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Basketball, Covid may not mix for the upcoming season
eli cranor
Syndicated sports columnist Eli Cranor

Dear Athletic Support: How in the world is it safe to play basketball during COVID!? I guess football was okay since it’s outside. I think I read somewhere that even though the boys tackle each other they aren’t in contact that much if you really break it down. But basketball is two hours of close contact! Kids are going to be right up in each other’s faces, breathing heavy and swapping all sorts of spit and slobber. That’s how basketball defense works, right? You have to be very close to properly guard someone. With cases on the rise across the country, I’m simply flabbergasted by the coaches and administrators and governors and whoever else has made this decision. I’ll give it a month before the whole thing gets shut down again. And I’m not just talking about sports, I’m talking about school too. The worst part is, if the people in power would just think about the risks, then we wouldn’t have to shut it all down again. But we will. Mark my words. School will get shut down before the end of the year, but hey, the kids will probably still be playing basketball!

—COVID Referee 


Dear Referee: If school gets shut down again, it won’t just be because of basketball. Are sports contributing to the spread of COVID? Sure. You bet. Just like school and work and the holidays. 

Everything we do has a direct impact on the spread of a virus like COVID. That’s what makes it so paralyzing. I know my general psyche has been impacted. I can’t get within six feet of someone outside my immediate family and not feel funny. It’s like an alarm goes off in my head. 

If I were out on a basketball court, that alarm would be blaring like crazy. And I used to play basketball, three days a week with nine other sweaty guys, huffing and puffing through three full-court games to twelve (scoring by 1s and 2s).

 If you’re wondering, I’m not playing right now. I hope I’ll get to play again. Probably not in 2020, but maybe 2021.  

But I’m not a high school student. Basketball—all sports, really—are different for kids because they’re in this golden window of time where people actually want to watch them play. (Nobody ever showed up to watch me play pick-up ball). And that window of time is fleeting. And parents know this, and there’s pride wrapped up in it. There are memories to be made. 

 So, yes, it’s true: basketball and COVID do not jive. The virus will spread all up and down the court, and probably even make a few fast breaks into the stands as well. But who are we to keep kids from playing the game they love? 

 We’re the adults, that’s who we are. The authority figures. The ones who should be protecting our youth. Problem is, we don’t know how to protect them. We’re up against something we’ve never seen before. Something big and scary and everybody has a different opinion on what to do about it. 

 So what do we do when our kids ask us about COVID and sports and spending time with their friends and teammates?

 Our best. 

 Eli Cranor is a former professional quarterback and coach turned award-winning author of the BOOKS MAKE BRAINZ TASTE BAD series. Send questions for “Athletic Support” to or use the contact page on 

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