The Drive with Jody Oehler

The Drive with Jody Oehler

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Should the NBA/NHL/MLB Follow UFC's Lead?

UFC pulled off the impossible in the spring of 2020: a live sporting event that mattered.

Most of the questions we've had about resuming live sports in the midst of a global pandemic were answered.

Would public pressure force a postponement? Nope.

Would a positive test of an athlete cause chaos? Nope.

Would safety measures be ignored and send the wrong message? Nope.

Would no crowd make for a weird experience on TV? Yep.

The biggest remaining question is whether UFC will have to answer for their aggressiveness later should there be an outbreak traced back to the event. That remains to be seen and its a big one.

But the UFC made clear what we've all considered in other sports and day to day in our own lives; we are going to have to assume some risk to move forward.

That risk can be calculated and methodical and dissected but its going to be there. We're still lacking the clear, universal data that paints a clear picture of risk assumption by each individual but right now, we know there's the assumption of some risk by anyone leaving their home.

But other sports aren't really set up to follow the UFC model. The UFC has no fighters union. They have no real leverage. They have a clear mandate from its president, Dana White: we're fighting.

The NBA, MLB and NHL can't follow their lead. Those leagues have powerful players unions that represent the voice of each individual player. The UFC demanded silence from its fighters on safety and got it.

But more than that, the UFC is a sports based on risk and the assumption of risk.

For UFC fighters, they are willing to assume a risk just to start fighting that most of us couldn't imagine taking on. They assume they'll have bones broken, be forced into submission or possibly worse. They accept those risks and fight.

The other leagues have no such assumption of risk. You don't play basketball assuming you are going to be injured by the hands of another NBA player. Same with MLB and NHL.

Those leagues thrive on the mitigation of risk. Those athletes are trained to avoid risk at all cost.

Adam Silver, Gary Bettman and Rob Manfred's job is to protect their league from unnecessary risk and maximize profit.

In the UFC, accepting risk is how they make a profit.

So, should leagues follow the trail blazed by the UFC and Dana White? Not exactly. They are too different with too many differing league dynamics.

However, when leagues decide to finally start playing again, the situation likely won't be perfect. There will be some calculated chances each league will have to be willing to take.

In that way, leagues will be jus like the UFC, just like all of us will be; more comfortable assuming risk than we thought we'd have to be.

Its the only way forward.

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