketchup holders, seats and toilets and whatever else they come into contact with in close quarters.
What’ isn't safe for some apparently is safe for others, especially when there is lots of money involved.
It’s important to keep things in perspective and to remember that the risk of becoming seriously ill from the Coronavirus is low for most people under the age of 60.
But the risk isn’t low enough for the Big Ten Network to send its non-essential personnel to the annual event, and that’s what is troubling.
Fans are being encouraged to attend an event in which key members from the host media outlet will not be there out of an abundance of caution.
Just think about how crazy that sounds.
The state of Washington, where the virus has been most prevalent, will ban events that include gatherings of more than 250 people in the Seattle area in an effort to curb the spread of the new coronavirus.
The ban is aimed at sporting events, such as the upcoming NCAA Tournament, concerts and other gatherings across King, Pierce and Snohomish counties, an area that covers roughly 4 million people.
The city of San Francisco also has banned gatherings of more than 1,000 people, and this includes Golden State Warriors games.
So it’s looking more and more like the 2020 NCAA Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournaments, and maybe even the NCAA Wrestlings Championships, will be played in empty arenas and with only essential personnel on hand.
The problem with how sports is trying to contain the virus is that there is no consistency.
The Ivy League was concerned enough that it cancelled its postseason tournament, much to the dismay of Iowa coach Fran McCaffery, who attended the University of Pennsylvania.
“I'm quite certain that I would be outspoken about it if I was coaching in that league right now,” McCaffery said Tuesday.
It would be easy say that the Ivy League is overreacting with so many other conferences not taking such extreme measures.
Again, it’s the lack of consistency and information that is troubling.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has requested that all indoor athletic events in his state be held with no spectators other than athletes, parents and “others essential to the game,” potentially meaning that fans would not be allowed to attend NCAA tournament games scheduled to be held next week in Dayton and Cleveland.
The Mid-American Conference also announced Tuesday that the rest of its men’s and women’s tournaments in Cleveland would be closed to the public.
The Big West Conference followed suit, closing its men’s and women’s tournaments to the public.
It just seems weird, and kind of disturbing, that some conferences are taking drastic steps to prevent the virus from spreading, while others aren’t, including the Big Ten.
This could open a flood gate for law suits if people who attend the conference tournaments get sick from the virus.
The impact from the Coronavirus still isn’t fully certain at this point because so few have been tested in the United States.
If ever there was a fluid story, this is it.
The medical experts keep saying the worst is yet to come, and yet, the games must go on for some, but not for others.
This is uncharted territory for many in sports, but there is no master plan or any consistency in how to handle the spread of this virus, or how to keep fans safe. Sports officials are weighing their options and looking for direction.
Some just seem to be looking harder than others.