Opinion

What Does The Coronavirus Mean for the Future of Sports?

Sports. Where are they now? Will they ever come back?

As of March 2020, it seemed like the sports world was cancelled.  

March 11, 2020 was the day that the National Basketball Association (NBA) suspended the rest of the 2019-20 season. The next day, other sports started to do the same. The National Hockey League (NHL) suspended the rest of the 2019-20 season. Major League Baseball (MLB) cancelled the rest of spring training and pushed back the start of the regular season at least two weeks. College basketball tournaments (March Madness) were cancelled 

What sports fans across the world want to know is — when will sports be back? 

Baseball

baseball pic for article.
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Sport fans across the globe were heard, and there has been movement behind the scenes, at least regarding the game of baseball. On April 12, 2020 — a full month after suspension of the NBA season — the first baseball game of the 2020 season was played. With robot drummers and cardboard “fans” in attendance, Taiwan’s Chinese Professional Baseball League was underway. This is currently the only live sport going on right now. This is just the start of attempting to get the sports world back on track.  

In the United States, as of April 7, 2020, there is talk about the MLB starting up as soon as May, but the only stipulation is that the games would be played in Phoenix, Arizona. Out of all the research I did about the MLB plan to start play, I couldn’t find the reason as to why Arizona is the ideal location. I found why some suggest it is not a good location due to the major heat that players would have to play in, but my question was not answered.

During the pandemic, one might wonder how this plan supports the idea of social distancing. Jeff Passan, American baseball journalist for Entertainment and Sports Programming Network (ESPN), mentions that “Players, coaching staffs and other essential personnel would be sequestered at local hotels, where they would live in relative isolation and travel only to and from the stadium, sources said.” So, just because there is talk about baseball coming back does not mean that Covid-19 is gone, but it does mean that life is still going to happen, cautiously. 

Hockey

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While baseball has plans for starting up its season sooner than later, what will happen to the sports whose seasons were abruptly interrupted? 

On March 12th, Gary Bettman met with the press and stated, “Our goal is to resume play as soon as it is appropriate and prudent.”  

As of April 14, “the NHL has extended its self-quarantine recommendation for players and staff to April 30,” according to Emily Kaplan, ESPN’s national NHL reporter. The self-quarantine idea was originally set to be lifted on April 15.  

The season was postponed with just three and a half weeks remaining. The regular season was scheduled to end on April 4 and the playoffs would have started a few days after. There were some teams just shy a couple points (one or two games) away from making it to the playoffs. So, when/if the NHL ever resumes play, how will it be done?  

Also on April 14, Kaplan stated, “The league has been modeling different options to finish the season — if that’s possible.” She goes on to say, “The NHL is also considering a neutral-site playoff format, thinking that could be easier to stage this summer.” 

Basketball

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According to NBA Insiders, “Commissioner Adam Silver initially said that the suspension would last at least 30 days, but a mid-to-late-June return is now looking like a best-case scenario.” 

Back on April 13, a “25-day program” was discussed. This plan meant that “players would go through an 11-day stretch of individual workouts in which they could maintain some measure of social distancing while ramping up training and activity. Then, if permitted by medical officials, the idea would be to allow for a two-week training camp with entire teams participating.” Looking back further — April 6 — Silver said that it wouldn’t be possible to decide anything about the return of the NBA “until May 1 at the earliest and probably not even then.”  

Football

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Judy Battista, NFL.com reporter, stated that “the NFL is planning to start the regular season on time in September and play a full 16-game schedule — including international games — in front of fans in 2020, league officials said in a conference call Tuesday.” 

It seems like the major struggle for the NFL season will be during preseason. Workouts and figuring out in-game strategies are a crucial part of the preseason. It seems like those will have to be done individually or through some type of phone communication. 

Jason La Canfora, CBS Sports Insider, stated, “The rookie coaches -– especially those without super experienced staffs -– are going to be at a distinct disadvantage. There is a steep learning curve for these guys, and there is a reason the NFL allows teams with new coaches to begin their offseason programs before others.”

So, it seems as if the NFL season will be on track. Preseason will be the toughest time. Overall, the NFL 2020 season looks to kick off in September 

Keeping Busy 

It seems like without sports there is nothing to do—well, at least from a player’s standpoint. Without workouts or games, players have a lot of free time. So, what are they doing with that time? 

Lebron James doesn’t stop bettering himself, so it isn’t unusual to see him working out, but now that he has the time, he is involving his sons, Bronny and Bryce. Damian Lillard seems to be spending his off time with his family, especially his son Damian Junior. Bradley Beal, St. Louis native, is using his off time to connect with fans over video games. NBC Sports Washington reported on what these players were up to in their free time.

To help those in need, Evgeni Malkin of the Pitsburgh Penguins  “made a financial donation that enabled the charity to purchase supplies, food and board games for the children there.” 

It seems as if you have any social media account—Instagram, Twitter, Facebook or Snapchat—you will most likely see a post from some professional sports player checking in with the world letting them know what they are up to.  

My Thoughts on All of This 

I am fine with sports starting back up when it is deemed okay to do so—whenever that may be—but my main concern is how that will happen. What will the format be for the NBA and the NHL? The end of the season was so close, and playoffs were right around the corner for each sport. It would be unfair to exclude teams that were on the brink of playoff berth; this would only cause fan-bases to explode—metaphorically, I would hope.  

Now, when the sports come back, won’t they interfere with each other? Like, when the MLB starts its season, it could be going on while the NHL is resuming play. I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing. Why? Just imagine the financial side. There would be so much coming in for the city. The only downside I can see from this situation is the broadcasting of games. Fox Sports Midwest (FSMW) covers St. Louis sports, including both the St. Louis Cardinals and the St. Louis Blues. If both teams have games on the same night at roughly the same time, which one will be shown on FSMW?  

Overall, it is clear to see that safety and health are the top priority in the world of sports. With that being said, there will be no fans allowed in to watch sporting events upon the initial return. This is unfortunate to hear, but it makes sense and it clearly shows that the sports we care for care for us.

 

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