Is It Worth It?

Jonathan Macri

As the country continues to turn its eyes toward Minneapolis and grapple with a tragedy that has ignited fires, both literally and figuratively, within the soul of a nation, the absence of sports in our lives has been felt now perhaps more than ever.

Sports is, after all, a distraction at its core. The lack of games to watch, analyze, and pontificate about has forced us all face some of the uglier realities of the world around us. There is no changing the channel. It is everywhere.

And perhaps that is for the best. Not liking what we see is no excuse to avoid the looking in the mirror. 

But sports also allow our most prominent athletes to use their place in the public consciousness to stand for the causes they believe in. One would think, with the conference finals finishing up right about now during a normal year, LeBron James might still be on center stage. You know he would not be standing silently.

His presence is missed, as is the presence of so many men of color in the NBA who have made their opinions about vital topics heard over the years. Those voices always carry weight, but never more so than in a packed arena, with people from all over the world watching and listening.

As we now await the next step in the league's plan to restart the season in Orlando, where teams will return to play in empty buildings with only necessary personnel on hand, it's hard not to wonder how focused the players will be once they return to the court. 

Fans will still be watching, and the opportunity will be there for their voices to be heard, but it will be drastically different from anything they've experienced before. There will likely be no sideline reporters to catch those first emotional statements after the final buzzer. Whatever opportunity is there for those or similar interactions will be limited and muted in comparison to the norm.

The Knicks, along with nearly half the NBA, are waiting to see if they will be forced to return under these circumstances to play games that may very well have no meaning. As the league, owners and players wrestle with the very real financial concerns that come with scrapping what is left of the regular season, the present reality has to be considered.

Balancing legitimate safety concerns with the responsibility to play was already going to be daunting. The backdrop of massive social unrest only makes the situation that much more untenable.

There are already concerns that teams who are out of their respective races will only prioritize maintaining their lottery position, and that such a product would do more harm than good for the image of the league. Combine that with a heavily distracted population of players, and barring a miraculous change of course with the way things are looking in Minnesota, these games might make those that were played on the night of Kobe Bryant's passing look like spirited affairs in comparison. 

Adam Silver is no doubt taking all of the above into consideration as he attempts to guide the league out of a crisis within a crisis. Silver, to his credit, has made lemonade from lemons once before with the Donald Sterling situation, but that is nothing compared to what faces him now.

We all have to hope he makes the right call. Perhaps unfairly, much of the country will look towards the NBA during this time - for comfort, for inspiration, and for leadership.

Nothing is fair about any of that, of course. But then again, fairness seems to be in short supply these days.

Scary times are only getting scarier, and bravery is at a premium. Hopefully the NBA's leaders - both on and off the court - are up to the challenge. 

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