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MLB faces Opening Day decisions as NCAA Tournament limits fans due to COVID-19

NCAA, state of Ohio among those restricting large audiences due to the spread of COVID-19.

Pittsburgh Pirates v. Cincinnati Reds Photo by Alex Trautwig/MLB via Getty Images

I am no doctor, nor do I play one on television. I have not stayed at a Holiday Inn Express in quite some time. Dissecting and discussing the nature of a potential pandemic is neither something I have prepped for in my life, nor is it something I feel at all prepared to address now, or at any point in the near future.

The fact is, though, that the spread of COVID-19 has become something much more than just a regional issue, and is one that the entire world is beginning to address as proactively as possible at this juncture. Italy is on full lockdown now after banning fans for Serie A football games over a week ago. Cities such as Denver, Seattle, New York, San Francisco, and Cincinnati have begun enacting emergency measures to help address the spread of the virus, and many states have begun turning their ‘suggestions’ into something more akin to ‘mandates’ about how to help curb the advancement of a virus that has, to date, claimed over 4,300 lives globally.

This is a Cincinnati Reds blog. Cincinnati Reds Opening Day is two weeks from tomorrow, and is just part of an annual celebration that involves mass numbers of lifelong fans gathering in huge crowds, a revelry we have both participated in numerous times and look forward to again the moment after it is over. Still, it’s impossible at this juncture to ignore the elephant in the room from a pure sports-fan point of view, and that’s that it’s looking increasingly likely, and increasingly prudent, that Opening Day celebrations will either be extremely limited and/or cancelled altogether as a result of the spread of the virus.

To recap, here’s what we’ve seen announced just today.

NCAA President Mark Emmert effectively announced that the entire NCAA Men’s and Women’s basketball tournaments will be held without fans in the stands, with only extremely limited personnel and family allowed to attend. That’s massive.

We’ve seen a similar move to keep fans from gathering in the stands from the Golden State Warriors and Seattle Sounders, as well, while Ohio’s own governor Mike DeWine has announced that his suggestions regarding limiting crowds from yesterday will become an order, and while that initial suggestion was for ‘indoor’ events only, one can only assume that will eventually be extrapolated to include large outdoor gatherings, too.

The fact is, it’s becoming increasingly obvious that the best, most effective way to keep people from continuing to spread this virus is to limit their contact with others, and that’s something that’s impossible to ensure in events with tens of thousands of people. Pair that with the fact that many who have been exposed to COVID-19 either don’t know they yet have it, don’t exhibit any symptoms, can’t get tested due to an unavailability of test kits, or all of the above, and it sure seems that the most prudent thing is to make sure as few of those folks unknowingly can help the thing spread.

In other words, I’m increasingly of the belief that Opening Day not just in Cincinnati, but across the continent, is going to be much, much different this year. Hopefully, they’ll find a way to play it in Cincinnati and elsewhere, and we’ll still be able to enjoy our baseball in a fashion at least partially similar to the way we always have. That said, that concept is rapidly falling down the pecking order of importance nationwide, and for good reason - even though it largely seems that young, generally healthy individuals aren’t in inherent danger from the symptoms of COVID-19, they sure are able to spread it to those much more vulnerable than they are, and that’s who is under increasing threat from its damage.

Is it frustrating? Sure. Nobody likes disruptions, especially to things that have become perennial.

The larger point is, though, that this isn’t about you. The sooner you can let that aspect of it sink in and realize who these disruptions may benefit, or even help save, the better view of it you’ll have, I hope.

We’ll do our dangedest to relay as many updates about what’s up with MLB Opening Day when we can, where we can, but one thing I can assure you of is that there will be many, many updates. MLB can not, and will not, simply sit by and let business as usual roll on here, because it’s out of their jurisdiction. Hopefully, they’ll have a more concrete plan in place soon enough to allow everyone to adapt accordingly, so be on the lookout for that.

Wash your hands, folks. Wash all of your things, actually.