I’m happy to report that I’m safe and sound back in the Tuley’s Takes home office after an 11-day family vacation to Florida, which some are calling the hotbed or poster child of the COVID-19 pandemic with record-setting state figures.
The questions I’m asked most often (besides the “whom do you like?” variety) are, “Do you ever take any time off?” and “Do you ever sleep?” These inquiries usually come after yet another one of my seemingly endless streams of betting recaps on Twitter @ViewFromVegas or after one of my middle-of-the-night tweets, as it appears I’m on the clock 24/7/365. As more people learned that I was actually taking some time off, the most common question has been, “What does a sports betting reporter/handicapper do on vacation?” So I’ll share that with you.
When covering sports and sports betting, it’s not really possible to completely leave your work behind even on vacation, much to my wife’s dismay, as the news cycle stops for no one. While we did skip this column in last week’s “Point Spread Weekly” for the first time since last July, I continued with my Wednesday-through-Sunday “Tuley’s Thoroughbred Takes” column on VSiN.com. My stable of handicapping friends said they would take the time off with me if I wanted, but we agreed we might as well continue with the daily picks as long as we were still handicapping the cards and betting.
I also took time each day to prepare for the return of the major team sports, as I plan to provide my takes on the delayed start of the shortened MLB season in next week’s issue of “PSW” and the restarts of the NHL and NBA in the July 29 issue. I’ve also kept up to date on the constantly changing college and pro football landscape.
This family trip was booked and planned last fall to take place during our kids’ scheduled spring break. I thought that was a great time for our last family trip before sending our oldest child off to college, especially as I’d have to juggle only the Final Four and NCAA title game the first weekend of our trip, then relax, as that week was supposed to be after the MLB season started and I’d be back in time for the NHL and NBA playoffs in mid-May. Of course, as we all know now, the virus struck and we couldn’t make the trip at that time. We were unable to get refunds on our airline tickets, condo rentals and tickets to Universal Studios’ theme parks and had to find a window between our other annual activities, such as vacation Bible school, summer camp (both subsequently canceled, but we didn’t know that in March) and taking our eldest to college.
So it was a complete coincidence that we ended up in Bradenton, Fla., from July 2-6 and Orlando from July 7-12 just as COVID-19 cases were spiking there again and WNBA teams were arriving in Brandenton and NBA players were arriving in Orlando to start preparing to play in their bubbles.
Having navigated the infectious minefields for 11 days, I believe I have some insights into what it’s like in those two areas. I first have to say that all the media reports you’ve seen about Florida are true in regard to an overall laissez-faire attitude toward the pandemic from the populace and political leaders. Our family mostly moved around as a self-contained unit, so we didn’t have too much interaction with individual citizens. But we did venture to a mall one afternoon, and I did an unscientific survey of the first 100 customers we passed. Only 78 were wearing face coverings. It was about the same at the grocery store.
The beach near our condo was crowded like others we saw on the news. Many of the bigger beaches on the Atlantic side of the state were closed for the holiday weekend, but ours was open as well as others on the Gulf of Mexico side. Again, our family stayed together, but other groups of unrelated young adults were clearly not following social-distancing guidelines, so the spike in cases after we left that part of the state certainly hasn’t surprised us.
I will say we felt safe when visiting public places like museums in Brandenton, Tampa and Orlando, as well as Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure and Volcano Bay as more guests wore masks and social distancing was the norm with an overabundance of hand sanitizer. At the theme parks, the employees squirted sanitizer on our hands at every ride. I must have washed my hands 30 times those days.
I was tempted to go to the Orlando bubble since I was so close. Again, my wife wouldn’t have been too pleased, but in the end I decided against it because I have no regular NBA contacts and was afraid I’d be just sitting in a room with reporters with no access to any interviews and just waiting for press releases from the league. That didn’t sound like a good alternative to family time, and I could get just as much information watching “SportsCenter.”
All in all, I’m sure my opinion is the same as anyone else’s even if they haven’t been to Florida: The basketball players (and MLS players too) should be relatively safe in their bubbles as long as they stay there and don’t invite outsiders, but anyone breaking ranks puts the whole thing in jeopardy. Of course, we’re still in the incubation period when people could have been exposed before entering the bubble and possibly passing it on to others. Like everything at this time, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.
It was a great vacation, but it’s good to be back home. I’m continuing to work on my MLB, NHL, NBA, CFB and NFL handicapping and am excited about the next few weeks of horse racing, with Del Mar opening last week and Saratoga joining the action this week. Be sure to check out our “Tuley’s Thoroughbred Takes” columns at VSiN.com on Wednesday through Sunday each week.