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Suspension Journal: I’m afraid of Americans

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Sports are still on hold, and the situation in the United States appears to be worsening — at least for now. We know what the problem is, and it’s becoming the biggest barrier to the return of something approaching normal.

New Orleans Pelicans v Toronto Raptors Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images

It’s definitely past time to admit, openly and loudly, that the biggest obstacle in the fight against and recovery from Coronavirus is America — or, more specifically, the American government. If you’ve been online for any of the last three weeks — and who among us hasn’t? — it’s an obvious conclusion to draw. In fact, at this point it’s not even a particularly novel bit of insight. Nevertheless, here we are.

Twenty days ago on March 11th, the NBA suspended the season after one of the league’s players tested positive for COVID-19. The other professional sports leagues quickly followed suit, along with movie theatres, public libraries, bars, restaurants, and more, in a bid to “flatten the curve” of the expontential spread of the virus. There were obvious optical reasons for doing this, too. It tends to be a good business practice in the long run to follow the overwhelming advice of scientists and doctors across the globe to avoid landing on the wrong side of a global pandemic — to say nothing of history. Most people do not want to be tagged with a body count. In that stark light: it was an easy call to make.

Yet for no less then the President of the United States, that call appears to be anything but easy. Even the most cursory scan of news sites and social media reveals the myriad ways in which the current leadership and broader government apparatus of America is failing its citizens on some of the most basic levels. There was the insider trading scandal, which implied advance knowledge of the coming pandemic and a desire only to profit from it; there was the assertion from high ranking officials that everything had already been “contained” with the virus and nothing to worry about; there has been plenty of corporate bailout talk for such inessential industries as cruise lines, rather than a discussion about rent freezes; and then there was the President going on TV to accuse state governors and medical officials of hoarding — or outright stealing — supplies for their own benefit. It’s rotten all around.

Here in Canada — which, to be clear, does not operate faultless governments at the provincial or federal level — it’s easy to feel anxious because of this country’s adjacency to such a dysfunctional situation. It’s why the ongoing debate to close the border between Canada and America has been so fraught; it’s clear the latter country is not prepared to take this pandemic seriously, not with their leadership in such a mess, not with various governmental talking heads insisting everything is fine. Social distancing to flatten the curve only works if everyone actually signs up to do it. As a result, the number of Coronavirus cases in America continues to climb at a terrifying rate — and the death toll is rising too. It’s hard not to feel nervous about this information.

Now to zoom back into the reason we’re on this site. Despite that initial 30-day timeframe, depsite Mark Cuban’s optimism, despite even incoming warmer weather, basketball isn’t likely to return any time soon. It sucks, but it’s also the reality. At the end of a seemingly endless March, we may only be at the beginning of our COVID-19 trial here in North America. And even if Canada as an institution was doing everything right, even if, hah, the Raptors were all healthy and ready to go, even if we did manage to start flattening the curve here in this country, the news out of America would continue to be grim. I wish I could provide a more hopeful update at this time. And I promise I’m not trying to start a panic either. But again, here we are.