Sports make difficult times a little more bearable
By Aiden Wacksman
The coronavirus pandemic has affected many aspects of our daily lives, including professional sporting events. When many schools and other institutions shut down across the country in March, sports leagues such as the National Basketball Association (NBA) and National Hockey League (NHL) were soon to follow. On March 11 and 12 respectively, the two groups postponed its ongoing seasons.
Major League Baseball (MLB) also announced on March 12 that it would postpone all Spring Training games and would delay the originally planned opening day of March 26 by two weeks. Two weeks turned into four weeks, and four weeks turned into many more weeks, until the season finally started on July 23.
Meanwhile, the National Football League (NFL) had time to prepare before its season began. Although the league cancelled all scheduled preseason games, the regular season began as scheduled on Sept. 10.
The NFL, however, has performed poorly regarding coronavirus safety. On Sept. 30, the Tennessee Titans suspended all team activities as three athletes and five staffers tested positive for COVID-19. This resulted in a major schedule change for the team, as its Week 5 game against Buffalo was moved from Oct. 11 to Oct. 13. Only one week later, New England quarterback Cam Newton and cornerback Stephon Gilmore tested positive for the coronavirus. Like the Titans, New England suspended team activities, and the date of the match against the Kansas City Chiefs changed from Oct. 4 to Oct. 6. The Indianapolis Colts also received positive COVID-19 tests, which were later proven to be false positives.
The situation in the NFL appears to be very chaotic. A combination of poor management and loosely established rules seem to be putting the safety of players, coaches, and staffers in jeopardy. I place the blame on the man who is responsible for coming up with creative solutions to problems like these: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. It was his responsibility to create a plan that would keep the league safe, and he was unable to do that even with an incredible amount of resources. If I were in his shoes, I would have looked at NBA Commissioner Adam Silver’s method of protecting athletes, coaches, and staffers. His plan was brilliant and, more importantly, effective.
I acknowledge that the current situation in the NFL is messy. This incompetence, however, is not consistent among other sporting organizations. Although the continuation of professional sports has been dubbed by many as “too risky”, I would have to disagree. If leagues and organizations can create safe environments, I believe sporting events can continue without risking the health of athletes and fans. The NBA proved this was possible in their restart which took place from July 30 to Oct. 11.
When the NBA restarted the season, it all began in “The Bubble”, which was located at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney World in Orlando, Fla. In this “bubble”, there were simple rules that were put in place. For example, fans were not allowed in the complex, and players’ families were not allowed to enter the complex until the playoffs began. These guests were also required to have quarantined 10 straight days before entering “The Bubble”. To the surprise of many, athletes were allowed to leave “The Bubble”. If they did so, however, they would be subjected to a 10-day quarantine and deep nasal COVID-19 testing. The only exceptions to this rule were athletes who filed an excused absence form, which would need to be approved by the NBA. These athletes were required to quarantine for only four days and were not subjected to deep nasal testing. This proved to be an effective set of rules, as a mere three athletes left “The Bubble” without an approved excused absence form.
Throughout the remainder of the NBA season that took place in “The Bubble”, zero athletes tested positive for COVID-19 over a two-and-a-half-month period. This was an impressive feat, and Silver received plenty of praise for his efforts to create a safe environment.
The NBA’s success also had a significant impact on fans. With the return of the NBA came a sense of regularity. Even in these challenging and untraversed times, fans across the world were able to root for their teams, enjoy down-to-the-wire games, and most importantly, have fun.
Oak Hall Senior Shailey Klein is very excited about the return of sports. “Watching sports is one of my favorite hobbies and I love the passion people feel around following their team,” she said. Klein believes that sports have provided a sense of normalcy during these untraversed times. Her only complaint, however, regarded the occasional inconsistency of COVID-19 regulations. “For example, women’s college volleyball players are forced to wear masks during competition while athletes at the same schools are playing other sports without masks,” Klein noted. Nevertheless, she is glad about the continuation of sports. “I’m overjoyed that sports are happening and am so grateful for [its return],” she stated.
World History and Economics Teacher Charles Wharton also believes that sports are providing a sense of comfort. “Being able to cheer and follow sports has provided some simple joy, and right now, that is very valuable,” he said. Wharton has been keeping a close eye on the Tampa Bay Rays, and he hopes they can win the World Series.
At the end of the day, I believe sports are now more important than ever. In times of uncertainty, we need something that can bring us together and provide a sense of peace; sporting events can do just that.