In the midst of a global pandemic that has seemed to alter every facet of our lives, it is natural for us look to anything that may distract us. For many, this outlet is sports. Sports have time and time again been something that unites people, transcending the barriers of race and religion that often divide us. However, in the world we’re living in today where everyone is at risk of transmission, live sport is not an option one has to escape this reality. Here, we talk about the circumstances that led the sport world to be where it is, as well as check in on ways fans may bide their time as they await the return to sports normalcy.
Although the Novel Coronavirus had reared its head for the first time outside of China in late January, it wasn’t until the night of March 11th where the sporting world fully spiralled. Up to this point, European football organizers had taken precautions such as playing games in arenas without fans, but few believed the hectic season which featured billion dollar franchises owned by tycoons in all industries was going to take a break. However, one frantic night in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma would shock the sporting world all over the world and put a whole industry in an unprecedented situation. It was ironic and a glimpse into how unpredictable a predicament this epidemic has put us into that the National Basketball Association (NBA), known as the “league that never stops” because of its long season that has over 1,300 games and a rigorous season full of free-agent moves and trades, was the first to cease operations.
All was set to take place as normal in Oklahoma as the Thunder hosted the Utah Jazz in a game that would have major ramifications for the fourth seed in the Western Conference, and subsequently dictate who would gain home-court advantage in the fast-approaching playoffs. However, it didn’t take long for the focus to shift away from basketball when players were escorted into their locker-rooms mere minutes before tipoff. Thunder announcer then shocked the sporting world by announcing that the game would be postponed due to a member of the away team testing positive for Covid-19. It wasn’t long before NBA insiders identified the player as French center, Rudy Gobert. The 27 year old, who had reported flu-like symptoms days before, hadn’t entered the arena in Oklahoma that day, but had travelled with his team. Chaos ensued when the test came back positive as games in the association were already underway all over the country. Uncertainty was at its peak when the NBA released a statement reading, “The NBA is suspending game play following the conclusion of tonight’s schedule of games until further notice,The NBA will use this hiatus to determine next steps for moving forward in regard to the coronavirus pandemic.” Postponing the season without a return date was an unprecedented action, but commissioner, Adam Silver, and all parties who made the decision likely understood that the situation would be getting much worse before it got better. That night in Oklahoma opened the floodgates for cancellations in the sporting world with professional soccer leagues in Europe and America postponing their seasons, Major League Baseball pushing back it’s start date, and various other sporting organisers coming to the realization that safety had to be prioritized.
“You are all safe. Take your time in leaving the arena tonight and do so in an orderly fashion. We are all safe.”the Oklahoma City Thunder PA announcer tried to keep fans from panicking after being informed their game against the Jazz had been cancelled after a player had tested positive for covid-19.
Writing a month later, it looks like the league executives erring on the side of caution was the right move with over a dozen NBA personnel and several European footballers having received positive tests. Unaware of how long this pandemic may affect daily lives, no return to play has been scheduled either. While players have been entertain themselves and their fans with Tik Tok dances, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the American Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, gave some hope to sports fans around the world. Responding to a question on whether sports could return without fans in stadiums he replied, “There’s a way of doing that. Nobody comes to the stadium. Put the players in big hotels, wherever you want to play, keep them very well surveilled, have them tested every single week and make sure they don’t wind up infecting each other or their family, and just let them play the season out.” US President, Donald Trump, has also pushed for sports to resume in hopes of stabilizing the economy. According to ESPN writer, Adrian Wojnarowski, Trump held a phone call with commissioners from all major sports leagues in the country, urging them to continue their seasons as soon as possible. Despite this, nothing about a return to play has been mentioned by any of the leagues.
While we anxiously wait for sports to resume and hope for our lives to go on without ever having to hear the phrases “Coronavirus” and “social distancing again”, the technology available at our fingertips allows us to enjoy the best moments of the past decades via YouTube highlight reels, League Pass and so many more platforms.
Michael Jordan has listened to the fans and pushed forward the release of his documentary, “The Last Dance”. Parts 1 and 2 of the 10-hour long programme was released on the 19th of April and there will be two new episodes every week. The documentary centers around Michael Jordan and has never-before-seen footage from the 97′-98′ NBA season.
Aside from that maybe learn to roll a basketball on your finger or juggle a basketball? Tough times call for drastic measures.