Utah has increased its capacity to about 3,900 spectators from 1,500 since you voiced these concerns, but none of this is new or exclusive to the Jazz. As noted here, Atlanta and Miami last week became the eighth and ninth teams to start playing in front of reduced crowds at home. On Tuesday, Phoenix made it 10 by announcing that it, too, would begin admitting up to 1,500 fans starting on Feb. 8. The N.B.A. is allowing each of its 30 teams to make the call on letting fans in or not if local laws permit indoor gatherings.
I can admit, though, that I reacted as you did when I heard last week that momentum was building toward the staging of an All-Star Game in Atlanta that would require players who were selected to be there March 6-7. Flying a bunch of the league’s best players to one location for an exhibition game in the midst of a pandemic seems especially unwise and needlessly risky — and I would imagine that there are All-Stars who will be reluctant to go.
If (when?) this substitute game comes together, admirable philanthropic pursuits supporting historically Black colleges and universities and Covid-19 relief efforts will be part of it, but I would have voted for restricting N.B.A. All-Star business in 2021 to All-Star voting only. Safety first.
Q: Why do headline writers use “spoil” so often? It was used on many stories after Cleveland’s Collin Sexton had his career night against the Nets on Jan. 20. Doesn’t the use of this word imply that the win rightfully belonged to the Nets, and that the Cavaliers took something that wasn’t theirs? — Andy Moore (Pittsburgh)
Stein: Questions about headlines are best answered by editors rather than writers, since writers typically don’t write the headlines that land on their stories. But I had to try to respond because the copy editor energy in your question was so good.
The newsiest aspect of the game in question, for a broad audience, was the debut of Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving as teammates. I don’t see it as sinister to assert that the Cavaliers spoiled the Nets’ hopes for a grandiose opening act for their new star trio.
Habit is surely a factor here, too. Virtually every game in every sport has a favorite and an underdog, which feeds into the “spoil” concept. Perhaps most crucially, “spoil” is also a headline-friendly word because it’s short, which will always matter to newspaper copy editors dealing with limited headline spaces. I’ve done just enough copy-desk work over the years to understand that.