Grant Chapman: Coronavirus crisis hits home hard for armchair sports fans

OPINION: Coronavirus reality has officially struck sports fans, with the suspension of the Fantasy NBA season.

Yes, those same concerns that have weighed heavily on real athletes around the world for several weeks finally hit millions of armchair experts where it hurt, as they watched their chances of imaginary glory crumble before their eyes on Thursday afternoon (NZ time).

The crisis escalated quickly, as the potential loss of Rudy Gobert's 15.1 points/13.7 rebounds/2.0 blocks per game spread to his Utah Jazz teammates and their Oklahoma City Thunder opponents… and then the whole league.

Suddenly, games that might have gone ahead with no spectators were gone altogether, along with fantasy playoff hopes.

As soon as the NBA pulled the plug on its season, all the other major American competitions were bound to follow suit - National Hockey League, Major League Soccer and 'March Madness' college basketball - to close down.

None want to be tarnished as irresponsible.

Major League Baseball limply delayed the start of its season at least two weeks and, along with it, impending fantasy drafts.

"So coronavirus IS real, now it's affecting your fantasy basketball," teased one workmate disapprovingly.

"Lucky for me, Fantasy NRL started last night," I retorted... and then silently wondered for how long.

If nothing else, Thursday's shocking events showed how quickly the dominoes can fall, triggered by those leaders of the so-called 'Free World' - the United States.

Literally, as Frenchman Gobert was being swabbed, President Trump announced US borders were closing to Europe.

By Friday, Australia and New Zealand were contemplating a similar response - that took less than 24 hours.

So when - not if - can we expect the NRL and Super Rugby to follow suit?

All eyes will now turn back to the Tokyo Olympics, which must surely reconsider its current business-as-usual stance.

Usually, in times of crisis, sport provides a means to escape cruel reality, but what happens when sporting events and other mass gatherings of possible germ-carriers become part of the problem?

That uncomfortable truth dawned on the Newshub sports department even before the NBA decision, as the daily list of affected world events extended well beyond the length of your arm.

"What do we cover if all sport closes down?"

E-sports anyone?

At least until they pull the plug on the internet, anyway.

Grant Chapman is Newshub digital sports editor.