The NBA has a serious problem on its hands. It also has a potential opportunity, a chance at closing the loop it symbolically opened.
I'm making this post free, per requests from Subscribers here, on email and Twitter
At this point I think we're firmly in the realm of sunk-cost fallacy. The drug war is apt: both were these initial pushes to stomp out a problem that never really got rid of the problem. The problem would stay festering and then explode again, with another wave of harsh crackdowns, but the low-level crackdown never faded. And I think we're at the point with COVID where we were after the crack epidemic - we know this isn't working, we know that our crackdown failed and ratcheting up the clamps will only have marginal effects, but we can't admit out loud that the time we already spent cracking down was all for naught.
The same parallel can be drawn between this and Afghanistan - stopping means admitting it was all for nothing, and when your job relies on public opinion that means sometimes it's preferable for you to keep up the fight rather than admit that the fight was lost and we'd have been better off just not fighting at all.
Ethan, you have put everything so many rational people have been thinking into eloquent words.
Thank you for using the "E" word. Endemic. The government itself seems to have no plan going forward except for encouraging people to get vaccinated and mandating masks. I am a vaccinated CA teacher and trying to teach through a mask 5 hours a day is just brutal. Yet there has been no guidance from the state on how long we are supposed to go on like this. New variants keep popping up. At some point we have to go back to some semblance of normal right? If not now, when? What benchmark are we striving for?
Thank you for writing this. I had been considering subscribing and this one put me over the top. I would love for you to make this post free to everyone. Many people have these thoughts but are afraid to say them. When I'm with my friends, it's like "are our kids really going to wear masks forever in schools?" But even that kind of question is pretty dangerous outside small circles.
People are dying to hear a non Republican say this. And for you,, this one could go could get passed around a lot of emails and drive some traffic your way.
I’m a person whose taken the entire pandemic very seriously and did all I was asked until vaccines were available. I often think when I hear things like ‘polls show a majority favor COVID restrictions,’ what they really mean is restrictions for others, not themselves.
I’m so happy that I’m starting to see reasonable middle of the road opinions that are recognizing COVID is here to stay and there’s not much we are going to do about it anymore. After 2 long years, I’m ready to be normal again and if someone decided not to vaccinate, that’s on them.
This really was a bold opinion. Thanks for sharing it!
Living through the pandemic has been difficult at times and occasionally you feel like there is no hope. Being in the same building with the same people day in day out leads to mountains being made out of molehills. The same thing can be said for loneliness; I lived by myself for a year during the pandemic and the silence was awful. We are inherently social beings.
I am someone who is in favour of following the science and the guidance but we are past the point of where people are following rules and regulations. In the UK, the government announced a Plan B where people must wear masks. The next day, I got the train into work and nothing had changed. I am sick to bloody death of things changing by the moment and having to sacrifice things I care about for a greater good that the vast majority could not care about. When the news of the Downing Street Christmas Party broke, I felt so much rage that these people could act so callously while the normal man on the street could not see a dying family member in hospital. I never thought I would say this but now I am at a point where what will be will be.
Things are also different now, we have had a taste of freedom and normality with the rules being relaxed. For the first time in a long time, things felt normal over the last three months. I don't want to face another lockdown or more lockdown restrictions where I am cutting myself off from the world for people that could care less about me.
Would love it. Hard to imagine Silver having the guts to do it.
Thank you for writing this.
I have lived in Florida and Texas this year. I have not touched a mask since May when I took a flight. I am not vaccinated because I am in my 30’s, very healthy and have already had Covid. (It was mild, because of course it was for my demo).
I provide that background to say that as a lifelong NBA fan, I still cringe when I see players on the bench wearing masks. Like, I cannot physically believe we are still doing this. It’s almost to the point where I don’t want to watch the games. I almost prefer following my team via box scores.
So you can imagine what I, and others like me, think of vaccine mandates and holding players out of games because they just positive but are asymptomatic.
I love the angle you shared that the NBA can trend-set here just here just like they did at the beginning of this thing. Otherwise, when will it end if not now?
