FILE - In this Monday, March 11, 2019, file photo, Novak Djokovic, of Serbia, walks off the court during a rain break in his match against Philipp Kohlschreiber, of Germany, at the BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament in Indian Wells, Calif. The BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament, set to begin Wednesday, March 11, 2020, has been postponed after a case of coronavirus was confirmed in the Coachella Valley. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File)
FILE - In this Monday, March 11, 2019, file photo, Novak Djokovic, of Serbia, walks off the court during a rain break in his match against Philipp Kohlschreiber, of Germany, at the BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament in Indian Wells, Calif. The BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament, set to begin Wednesday, March 11, 2020, has been postponed after a case of coronavirus was confirmed in the Coachella Valley. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File)|Associated Press
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Opinion: If Indian Wells can default without putting a ball in play, how bad is this coronavirus?

Neal Abrams

Neal Abrams

We are pretty lucky. For those of us who find sports plays a significant role in our lives, we have been fortunate enough to admit that our passion has rarely been interrupted by world events.

Yes, the real world has come a-knocking at our door on occasion. Just last month we were woken from our dreams with the nightmarish confirmation that Kobe Bryant, a sports and cultural icon no matter how you look at it, had been killed along with his daughter and seven others when their helicopter crashed in the early morning mist of Calabasas, Calif. Not yet twenty years ago, we faced the horror of watching in the bright sunshine of a beautiful September morning in New York City, two American airliners crash into each of the World Trade Center towers. Two other renegade planes, also with nefarious plans, had crashed into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and the South Central Pennsylvania grasslands, with their missions, evidently, severely compromised. This led to disruption of air travel, and it played havoc with both the MLB baseball season, which was both reaching a playoff-driven climax, and the start of the NFL season.

The attack not only put the country and its citizens on “hold," but forced unprecedented reactions from both corporate America and our Federal government, some of which severely disturbed the very foundations with which our government had been founded on. We could no longer argue that as citizens, we had the right to privacy, because the government, in its zeal to offer us it’s protection, simply trampled on people’s individual rights.

When President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in November, 1963 in Dallas, the Cowboys played their regularly scheduled home football game two days later. Their biggest rival for the Neilsen Television ratings? The assassination of Kennedy’s proposed shooter, Lee Harvey Oswald, which was broadcast live from the Dallas County jail. Through the entirety of the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights protests of the 1960s, professional sports kept its schedule. Following the assassination of national treasures Rev. Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy, both in 1968, the games rolled on. After the massacre of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics, barely a breath was taken before the gold medal count continued.

So, what then does it take to put the sporting world on hold? How serious an offense, or what kind of act is deemed serious enough to force a change in the way we experience our games? What must occur for sporting events to be played in a vacuum, as it will, without fans experiencing the exhilaration and/or frustration that causes them to react in strange and bizarre ways. I don’t know if there’s a good answer, because times change – at the time of our nation's founding, a sometimes deadly duel was considered a legal and acceptable response to a personal insult – and our response to events changes with them.

Now, with the announcement Sunday evening, presumably from those running the Indian Wells tennis tournament set to begin this coming Thursday, that because of the severity of the coronavirus, the tournament itself would be canceled for 2020, we must wonder just how serious this virus is. We have been told by the powers that be that the coronavirus presents little or no danger to American citizens. But the very governmental administration that seems to be lying to its own citizens about the potential severity of this virus and what is being done to counteract its sobering potential hellishness, is being contradicted by other branches or officials of its very own. This disingenuousness, including retractions and corrections from agencies charged with finding and implementing solutions to the very sort of problem we, as a nation, are now all faced with, is very troubling indeed.

I’m no scientist or doctor. I have very little experience dealing with potentially catastrophic events occurring in our very back yard. I know little about what our response is or should be when confronted with a potential epidemic that could cause unseen and unforetold consequences on a large scale. But what I do know is that if something is potentially big enough and dangerous enough to wreak havoc with a global sporting event like the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells, this coronavirus must be bad. It must be very bad. It must be potentially catastrophically bad. So let’s do something about it. Now. Before we won’t be able to watch the Miami Open, March Madness, the Masters, the NBA Finals, and all our favorite sporting events that have been woven into the fabric of everyday American life. The one thing we Americans want to always be able to count on are our traditions, and sports are one of our most sacred traditions.

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