How has COVID-19 impacted sporting events?
The first impact the COVID-19 crisis had on the world of American sports was the cancellation of an NBA game minutes before tip off. This happened on March 11 after multiple players on the Utah Jazz tested positive. That then led to the rest of the NBA season being put on an indefinite pause as well as the NHL season. All NCAA sanctioned sports were canceled for the rest of the school year and for three months there were no sports.
Over the summer both the NHL and NBA held their playoffs in a “bubble” that isolated players from the outside world for multiple months. Despite the success of the bubble for other leagues the MLB didn’t have one but it did have many games canceled due to positive COVID tests among players and staff but they were also able to finish their season.
Both the NFL and College level football teams are in the midst of their season with players getting tested weekly to try and prevent any outbreaks. So far none of the NFL games have been canceled due to flexibility of the league but multiple games have been rescheduled. College football teams are under more restrictions which has caused numerous games to be canceled but all of the conferences are either finishing their last week of play now or holding their championship week.
While all of the major league sports in the U.S. were able to have a season in 2020 it is still unknown how the next six months will go for sports fans. At the start of December the NBA started training camp with the season beginning on December 22. According to the official NBA website they plan on each team playing 72 games instead of 82 to accommodate for the late start of the season. As of right now games are only scheduled through March 4th, with the rest of the schedule through May 16th expected to be released at a later date, as well as the playoff format.
The NHL is expected to start their season in the New year. On December 7th it was announced by ESPN that training camp will start on January 3 with the season commencing ten days after that. Their plan is to have a 56 game season, which is much shorter than their usual 82 games. The reason for this is that the NHL playoffs are broadcasted on NBC, who is set to air olympic coverage in late July, meaning that the NHL playoffs need to be over before then. The NHL also hopes to be able to start the 2021-22 season Next November in order to get the league back on track.
While the NHL tried the bubble over the summer, commissioner Gary Bettman stated at the 2020 Paley International Council Summit that, “You’ll play for 10 to 12 days, you’ll play a bunch of games without traveling. You’ll go back, go home for a week, be with your family. We’ll have our testing protocols and all the other things you need.”
After the 2020 MLB season was limited to just 60 games, fans of baseball should be hopeful to see the return of a full 162 game season. No official decision has been announced yet by the league with their plans for the season but traditionally training camp begins in mid-February.
The Columbus Crew just won the MLS cup final after beating the Seattle Sounders 3-0 in the championship game. Just like any other sporting event, their championship experience was a bit more difficult than usual. The Crew was missing three of its starting players due to COVID and only had a reduced number of fans in the stadium for their win. Teams have to be able to adapt to the new COVID-19 rules if they want to be successful, and the Crew’s win demonstrated that.
The NCAA basketball season is in full swing with all teams expected to play as normal. There already have been multiple canceled games and there will be more before the season is over, but fans of college basketball should be excited to see the return of march madness after the NCAA Tournament was canceled in 2020 due to the outbreak of the pandemic in the United States.
Just like most things with COVID-19, nothing is certain but there seems to be more hope in the world of sports as all leagues are looking to return to normal in the upcoming year.