By: Mitchell Steinberg
The 2020 NBA Bubble has been the center of the sports world since sports were able to return during the pandemic. The Bubble was the central location where the NBA decided to resume and finish its season that was halted by the pandemic. As a lot has happened in the country during the pandemic with police brutality and racial equality, many players have used the Bubble to promote movements throughout the pandemic and even playoff games have been postponed in an act or protest for racial justice. The Bubble has not been bullet proof though as some players have broken guidelines to get food or sneak in outsiders to their rooms. Overall atmosphere of the Bubble is off as the arena has been compared to a high school basketball court. With the walls being closer to behind the backboard and overall smaller arena has been proved to increase depth perception, which many fans and NBA enthusiasts believe is the reason for all of the high performance shooting in the Bubble.
Despite the Bubble having a resort-like feel to it, withholding hundreds of world-class athletes from their families and friends has led to a multitude of problems. However, issues weren’t always players that were up to no good. With the pandemic and the regular struggles of life some players left the Bubble for funerals, child births and injury rehab some players that left were Zion Williamson of the New Orleans Pelicans and Montrezl Harrell and Patrick Beverly of the Los Angeles Clippers. Loyola Blakefield Freshmen, Peter Lake, said, “To go that long without anyone other than teammates would have such a mental toll that it would impact play. Missing child births, funerals and weddings because you can’t leave a quarantined location would not be worth the reward to play a few games and a chance at the playoffs.” Family for some players did take precedent; multiple big name players opted out of the Bubble like Kyrie Irving, Bradley Beal and Deandre Jordan, all high-profile players who wanted to stay with their families at such a dangerous time. Every player who’s team was attending the Bubble had the option to opt out. In the NBA tests, players have to pass two tests 24 hours apart to finish with quarantine, to practice, and be free to roam the campus the NBA set up on the Bubble property at the Disney Resort.
Though a bubble in Howard County is not feasible, as athletes must get testing on their own, so high frequency testing is not attainable for most high school athletes. Without high frequency, after testing a return to action for high school sports would face the risk of yet another hiatus. Local club lacrosse team, Hoco Lax 2021, recently had a covid outbreak and Kevin Doughty, a Glenelg Senior, said, “I did not think it would make as much of an impact, but once one person has it, it has a domino effect and anyone they have come into contact with becomes a risk for others.” The same goes for sports teams for county high schools if one player gets covid, the whole team needs to get tested and if they recently had a game the opposing team would also require testing.
When the NBA playoffs came around all the players had been in the Bubble for over a month. The rules had begun to be broadened as during the playoffs players were allowed guests. According to USA Today, every player can have up to 4 guests and a child under 32 inches can watch Bubble games in person. No personal contacts can come to the Bubble like agents, trainers, barbers or tattoo artists. Glenelg Senior, Max Pearcy expressed, “The younger players having family at games is such a big moment as they have finally made it to the biggest stage of them all, so that support is definitely impactful at least mentally towards their game.” To be able to have their kids and family members after over a month of quarantining was huge. It did make the amount of outside family emergency excursions decrease, but could the NBA have let players do this from the start and all in all make the Bubble a better place for the players? High school sports thrives off of fans, it is one of the best experiences other than playing a sport is to be in the stands cheering for the school team. The more people at athletic events the harder it is to social distance and higher the risk becomes for the spread of Covid-19, so the biggest question if fans are allowed will be how many and how will they remain socially distanced depending on the sport?
With the return to normalcy coming for the NBA, many high schoolers would ask when is the time for high school sports? With State approval being given to start on October 7th, the decision is all up to the counties on whether the all sports being played in the second semester or the first step forward for high school with fall sports beginning only a little over a month late, and for the majority of the state the second semester plan will be used where all sports will be played in the order of Winter, Fall and then Spring. With many sports events separated from the high school the use of bleachers is not allowed and social distancing is recommended, so the chances of fans at high school sporting events is extremely low. Robbie Tolbert, a Glenelg Senior and two sport athlete with college level aspirations, explained, “To go back to back to back for nearly five months is not attainable for all high school athletes, there will be no recovery time for injuries and all sports will have an overlap. The overlap is going to make high schoolers need to prioritize their sports when the county has now been given an opportunity to make it easier for the students.” For Seniors, this decision is the most impactful as the county’s decision could decide if there is near traditional state championship playoffs or the pandemic problems continue and the county leaves high school athletes the scraps of a season in the second semester. The biggest issue the county will be considering is how to guarantee safety during the pandemic, since high school athletes will not have access to tracking devices like the NFL or a Bubble like the NBA.
The Bubble brings up the questions that need to be asked about the return to normalcy, but with those questions come some controversial answers. Will the return of fans to sports come before the 2020 NFL season ends, will fans be able to attend the MLB world series, or will fans be able to attend the next season of the NBA? These questions connect to high school sports as in the conversation of a return to action, will there be fans in the stands at games, will it just be parents or will students also be allowed. There will be questions about safety concerns and keeping athletes corona free to ensure no delays or entire teams having to drop out because of the looming pandemic. All the questions are there and just like the NBA commissioner gave answers in June, Howard County athletes and parents now await an answer from the leaders of the Board of Education and the County Executive.