COVID-19 Takes Toll On Sports World

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Sherri McPherson

Coach Denton, coach of the 2019-2020 Lafayette Girls' Basketball Team, addresses the team at a distric championship game prior to schools being closed due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Photo used from the Lafayette Times Media Archives.

COVID-19 has greatly impacted all social events worldwide, and unfortunately, this does not exclude the sports world. With constant developments occurring, what we know about how sports leagues in the United States and North America are being affected by and are addressing the pandemic is constantly changing. From canceling the NCAA basketball tournaments to suspending the NBA season, this is an unprecedented time in the history of American sports, and fans all over the world are anxious to see where we end up.

On March 12th, the NCAA took the unprecedented first step of canceling its showcase event, the Men’s Division basketball tournament. At the same time, the women’s tournament and all remaining winter championships, including wrestling and ice hockey, and all spring championships — including baseball, softball, and lacrosse were canceled as well. Later on the same day, Division I conferences began canceling their basketball tournaments. Of the major leagues, only the Big East had begun playing, but stopped at halftime of its first game and canceled the rest of the tournament.

The NBA suspended its season after a player on the Utah Jazz tested positive for coronavirus. Teams that had recently played the Jazz were asked to quarantine their players and personnel. Amid all this, a second Jazz player tested positive.

Playoffs were initially supposed to start on April 18. However, that was merely wishful thinking. The league said it will “use this hiatus to determine the next steps for moving forward in regard to the coronavirus pandemic.” As of now, multiple reports (the New York Daily News was first) now have the NBA officially canceling two more weeks of the season on Tuesday.

Outside of these major sports leagues, many others have canceled or postponed their seasons. MLB canceled the remainder of spring training, and it is currently unclear as to when Opening Day will happen, with at least a two-month delay. The NHL also suspended play, and golf’s first major tournament of the year, the Masters, has been postponed. The Boston Marathon will delay its race until Sept. 14, the London Marathon has been postponed from April 26 to Oct. 4, and the 2020 Invictus Games have been postponed as well. Plus, Scripps said it will not be holding the National Spelling Bee as scheduled on May 24. The most recent big news is the cancellation of The Wimbledon Championships.

Outside of the professional sports world, highschool level athletes are having their entire world rocked by the virus. I spoke to a runner on our Lafayette track team, Gabe Helgerson, who expressed his feelings towards the cancellation of their season. “The change from running around and competing amongst friends, to sitting inside alone all day is a real slap in the face. Watching and participating in sports takes up a huge portion of my life and I can definitely feel a hole where those things used to be. On all levels, from YMCA soccer teams to MLB, sports hold unspeakable importance.”

Most symbolically, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced that The Tokyo 2020 Olympics have been postponed till the summer of 2021. Regarding the cancellation, Abe said, “Considering the current situation, in regards to the Tokyo Games, as the host nation, in order to ensure that athletes from all over the world are able to compete in their best condition, and also in order to ensure the utmost safety for the spectators, I have asked him to consider postponing the games by about a year…” Athletes that were planning to compete in 2020 will remain able to compete in 2021. The prime minister said Japan will fulfill its responsibility as the host nation “to prove that humanity has beaten the novel coronavirus.”