The NBA hasn't been bold enough with the vaccine to make it effective enough. The Wiggins/Kyrie situation happened because of the city govts, not the NBA. The whole vaccine thing will really only work if there's a zero-tolerance policy, which there isn't right now.
Three doses or you can't play. All the players with only two doses aren't adequately protected. And yet we don't even know how many players are fully protected, so I have a hard time drawing any inferences here. Do we have the same situation that we're in now if everybody playing was boosted?
While vaccines can't outright protect infection, I think the NBA can go a long way by determining what it means to have a mild case while adequately protected... how contagious are you? What's the risk, in comparison to the flu? What's the risk to other vaxxed individuals? Etc.
The bubble was the NBA leaning into their strengths - science. They managed to develop a whole saliva test (with smart partnerships). They should study up on transmissibility when players are cooped up in quarantine, and see if they can pinpoint when someone is infected but not infectious. Dreaming here - Pfizer's antiviral has been targeted to the severe outcomes end of the spectrum, but could the NBA pump its resources into figuring out where it can help on the mild end, ie getting someone out of mild COVID faster? They're smart enough to do this! But are they willing?
San Francisco, and I'm speaking from the perspective of a yuppie and not someone with kids, has had strict vaccine mandates to go to clubs and restaurants. From my corner of the world, we're having as much fun as Florida but with way less damage. My friends and I go to concerts every weekend, inside packed clubs, with no masks... but we just need to show the Vax card and there's no ifs and ors buts about it. Outside Lands just brought hundreds of thousands of people to the city, with no corresponding waves. And the city of SF has had less than 50 COVID patients in the hospital at any given time since the big delta wave. This stuff works when you follow the freaking science.
Meanwhile, to your point about Ireland, it's still an affliction of the unvaccinated (2 doses will soon be meaningless). In CT, one of the most vaxxed states, 90% of hospitalizations are unvaxxed. COVID is finding that minority of folks that aren't fully protected and making them the vast majority of hospitalizations and deaths. We have not seen a scenario yet where the majority (or even a plurality) of severe outcomes are boosted vaxxed.
Masks are annoying but I think mask mandates will be like Spare the Air alerts. Sometimes, the season demands an extra level of NPI protection, and other times we can relax. The past few months, I haven't had to mask up in the gym. I can see the masks coming back while the Omicron waves rocks us, but we're far from any shutdown or lockdowns as long as we have vaccines, antivirals, and better testing/tracing.
The more I think about it, sports might really be the tipping point. Consider a scenario where Steph Curry is positive but asymptomatic during the Western Conference Finals. I wonder what Chase Center and the Dubs fan base would be like. Hopefully we won't have to wait that long, but some blue state big athlete missing a post season game while being asymptomatic will be very interesting.
The NBA really annoyed me with their Covid response this year and with the bubble. They touted the bubble as some genius event that was going to give people hope, it was not a good product by any stretch of the imagination. They presented it as a choice to the players but made the option they didn’t want them to take way less favourable. They pushed forward this season and everyone killed Kyrie and Wiggins for their supposedly selfish behaviour, meanwhile hundreds of players and staff have been put at risk and caught Covid cause the NBA wasn’t willing to risk revenue and now it’s worse than it’s ever been. Covid restrictions are onerous, often don’t follow any reasonable logic and are merely for optics. I would be impressed if Silver followed your lead but I highly doubt it.
I agree with what Kmele Foster said. There are a lot of people out there that like this new way of life. We don’t fully understand why they do and they probably don’t either, but they don’t want things to go back. Even i read that and it sounds a little conspiratorial and crazy, but i still feel is true.
NBA won’t do it because they don’t wanna be the main character on Twitter for a couple days.
Great post, Ethan. I’m firmly on the side of updating COVID measures to acknowledge 1) this isn’t going away and 2) we have vaccines to curb its impact — as you pointed out. (Not to mention Omicron appears to be much less of a threat, thankfully.) The never-ending freak out has got to end, though. Anyway, cheers for writing this
Where’d the players union sit in all of this?
I can't go back to games in empty arenas. That sucked. I guess it was better than nothing, but not by much.