There has never been a time in sports quite like the present. Due to COVID-19 (coronavirus), the entire sports world has essentially shut down.
The NBA and NHL suspended their seasons indefinitely, the MLB postponed Opening Day for at least two weeks, INDYCAR and NASCAR were postponed, and the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments were cancelled. The Masters, MLS, and Premier League were postponed. There is also looming suspicion that the 2020 Tokyo Olympics may also be postponed.
Although individual leagues have been postponed or cancelled before due to strikes or wars, there has never been an instance where nearly every major sport stopped at the same time. We are truly living through history.
Before this week, sports leagues across the world were taking necessary precautions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus while not completely shutting down. Reporters were not allowed to go into locker rooms, players could not make contact with fans, and officials were discussing the possibility of playing games in empty arenas. Then, Wednesday and Thursday happened.
March 11th and March 12th will forever be known as the days the sports world stood still. Throughout Wednesday, it seemed more and more likely that games would be played in empty arenas, but the idea that leagues would suspend play was still unthinkable.
Then, Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert fell ill prior to a contest between the Jazz and the Oklahoma City Thunder. When test results showed Gobert contracted the coronavirus, it was the first in a series of dominos to fall. The NBA suspended their season that night with other leagues following suit shortly thereafter.
Over just a few hours, March went from the most sport-filled month of the year to the most sport-deprived month in history. The impact of the coronavirus could be best summed up by tuning in to the various sport networks on television.
Prior to the shutdown, networks were airing postseason previews for the NBA and NHL, Opening Day coverage for the MLB, and March Madness bracket predictions. After, however, anchors and reporters were just staring at each other because they had no idea what they were supposed to do since everything they had been covering for months was now suspended or cancelled.
Obviously, the coronavirus is an issue way bigger than sports and is negatively impacting lives across the world. However, it has severely impacted several athletes and teams while also forever altering the course of sports history.
Regardless of how much he accomplishes in the NBA, Gobert’s legacy will forever be tarnished because of how careless he acted prior to contracting the virus. Mere days before the Thunder game, he infamously touched reporters’ microphones and recorders while making a joke about the coronavirus. He also was careless in the locker room, touching teammates and their belongings.
Although the case can be made that Gobert prevented even more athletes or fans contracting the virus by forcing the NBA to shut down, fans and teammates are still upset with him and he likely lost their respect forever. On his feelings towards Gobert, Jazz star Donovan Mitchell, who also contracted the coronavirus, said, “It took a while for me to kind of cool off.”
There were several NCAA men’s basketball teams that were having Cinderella seasons and had a chance to win the national championship. Most notably, Dayton and San Diego State were dominant all season long and look poised to make a run at an unlikely championship. However, due to COVID-19, they will never know if they had enough to win it all.
The cancellation brings an abrupt end to each college seniors’ basketball careers. None of them will have the ending they worked four years for and their final seasons will forever be stained.
Arena workers are also out of a job since there are no longer sporting events at their venues. Fortunately, many stars, including Blake Griffin of the Detroit Pistons, have stepped up and given financial support to those who were negatively affected.
The near future will be very sport-deprived, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. The NBA is suspended for at least 30 days and is looking to begin playing again in June. They have also been looking at possibly playing through August, which would likely impact the length of the 2020-21 season as well. This could create a wild run to the playoffs and allow injured stars, such as Kevin Durant, to be able to play this season
The MLB is also planning on beginning their season around Memorial Day with the possibility of playing an abbreviated season and NASCAR announced they plan on returning on May 9th.
These seasons will forever be remembered and, although sport deprivation is not fun, fans should enjoy the fact they are living through history.