The Bizarre World of COVID Continues

As 2021 came to the close, it was reported, by ESPN, that 36% of the league’s referees, 25 out of 70, were in COVID “protocols,” which presumably means isolation. At the very least it means that they’re not referring games. While the refs are all fully vaccinated, some of them hadn’t been boosted, which they are required to do. The day that was reported, according to the NBA there were 132 players on COVID protocols, as well as seven head coaches. There are 30 NBA teams. In the ESPN reporting about the number of refs it points out, “Officials don’t have the protections that teams do with charter flights and five-star hotels.”

The point is that refs are pretty much like the rest of us, being out in the world, doing our jobs, grabbing recreation and entertainment where and when we can. We are vaxxed, wearing masks and are highly familiar with the scent of hand sanitizer (at least I have an assumption, perhaps incorrect, that GloNo readers fall within the category of those who acknowledge that (a) this is still a bad situation and (b) moderate mitigation measures aren’t exactly some sort of violation of human rights: people dying in hospitals because some people refuse to make minor changes is a violation of basic social existence).

That situation in the NBA, which strikes me as a test case, came to mind in relation to some number that had been reported by Live Nation: As of November 30, 2021, 17% of tickets that had been purchased for concerts—acts ranging from the Flaming Lips (who postponed their New Year’s Eve shows due to the COVID surge (which brings up a question: can you postpone a New Year’s Eve show to any other date than New Year’s Eve?)) to Dead & Company—weren’t scanned. On the one hand, this simply means that it doesn’t matter to the promoter because even though the seats are empty, the seats have been paid for. On the other hand, it means that the venue isn’t going to get the take that it thought it would have gotten for things like breathtaking expensive beers, popcorn and other items. And were there a third hand, it would be that the bands would be impacted by a reduction in the amount of merch that gets sold at a given show (although this is probably not as much as it could be because odds are those who decided not to attend the show for whatever reason—and statistically one could opine that a non-trivial number of no-shows would be those who have concerns about or are in COVID protocols—are not the die-hard fan base (pun intended) who would buy still another couple of T-shirts, sweatshirts and headbands).

According to Billboard, musicians who had performances canceled or postponed due to COVID in December included, in addition to the aforementioned Lips, LCD Soundsystem, Charli XCX, Megan Thee Stallion, Jonas Brothers, Brett Eldredge, Evanescence, Lil Nas X, Coldplay, and Doja Cat. Live For Live Music had another list of bands not doing their scheduled New Year’s performances: Khruangbin, The Motet, The Revivalists, Maggie Rose, Flamingosis, The Ghost of Paul Revere, Joe Hertler & The Rainbow Seekers, Horseshoes & Hand Grenades, ekoostik hookah, Dark Star Orchestra, and The Lil Smokies. And there are more.

Few of whom, at least in that last tranche of performers, stay in NBA player-level hotels.

Bizarrely, David Byrne, who is performing in his American Utopia on Broadway, announced on December 27 that although members of the band and crew are undergoing COVID protocols—staying home—the show must go on: “What we are doing could be called ‘Unplugged,’ or maybe ‘Unchained.’ We are adding some songs by Talking Heads as well as songs from my solo catalog, that will supplement songs already in American Utopia. I know it’s going to be a ‘once in a lifetime’ experience, that will only be seen for a few performances. We are ready to have a good time!”

In other words, if you’re a fan of Talking Heads and Byrne in general, then you’re surely going to want to be in the St. James Theatre to see those shows. Byrne is making it more appealing. The Strokes cancel their performance in Brooklyn. Byrne stays on Broadway.

This will probably be the first time you’ve seen these two performers talked about in the same currently unventilated breath: David Byrne and Travis Tritt.

Tritt had canceled shows in October because of mandatory vaccine and testing mandates for audiences. He told Billboard: “I totally disagree with any mandate that would force people to go against their better judgement or would attack their personal freedoms. That’s why I am making this stand. And I know, straight up, it’s definitely gonna cost me money and that’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make.”

American Utopia had been closed from December 22 until December 28, when Byrne announced that he decided to take the “opportunity to honor our commitment to the audience” by creating the special show, that it was an “opportunity to make lemonade out of COVID lemons.”

It is also an opportunity for the audience members to join the band. . .as in the band who are undertaking COVID protocols. Just like NBA refs.

So there was Tritt, saying take those vaccines and shove it, he wasn’t going to subject the audience to regulations he doesn’t support and there was Byrne saying, in effect, “Yes, we know that our colleagues have gotten sick, but we’ll make something special for those who are going to show up in the theater.”

Yes, there are vaccination requirements and masks at the St. James (“at all times except while actively eating or drinking when seated”—but know the capacity of the theater is 1710, and when have you ever been in a theater—a proper theater, not a hockey arena with temporary sheets of plywood covering the ice—that you thought had good ventilation: you don’t smell someone lighting up 21 seats away because there is good airflow: quite the opposite). Yes, it would be a disappointment to travel to New York in anticipation of seeing a Broadway show, but it would be a greater disappointment to have a positive test and not being able to fly home unless you lie to the airline about your COVID status. It would be also disappointing to have to stay for a lengthy unexpected period of time in what is probably not a five-star hotel (let’s see: there is probably work being missed and an increase in the amount due on the next Visa statement: yes, something other than tasty lemonade).

One wonders about the comparative values of the two men. It almost seems as though Tritt comes off as the more principled of the two.

Yes, it is still a COVID-twisted world.

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