The fitness club where I’ve played soccer for the last 15 years has three indoor soccer fields, and two outdoor ones. I had been playing twice a week, once on Fridays in an indoor league, and then again on Sunday mornings outdoors by renting the field with a group of friends. They have been closed since March when the pandemic hit.
A few days ago, we received notice that they are opening up their outdoor fields for soccer usage again. So an email thread went around to our Sunday morning group, to survey who wants to play, and under what conditions. Play? Don’t play? Masks? No masks? Social distancing while defending?
Some in the group wanted to play with masks, but most of the group didn’t seem to care at all, and were like, “Woohoo! Let’s go!” I may have been persuaded to think about playing socially distanced with masks if everyone else was just as hesitant and cautious as I was. But I didn’t get the vibe that I would be entering any sort of pseudobubble. This to me felt more like trying to open a college campus than trying to start a bubbled or pseudobubbled sports league.
I opted out.
I may have been the only one who did. There a couple others on the fence. I don’t know what they decided. But to me, the evidence from the various attempts to start sports again is clear: full, solid bubbles work. Pseudobubbles leak. If you’re disciplined and diligent, you can manage and mitigate the inevitable leaks so they don’t become full fledged outbreaks. But they will leak.
Today, I listened to Tim Kawakami’s podcast where A’s GM David Forst was the guest. Forst pointed out that Daniel Mengden had been in proximity with about half the team before he tested positive for COVID-19. But nobody else on the team got sick, because they were all adhering to strict social distancing protocols even in those interactions.
I like my soccer friends, but this isn’t a professional setting. It’s an ad-hoc pickup group. There aren’t any strict protocols being enforced. There’s no way that this can be managed in a disciplined and diligent way. It’s just not structured for that. One leak could be disastrous. The risk is too high for my liking, so I’m out.
They were supposed to start playing soccer this Sunday. But then the air quality got really bad. Just after the A’s 3-1 victory over the Houston Astros on Thursday, the AQI in the East Bay climbed over 200 and is expected to stay there through the weekend. The soccer got postponed until next week.
The A’s are getting out of town just in time. There’s a good chance, had the A’s been at home this weekend, the air would have been so bad that they would have had to postpone a game or two, and add even more doubleheaders to their schedule down the line. Instead, they’ll opt out of the smoky air and head off to Texas, Seattle and Colorado.
Sean Manaea had a masterful game on Thursday, getting through seven innings on only 61 pitches. He was sitting 91-93mph on his fastball the whole game, so he’s looking a lot more like the promising young pitcher he was before he got hurt early last season. Anytime the A’s starters can give the team seven innings, the A’s can back that up with an inning each of Jake Diekman and Liam Hendriks, and that’s pretty much the ballgame.