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Kevin Paul Dupont | On Second Thought

It’s time for the NHL and NBA to call it a season

It feels like an entire offseason since we were able to enjoy NHL and NBA games.
It feels like an entire offseason since we were able to enjoy NHL and NBA games.Nick Wass/Associated Press

Enough. No more. Shut it down. It’s brutal enough to sit around like this, cooped up in fear, anxiety, frustration, utter boredom, and anger, without the added unknowingness of whether our favorite winter sports teams will find a way to remove themselves from suspended animation.

Time to end it. Better days, people, for all of us, including the 2019-20 Bruins and Celtics, and especially those of us who until recently thought we lived and died by their wins and losses, or in some cases, their silly and useless off-day injury reports.

Life sure smacked a lot us with one hell of a wake-up call, didn’t it?

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Come on. Let’s get back to all of this in September, which we only can hope will bring better times for everyone, when maybe we’re able to smile again, to care, to invest, to give a fiddler’s fat five bucks about any of it.

Tell the NBA and NHL to fold the show, print the final standings, and slap all the asterisks they want on their shiny, august trophies. Get on with it. Now. People are dying.

In a nation where too many have been dangerously, even mendaciously, slow to grasp the reality of COVID-19/March 2020, it’s the right thing to do.

Granted, the seriousness of the NHL and NBA shutting down won’t get everyone’s attention. Not everyone cares about them like those of us who pore over the sports pages of the Boston Globe (bless you, by the way, every one of you). But it will hit home with millions, here in North America and around the world. These leagues are big businesses with huge reach, and profound influence. For some Americans, remember, sports is bigger than government, bigger than religion, bigger than even their own marriages and health. Some of those folks still need the wake-up call. Today.

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The added millions who finally get with the program when Adam Silver and Gary Bettman declare their unified “No mas!” will be the millions more who bring us closer to keeping our lives and moving on with them.

It now has been 2½ weeks since both Boston teams dimmed the lights on Causeway Street, the Celtics first when the NBA abruptly stopped play on the night of March 11, followed less than 24 hours later by the Bruins and the NHL.

Feels like an entire offseason by now, each day burning by slower, and stinkier, than one of Red Auerbach’s foul, smolderin’ stogies.

Even the most ardent among us might already find ourselves Google-searching the names of the Celtics’ starting five, or whether the Bruins’ No. 1 goalie has one "u", two “u’s,” or maybe an interloping umlaut in his first name.

History immediately proved that the NBA and NHL did the right thing, acted with purpose and vision when putting their seasons on pause. If only our federal, state, and local governments moved with such alacrity and intelligence.

In the days since, New York City has become the epicenter of the virus spread. Over one eight-hour stretch Wednesday, the virus claimed a life there every six minutes.

Amid such horror, think anyone in Manhattan would care in the next three, four, or five weeks to climb aboard the subway and elbow their way into Madison Square Garden to take in the Knicks or Rangers? Gross. Even before this, anyone doing all that to see the Knicks was already a few inches short of a layup.

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Here in Massachusetts, where Governor Charlie Baker on Wednesday ordered school doors locked through April, we stood in line with the smart states that told everyone, excluding essential workers, to go home and take this for what it is, the kind of public health nightmare that could stitch easily only into one of Stephen King’s wildest story lines.

As Sunday approached, the United States neared 2,000 virus-related deaths, with some patients expiring because workers in intensive care units simply didn’t have an adequate supply of respirators. Arenas and ballparks worldwide, especially those here in Boston, never run out of hot dogs. As a nation, with ample warning in January that respirators would be an acute need, we failed to rev up manufacturing and engage the supply line to have the life-savers in hospitals across the land.

Realistically, the NBA and NHL had to see some clarity by this weekend, some promise, some sure pathway to get their games up and operating by mid-May (the target date generated by initial guidance of the CDC).

Nope. It’s not here. Not in this perfectly imperfect storm of growing death. Despite President Trump’s absurd vision of an April 12 national resurrection, there is zero data supporting the idea that the virus is abating and that we can begin to dream again of open arenas, beer stands, loud noise, screaming fans . . . most of all, games.

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Not now. Not even close. Not with the stricken dying every six New York minutes.

A week before in Italy, coronavirus patients on some days died every two minutes, or 30 per hour, some 750 fatalities per day. We’re not talking Italy numbers here, at least not yet, but on the final weekend of March our death toll is growing, our curve is not flattening, our fear is zooming off the charts, and the future of our games is but a trifle.

We are better than worrying about sports right now.

Could we use the diversion that watching games might offer amid such a crisis? Absolutely. The hockey and basketball gods know it. But there is something we need far more right now, and that is the focus and will and courage to move to the sidelines, stay home, and allow the scientists and health care professionals the time and space to find a way to stem the dying.

No one is asking the NBA or NHL to deliver the cure. In good times, they are our pleasant distraction. Right now, some of us need them to distract us and get our heads in a much bigger game.


Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at kevin.dupont@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeKPD.