The photo was posted on social media by Marian Gaborik, the hockey star from Slovakia. The picture was of an outdoor party celebrating the recent Hall of Fame election of fellow countryman and long-time friend, Marian Hossa.
There were about 15 of the boys, seated together at one long table outdoors, smiling, laughing, with a beer in front of each of them, none of them socially distanced, none of them wearing masks in a place where wearing masks has become a way of life.
None of them looking like they had a care in the world.
This wasn’t ridiculous the way the Novak Djokovic dance party/tennis video was ridiculous. But it was telling nonetheless. Telling in the way in which professional athletes or young men, or anybody for that matter, can believe themselves to be invincible, the way the great tennis player, Djokovic, certainly did.
The concern here is not for Gaborik or any of Hossa’s supporters. It’s their health. Let them do what they want — and community be damned.
But it is my place to care and worry about Canadians, my friends, my neighbours, my family, who have a done a valiant job for the most part tackling this coronavirus, taking COVID-19 seriously.
And, right now, I worry about the steps the federal government may be considering to clear the way for the Blue Jays to play home games later this summer at Rogers Centre in downtown Toronto.
It is one thing to let the Blue Jays return from Florida or wherever else they are coming from, to bypass the rules of entering the country, to give them a break to operate their training camp here, scheduled to begin later this week. There will certainly be restrictions internally in policing of one team during camp — that seems reasonable and doable and even logical.
But it is another thing entirely to turn a blind eye to your own rules — the rules you have emphasized and re-emphasized on a daily basis throughout the challenges of COVID-19, and then suddenly turn around and essentially say, “Never mind.”
It’s not difficult for the Blue Jays to propose safe, solid criteria for their players and staff to undergo while undergoing camp here.
But how in heck will the government of Canada, the government of Ontario, the City of Toronto, police the Miami Marlins or the Tampa Bay Rays or the New York Yankees or anyone else on a Saturday night in the Big Smoke?
And, better yet, why should they?
The Blue Jays can’t place rules on other Major League teams. They can’t put in restrictions. They’re not in charge here. MLB and the Players Association basically are. This is a time to listen to your union. But really, is everyone listening?
This is the sporting dilemma now for our federal government which seems well on its way to looking the other way here, which is what the Jays are asking them and the province to do. Instead of Marian Gaborik out for a night on the town with his buds, why not Aaron Judge and his pals out along King St. after a day game? Why not a night on the town with Ronald Acuna Jr.?
Who knows who will be out and about?
This isn’t the NHL or the NBA, where a return to play — assuming there is a return to play — will be handled within a controlled bubble. Once the NBA teams arrive in Orlando at Disney World, that’s their home. They won’t be going anywhere.
The NHL will eventually identify its hub cities, but it really doesn’t matter which are involved. What matters is that the players won’t have the apparent freedom to roam around town.
It won’t necessarily be the same here for Major League teams. The rules will come from MLB and the Players Association and not from our various levels of government.
Recently, Vancouver looked to be the front-runner to be a hub city for the NHL. That would have meant millions upon millions of dollars to the local economy. But the now-famed provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, wouldn’t go along with the NHL’s approach regarding positive COVID-19 tests. She thought she offered up a reasonable consideration in her mind. The NHL disagreed.
The league sided with its science over her science.
Is anyone in Ontario — or federally in Ottawa — willing to take a similar step here?
It’s not a bold step, it’s the right step.
At a time when everyone is being asked to act one way, and be responsible, is having home games for the Blue Jays in Toronto, without fans, really that important to have us all close our eyes and look the other way?