By Justin Robertson
For the past two months, we have all been cooped up in our homes binge watching Tiger King and counting down the days until the COVID-19 pandemic is contained. It has been easier to adjust for some more than others, but for sports fans such as myself, there is a glaring hole in our lives that has been irreplaceable. Not having the ability to turn on the TV and watch an NBA or NHL game agonizes us. For a brief three days, however, the NFL’s first virtual draft gave us hope and a sense of relief from the troubles we are facing today. If those three draft days were any indication of the effect regular sporting events would have during today’s crisis, we need sports now more than ever.
As mentioned, this year’s NFL draft was one of the largest signs of encouragement for sports fans. For three days players, organizations, and fans were rewarded with one of the most valuable commodities in today’s world- hope. Glenelg Senior, Evan Mavronis, watched the draft and says, “seeing some sort of sports-related event proceeding during quarantine makes me hopeful that the end of this terrible situation is near.” We needed that level of optimism that the draft gave us, and we will need the same optimism for the coming months. The continuation of these sorts of events will be key to overcoming the psychological effects of this crisis.
Sports are widely regarded as simple entertainment, but what many fail to recognize is the true impact they can have on people. NFL games helped grieving Americans get through the tragedies of 9/11. Boston Red Sox games helped the city come together following the Boston Marathon bombing. Glenelg Senior, Mohith Konduru, says that “sports are essential during this pandemic because not only would the viewers increase, but the whole world would be able to bond over sports and be able to occupy themselves.” Professional and collegiate sports help society endure when the times are toughest, and these are some of the most challenging times the world has faced. Sports will help us persevere through this pandemic just as they have with past tragedies.
I am not proposing that all sports leagues return to their normal schedules and carry on games and practices as if life was back to normal. That sort of thinking is simply delusional and irresponsible. What I am proposing is that certain sports leagues return with modified, yet still competitive, games. To begin with, football games and practices should not return until at least mid to late fall due to the sheer numbers of players, coaches, and staff that are needed just for one practice. As much as I love football, there are too many variables to control. When you start to consider sports with many fewer variables, the NBA is the perfect league that can resume action. Dallas Mavericks owner, Mark Cuban, says that “if there is one thing that is going to bring the country back to some level of normalcy and get people’s blood going again in a positive way and get people excited, it’s going to be sports. The NBA is incredibly well-positioned to be the sport that drives the recovery.” Cuban’s thinking is sound, as there have been frequent discussions regarding the NBA returning from its two-month hiatus. According to reports via ESPN, the personnel at the area of play would only be thirty to thirty-five people combined from both teams, which is punitive compared to the tens of thousands of people at a normal NBA game. Cameras would be robotically controlled, and the games could be broadcasted by analysts at their homes.
There are certainly challenges with this plan, primarily there being no fans at the games which could prevent players from performing at their highest levels. Sadly there is no way to safely have fans view these games in person, as Glenelg Senior, Cole Miller, says that “tens of thousands of fans all packed tightly together, breathing on each other would be the prime place where a resurgence in the spread of the virus would occur.” Taking fans out of consideration, there is also the issue of testing kits. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the belief is that around 15,000 testing kits will be needed in order to resume and finish the NBA season. That is an absurd amount of kits, especially considering the lack of availability of those tests. With “a vaccine for COVID-19 not expected until sometime in 2021,” says Glenelg Senior Matt Sturtevant, testing kits are required to ensure that the players and personnel do not have the virus.
The challenges of resuming the NBA season are clear, but the benefits outweigh the risks in my opinion. Giving millions of people around the globe a chance to be happy and enjoy certain aspects of social distancing would bring a significant morale boost. Ultimately it comes down to the safety and health of people, but isn’t mental health also a key factor in all of this mess? Sports have given us hope before, and we need them back as soon as possible.