Since mid-March, all sports leagues suspended play due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Most notably, the NBA suspended play indefinitely alongside the NHL, while the MLB postponed the start of the season.
April is a significant month for sports: it’s when the NCAA basketball champions are crowned, marks the beginning of a new baseball season, golf’s most prestigious tournament, The Masters, is held and both the NBA and NHL begin the quest for championship glory. With one of the most exciting stretches of the sports season indefinitely put on hold, fans alike are yearning for any sort of competition to return even if they are barred from attendance.
But, there are several questions looming in the air such as when it will be safe to go outside and be surrounded by people? Robert Redfield, the director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said he believes this upcoming winter will see a second wave of COVID-19 and worse than before because it coincides with the flu season. It’s less likely that fans will be allowed to participate in sporting events in the future, at least until 2021, if this is true.
It’s not safe to have fans at sporting events until the COVID-19 virus has subsided or there is on-site testing with immediate results. For that matter, it would not be safe for athletes to play if they can not stay free from illness. However, in the case that tests are available and the players can stay safe through competition, then sports should continue without any fans in attendance.
Testing is becoming more accessible and the organizations along with the players have the ability to take the precautionary measures to stay safe. But, there are only two options: suspend all sports indefinitely or play without fans.
Suspending sports indefinitely is not realistic, society would not feel normal. Sports bring people together and in uncertain times like these, sports would boost morale. There would be collective excitement in the air and something new to look forward to. The moment would feel as if society is making progress and will eventually return to normal.
It isn’t the ideal situation, but it’s possible and is more likely to happen than not. After all, the leagues want to make money and billionaires own the teams. Players want to play and leagues can’t go a season without a crowned champion.
As of now, the MLB hopes the season can start as soon as May. With the full support of high-ranking public health officials who say it can be done, the MLB may follow through with the plan.
This could be possible as baseball is a low contact sport. On defense, the players stand far enough apart to stay safe and only stand next to each other on a few occasions during the game.
Furthermore, the MLB has successfully played a game without fans. After protests in Baltimore raised safety concerns in 2015, the Baltimore Orioles hosted the Chicago White Sox without any fans in attendance.
However, the players would need to self-isolate in hotels and all games would take place in one state, such as Arizona, since it’s one of the states where spring training is held.
The same can be said for basketball if they choose to complete the season and go into the playoffs. They would need to self-quarantine in an isolated area as well. Las Vegas seems like a realistic destination as it holds the NBA Summer League every year and fields an abundance of hotels for teams to utilize. Vegas’ isolation and open space would make the city a perfect location to conclude the NBA season.
Since basketball is a high-contact sport, it would be much more difficult to maintain social distancing, but with testing twice a day, it is feasible.
There is a considerable amount of uncertainty in the world right now, and bringing back sports would give people a boost of morale and confidence that the COVID-19 pandemic is almost over.