COVID-19 has caused schedule changes and cancellations in the world of professional sports that are unprecedented. The NBA season just wrapped up, and the season was definitely different than normal.
In general, the NBA begins about mid-October and ends in mid-April. In March 2020, the NBA was approaching the finals, but after Utah Jazz player Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19, the season was suspended. Some months later, in early August, the season resumed. Players were confined to Disney World’s “bubble” and only finished playing the finals in mid-October, when the new season would usually have started. There are further ramifications to this delay. The NBA is uncertain when the next season is going to start. The commissioner, Adam Silver, said it would not begin until January at the earliest. If this were to happen, the season would finish at the end of September if they had all games and the playoffs.
Due to the pandemic, we may see the NBA season calendar altered forever if the season continues through the summer (before COVID-19, players had an offseason during the summer). This could change the everyday routine of how players work out in the summer. It would also affect fans and spectators if and when they are allowed to attend games again. During the summer and summer games, the NBA may draw smaller audiences and/or require individuals to change their travel plans.
Even if the calendar goes back to normal, fans may not be allowed to sit closely together. Tickets might be limited and prices may go up. Or, even if a vaccine was in use, people may still feel uncomfortable being packed in close surroundings. Fans may opt to watch games on TV as they have been doing, and the NBA could see their profits go down substantially. Hopefully, this will not be the case; RHS senior Neil Edara had some input on the cancellation of many sports and popular sports competitions: “The lack of live entertainment makes sports more desirable and once things go back to normal, I think everybody will appreciate that we have the opportunity to watch sports in a live stadium.”
Besides the actual sport itself, sports have traditionally been a way for fans to be part of a community. If the social aspect is eliminated, some people will no longer perceive live sports as a necessary part of life, and the popularity of professional basketball may decline permanently. Students like Tommy Clark, a sophomore at RHS, think that “the pandemic has made sports more individual-focused. Especially during the full quarantine days, it became necessary to participate in physical activities alone. Most people and athletes especially, began to focus on personal fitness above all else. I think it may have raised the bar on sports in the future.”
In addition to the NBA, the NHL and the MLB also suspended play due to COVID-19. Other professional sports such as The Boston Marathon and the Monaco Grand Prix race were also canceled for the first time in history. Tennis’ Wimbledon and US Open tournaments were canceled or postponed. All of these sports face similar questions that the NBA faces: scheduling, popularity, and attendance issues in the future. Despite an attempt to return to normalcy in the past few months, COVID-19 is still actively intruding on sports; just a few weeks ago the NFL had to suspend a game after a coronavirus outbreak, leading to questions about further cancellations or a season suspension.
On a larger scale, the event that will impact the greatest number of athletes and the world is the delay of the Tokyo Olympic Games. The Olympics were supposed to take place in the summer of 2020. The idea that such a major event could be postponed for an entire year was unbelievable. And at this point, some are wondering whether it will even take place next year.
COVID-19 has generated a myriad of questions for all sports. Training, playing, and watching sports pose significant public health concerns. Having watched games on TV for the past few months at our convenience, fans may wonder whether it’s worth the risk to view games in person. This could have economic consequences for the world of sports in the years to follow. Although , COVID-19 had taken away sports for a good amount of time and now as athletes and fans, we understand the importance of sports in our lives. We understand that sports allow for social interactions, a break from academics, and a chance to enjoy entertainment.
Graphic: Sasha Golden