Professional Sports in 2020: The Long-Awaited Return

Alexander McCrystal, Reporting Journalist

What professional sport are YOU most happy to have back?

  • Football (38%, 10 Votes)
  • Baseball (15%, 4 Votes)
  • Golf (15%, 4 Votes)
  • Hockey (12%, 3 Votes)
  • Basketball (8%, 2 Votes)
  • NASCAR (8%, 2 Votes)
  • Soccer (4%, 1 Votes)

Total Voters: 26

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2020 has been a very tumultuous year. Everyone knows it and a lot of people are in bad places. One bright spot of this year has been the return of pro sports and live entertainment for the people who are looking for something to look forward to. While I may be a Philadelphia sports fan, and the performance of my dear teams has given me an inconceivable amount of disappointment and sadness, I want to focus on the fact that we actually have something exciting to talk about. 

It’s the week of March 13th, 2020. A week that is now synonymous with doomsday. COVID-19 was slowly becoming a more serious issue in America but nobody was too panicked so most people went on with their lives normally. But as a tiny precaution, media access was limited to athletes. Fans were allowed to attend games and all was well. At around mid-week on a normal weeknight, sports were being played as scheduled and being enjoyed by millions of fans. Suddenly, an NBA game between the Utah Jazz and the Oklahoma City Thunder was interrupted and paused. In the chaos nobody knew what happened except that a doctor had come from one of the tunnels and talked with the managers and officials. People had begun to assume the worst, that one of the players had been infected by COVID-19. The worst was confirmed: Rudy Gobert had tested positive for the virus. Almost instantaneously, all athletics were put to a halt and put on pause. Optimists hoped that it was going to be just the NBA. They were wrong, all leagues went on hiatus. In the blink of an eye, our pastimes were disappearing, and society as we knew it would change dramatically. However, leagues would eventually figure out the solutions to be safe, sanitized, and play sports for millions of desperate fans. 

Many ideas were thrown around but in the period when leagues were organizing a grand return, temporary holdovers for fans were quickly put on the air. The NBA was eager to get back lost revenue, so they created a “H.O.R.S.E” challenge that would be done virtually, as well as a 2K esports league for the players to participate in. The MLB did a similar thing with the “MLB The Show” players league. But these were mere holdovers to the grand return of the products we have come to know and love. 

The first notable sports to return were NASCAR and UFC in May. While not being sports with the widest appeal, these were good starting points for other leagues to follow. The PGA Tour was soon to follow a few weeks late in June. The big questions were the major four American sports leagues. While the MLB was arguing over monetary issues, the NBA and NHL had come up with a similar idea that ensured the return of the two leagues at the end of July. The new concept that has become synonymous with sports in 2020 is: the bubble. An isolated area with hotels, arenas, practice areas, and sports venues would be in place to get players ready, isolated, tested, and safe. But before these bubbles were unveiled, the MLB became the first major league to return near the end of July. The solution was to limit the playing fields for the teams to their division, and their regional counterparts in the other league. However, there was little isolation and teams would travel frequently. This led to teams such as the Miami Marlins and the St. Louis Cardinals being host to COVID outbreaks and delaying many games. The bubbles for the NHL and NBA have become a huge success and both leagues are wrapping up their seasons currently. The MLB is beginning their postseason. The other major league, the NFL, has escaped the major losses the other leagues have had due to the short season and ability to hold their draft virtually. They have begun their regular season, with some teams even allowing fans in attendance. Sports are back and are here to stay.

There are other details and parts to this rollercoaster of a year this was for sports that haven’t been mentioned. But the main takeaway is that with careful planning, constant testing, and isolation, athletics have been able to come back into our lives after being absent for so many months. There are many questions how the following seasons for each league will happen, and how fans can attend games again. It is good to know that we are able to look back a few months ago and be happy that we made it to today, and be excited for the future.