All Star, No Substance?

We're approaching the one-year anniversary of when sports shut down due to the spreading COVID-19 pandemic. Over that time, ensuing decisions of the country's major sports organizations have seemingly been scrutinized with the precision of sewing needles. Some have been succeeded. Others have been tested. Some were scrapped before they saw the light of day. The latest one ... the return of the stars aligning.

Major League Baseball started too late in 2020 to hold its All-Star Game. The NFL decided to turn the Pro Bowl into a virtual event for January 2021. The NHL, not being able to get on the ice fast enough to make their all-star deadline, bypassed that event for 2021. After declaring it wouldn't hold its annual All-Star Weekend back in December, the NBA reversed course. The Association quickly put together their annual event, slating the game (and all the other festivities) for March 7th.

There has been pushback from the media and many of the most well-known names in the league, even with the charitable causes the Association plans to give to. However, save some type of unforeseen circumstances (which could be the official phrase for the last year), the event is a go. Should it be? There are plenty of questions that people are trying to answer regarding the first major all-star event to take place in over a year.

Should the Game Have Been Scheduled All Along?

To me, the biggest issue with how this event has been handled was the absence of messaging. When the league discussed the regular season schedule, part of the deal included an All-Star Break without the actual "Weekend" hoopla and festivities. Then, out of the blue, the higher-ups decided to put re-institute not only the game, but all of the Saturday Night events (cramming them all together into the span of a few hours on March 7th).

I get that the these games provide a financial boost to the host cities, an annual highlight of excellence that any league touts, and memories that fans look back on decades after they're archived. Plus, it's understandable that players need an extended break during an 82-game grind (which usually happens more than halfway through). This year, though, it may have been more prudent to pause those normal festivities.

My opinion — The Association should have scheduled a couple of four-day breaks per team over both halves of this chopped-up campaign. I understand this wouldn't definitively create a decrease in COVID cases or virus-related postponements, but effects might be felt beyond the events of March 7th.

Will This Eventually Lead to the Hoops COVID Definition of "Disaster?"

This question is tricky to answer. COVID-19 has proven to be difficult to track and pin down. It acts kind of like a tornado that (as tornadoes do) "skips" in its path of destruction. You don't know where an outbreak might originate. It could be due to a gathering of maskless people. It could be due to a trip to the grocery store. It could be due to simple home proximity to someone exposed elsewhere. It doesn't seem like the most sound judgement to have a congregation of players and staff converge on a single location, only to disperse back to several home cities across the country.

There's quite a bit of talk about two potential issues. The first is with the game and events being akin to one of those maskless types of parties. While reports tell that the all-star participants and guests will be under strict testing protocols, that doesn't clear the danger of spreading the virus once everyone returns to their home bases. The second issue concerns the elongated break itself. Players usually take advantage of this annual break to get a quick vacation in. "Home, Sweet Home" isn't immune from COVID, and I would think the Association would have a pretty strict policy regarding that this year, but you can't watch everyone all the time.

My opinion — The uncertainty makes me believe this event won't create any outbreaks worse than what a few teams have already experienced during the first half of the calendar.

Should This Change the Timeline of These Exhibitions?

Over the years, these all-star events have built the own traditions. Whether it was location or festivities, the major sports leagues have created specific atmospheres surrounding their all-star events. That includes timing. The NFL is the lone exception to all the other leagues, holding their all-star showcase after the conclusion of the regular season. All of the other leagues plop their events in the middle of the season.

At this instant, the NBA is on an island. As I said earlier, the NHL isn't planning to have their weekend. A couple other events, the McDonald's All-Star High School Games, were recently cancelled. College football did hold a couple of their postseason All-Star events, but there's an intrinsic value for seniors making a case to get drafted. This will be the first true exhibition of this status in over a year. Would it be better to hold off on this and, potentially, hold a game at the end of the season or a virtual event this time around?

My opinion — There's no inclination to move any of these league events from where they stand now ... but I think there should be. All-star appearances weigh heavily in resume building for Hall of Fame status. I believe this should be more reflective of a full season's work. How many times do players making All-Star teams fade once the break is in the rear view? What's the true correlation between all-star and all-pro in making those HOF decisions? Tradition will win the day, but why not give it a look?

In this world of adjusting to new standards, an NBA All-Star Game trends back to a sense of "normalcy" around 12 months ago. But in that sign of normal, there are still quirks and questions as to how this will play out in the future.

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