York Suburban High grad, NBA reporter Mark Medina details life in Disney World 'bubble'
- Mark Medina is inside the NBA "bubble" covering the resumed season.
- The NBA will play the rest of its season in Orlando, Florida.
- Medina is being tested for COVID-19 daily.
Mark Medina isn’t taking the average trip to Disney World this summer.
The York Suburban High School graduate won’t be enjoying the famous theme parks in Orlando, Florida, over the next two months. Instead, he's part of a very unusual experience — covering the resumed NBA season at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex.
Medina, an NBA writer for USA Today, is one of the media members in the NBA’s “bubble” and will attend practices and games. In the "bubble," coaches, players, team officials and media members are in an enclosed environment in which the participants live, practice and play all games away from the general public.
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After being shut down by the COVID-19 pandemic, the league season is set to resume on July 30.
Medina had some reservations before he traveled to Florida, which has become a COVID-19 hotspot, but conversations with health experts eased his mind.
“They think it’s as safe of a plan as can be,” Medina said. “The fact that we’re getting tested every day, they are enforcing all the rules that are supposed to be enforced and no one outside of the NBA circle is allowed to be there, it made me feel comfortable. With that setup, I think you could make the case that this place is the safest place out of the whole country.”
Quarantined: Medina checked into the media hotel on July 12 and was immediately quarantined in his hotel room and tested daily until he passed his seventh COVID-19 test on Sunday.
During his week sequestered in his room, Medina said he was too busy with NBA media Zoom calls, working on stories and doing TV, podcast and radio interviews to get bored.
Meals were dropped off three times per day, and while there were some times when meal deliveries were delayed, Medina said he had nothing to complain about, given the dire circumstances so many others are faced with.
“There’s what, 50 million people unemployed and 130,000 people who have died?” Medina said. “For me to be complaining about being in the room, the food or the logistics would be pretty tone deaf. For me, it really wasn’t a big deal at all.”
Proper blueprint: Medina added that the small issues the NBA faced in delivering meals to the players, coaches, team officials and media members helped him feel more comfortable that the event can be held without major problems that would put himself and others at risk.
“There’s going to be things that they have to figure out, but they have the right blueprint,” Medina said. “It’s just a matter of chipping away at some of these hiccups. It basically reinforced my confidence that the NBA has a pretty good setup.”
Member of media's first tier: As a member of the first tier of media members that are in the NBA’s bubble, Medina will have access to practices, shootarounds and games. Other media members will be permitted to attend games only because they are staying outside of the Disney hotel complex.
While he wasn’t positive what the access to the players will be like, Medina’s hope is that his presence in Florida, coupled with continual COVID-19 testing and social distancing, will lead to one-on-one interviews with players and coaches at some point.
In the meantime, he and his editors continue to discuss how to generate unique coverage of the event when the entire NBA media will have access to the same content and news conferences.
“There definitely is value in being down here, but I’m also relying on just being able to connect with people on the phone and making that work,” Medina said. “The hope is to — even with all these restrictions — try to provide on-site reporting since I’m down here. I can at least be the eyes and ears in the empty arenas and practices.”
Device helps to maintain social distancing: All media members have been given devices to attach to their credential badges that chime once they are within six feet of another person to help adhere to social-distancing requirements.
Media members are also required to wear masks at all times outside their hotel rooms. Media members are staying at a separate hotel from the players and coaches.
The resumed season is scheduled to run through early October. At this time, Medina isn’t sure if he will be there for the entire event, or if a USA TODAY colleague will tag in at the halfway point and take his place.
Happy to have basketball again: Although he isn’t sure how he will do his job under these restrictions, Medina is just happy to have basketball to cover again.
He said it will feel like the first day of school, trying to figure out where he is supposed to be, but he is excited to be one of the people in Florida that will document an event unlike any other in sports.
“It’s surreal. You know you’re covering history,” Medina said. “Normally, you don’t care what happens, you just want a story. I think here it’s fine not to be objective. You want it to work out because you don’t want peoples’ lives to be at risk. There definitely is a level of excitement that you’re covering something that you know is going to be remembered for years down the line. We don’t know how it’s going to play out, but it’s going to be in the history books.”
Reach Rob Rose at firstname.lastname@example.org.