Coronavirus ‘panic porn’ has settled into the sports world

Andy Hart
July 28, 2020 - 7:56 am
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In case you haven’t noticed, a strange phenomenon has taken hold in certain corners of the coronavirus-controlled world we live in.

A buddy I was having socially-distanced, outdoor drinks with last week termed it “panic porn,” a phrase he probably picked up from Bill Maher, Alex Berenson and others across the internet.

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Put simply, coronavirus panic porn is the seemingly giddy glee that some get from the at times endless and over-the-top flow of negative news surrounding the ongoing Covid-19 outbreak in the United States.

Panic porn purveyors aren’t limited to any one aspect of society.

They lurk in the weeds of news, media, talk radio, small town Facebook pages and, now that they are partially open, barbershops, coffee shop patios and beaches everywhere. They are ready to instantly pounce at the latest “facts,” figures and fears regarding coronavirus, just as long as they are negative in nature.

Those who get caught up in coronavirus panic porn are both young and old, Black and white, rich and poor, male and female. Coronavirus panic porn addiction does not discriminate.

Before we continue, and to derail any politicized retorts, let’s make one thing clear – the coronavirus pandemic is a big freaking deal. It has killed more than 140,000 Americans. Destroyed our economy. Undercut the education of our youth. Caused an almost immeasurable increase in mental illness.

It’s not a mirage, a political tool or a media concoction.

It’s a real public health problem throughout the globe.

That said, it’s also fueled a cacophony of misinformation, moving targets and questionable science for months. And because most of us don’t know any better, aren’t educated enough or are prone to anxiety, we get caught up in that which the panic porn promotors put forth.

A little more than four months into the pandemic that’s shut down so much of the world around us, the panic porn phenomenon was ignited in the sports world this week when it was reported that at least 13 members of the Miami Marlins organization had tested positive for coronavirus.

Obviously their Monday night baseball game against the Orioles was postponed.

So, too, was a game in Philadelphia, where the Marlins had spent the weekend.

While a couple games were shut down and the positive momentum of the MLB weekend’s return of one of our country’s major four sports was brought to a screeching halt, the news jumpstarted panic porn peeps everywhere.

The Marlins outbreak – a scenario that everyone knew was coming for some team in some sport at some point – had many across social media jumping to the conclusion that this was proof of too much too soon. The sports world was or at least should be coming to an end once again. There’s no light at the end of the coronavirus tunnel.

NFL Network host Kyle Brandt took note of the coronavirus panic porn emotion on Twitter on Monday.

“There’s a segment of the NFL media that seems to be almost rooting for COVID to affect the season,” Brandt tweeted. “They want it. They see the Marlins news and say, ‘Yep! Lots of luck, football!’ These are people who make their livings off football. I don’t get it.”

Brandt felt some backlash in the responses to his tweet, including from those in the sports media industry, but there is also some truth to his observation.

Not all of those jumping to negative reactions and extreme conclusions do so intentionally, either. They simply get caught up in the emotions of the time. Many probably don’t even realize it’s happening to them.

The reality of the coronavirus’ hold on our country is bad enough. The last thing we need are those pushing the coronavirus panic porn button each and every time there is a report of positive tests, deaths or other Covid-19-related hurdles as we attempt to return to some form of normalcy.

They certainly don’t do the same with endless negative tests or in regards to the latest UFC, PGA or MLL event that went off without coronavirus catastrophe. Nope, that might actually brew hope. But hope doesn’t seem to sell. Hope doesn’t create click- or call-worthy content. Doesn’t feed the beast of coronavirus panic porn.

Sure, everyone would be safer if they just stayed home. That’s obvious.

But is that a real option?

Or, can athletes, employees and students everywhere take minimal risks to reap significant rewards of returning to some form of relative normalcy?

A return to sports is not easy.

While so-called bubble leagues like the NBA, NHL and PLL have advantages over non-bubble entities like the NFL, MLB and college football, there will be challenges and struggles throughout.

In the end, full seasons, fans and championships may not even be in the cards.

Maybe the second wave is coming. Maybe it’s simply just too big of a challenge.

But assuming the worst, jumping at each and any negative I-told-you-so opportunity and excitedly feeding those addicted to the coronavirus panic porn phenomenon benefits no one.

We keep hearing that we’re all in this together and there’s a lot of truth to that.

Unfortunately, we clearly aren’t all pulling together in the same direction, with the same attitudes and the same goals.

And in the end that, more than the coronavirus itself, may be the biggest hurdle we all face in trying to get our lives back.

Including our sports.

Related: Patriots have 2 players opt out of NFL season due to coronavirus concerns