There has always been one constant in my life; sports. As a child I enjoyed everything from pro wrestling to football. People would always ask me ‘What would you do if there were no sports on television?’ I would laugh and say ‘There will always be sports on television’ and would never engage much further into the conversation as I always believed that there would be at least something on (golf, horse racing, tennis and so on). However, in March that once ludicrous gesture of no sports on television, quickly became a harsh reality.
When the National Basketball Association (NBA) shut down their season without hesitation; I knew COVID-19 was no joke and that it would have an impact on the world of sports. Little did I know that it would have this big of an impact on sports, sports gambling and day-to-day life. Once the NBA announced their season would be postponed it was a domino-effect. Shortly after, the NCAA Men’s and Women’s tournaments were canceled, then Major League Baseball postponed the start to their season, National Hockey League followed suit and more and more quickly vanished.
Some sports and entertainment continued to run with major changes. Professional wrestling continued to run with no fan attendance. I never would imagine watching WrestleMania with zero fan attendance but that’s what the World Wrestling Entertainment did. To be honest, it was not that bad. I felt like they pulled it off well, with having it a two-night event. To this day, WWE and All Elite Wrestling continue to run without fan attendance. Ultimate Fighting Championship and boxing also have shows without fan attendance and that has kept us sports fans engaged as well during this period in time.
We as sports fans went over 100 days without major sports. The long wait came to an end last week when MLB returned with regular season games, and just this past Thursday night, July 30 the NBA returned as well. I was in Heaven! On my couch watching sports again! Albeit, there were no fans in the stands. I do however like the cardboard cutouts and virtual fans that can be seen in ball parks and the NBA arena in Orlando. It seems perfect to have sports on my television again. However, with each passing day, I become more and more concerned.
With the large number of COVID-19 cases rapidly increasing, I feel like this will all be taken away again very quickly. The Miami Marlins had an outbreak their opening weekend that has resulted in postponing their season again, and in result shut down the Philadelphia Phillies season as that’s who they were playing. Since, the St. Louis Cardinals have also had their season postponed as well with an outbreak of the virus. As of Friday, July 31 three weekend series were postponed. Prior to the official start of the season, MLB was having difficulties with their COVID-19 testing, it would take several days to get the results back to the players and that was a major concern entering the season. Big name players opted out of the shortened season, including Buster Posey of the San Francisco Giants.
On the hardwood, the NBA had their players in “the bubble” at Disney World in Orlando, Florida. It seems to be going well, as far as testing players, staff and media. As of Thursday, July 30 all players and staff tests came back negative and tip off went on as scheduled. The two games that were played on opening night were thrilling and made me think this could work as long as the players continue to stay in the bubble. Having said that; Clippers guard Lou Williams already got suspended for leaving the bubble to go to a strip club, so there’s that.
The National Football League is scheduled to begin in early September. The fall is always my favorite time of year. Around this time of year, I am foaming at the mouth for anything football. High school, college, pro; even fantasy football. But this year is different. High school postponed until winter, colleges shortening their season and only playing conference games, and for the NFL it’s ‘wait and see.’ Like the MLB, big names in the NFL have already announced that they are sitting out the season due to COVID-19 concerns. This has burst my NFL balloon. I am not confident that we will get a full season in. I truly hope that we will, but if the players do not feel safe enough to play, then that is alarming to me.
This COVID-19 outbreak has changed my point of view on sports and life in a major way. I went from sports over everything, to really focusing on my health, family and career. Sports will forever be my escape from the real world but I do look at it differently now. I catch myself saying, “I hope they can play, but I hope for their safety and well-being first.”
Dennis D. Cruz is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 847-3021.