For anyone that loves sports, this past week was a monumental step in coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic. Racing, Korean baseball, Germany’s Bundesliga soccer and a variety of other niche sports started holding competition again, albeit without fans.
The Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) actually started two weeks ago. I held off watching until this week, even though I love baseball. Soccer, too.
On the same day I watched a KBO game, loving watching baseball again but really disliking the whistles and cheerleaders the KBO teams employ, I also tuned in to Dortmund dominate Schalke 4-0 in German soccer in an empty stadium. The PA system sounded like noise in a large concrete hallway. Dortmund’s first goal was scored by Erling Haaland, a 19-year-old world class striker that my favorite club, Manchester United of the English Premier League, failed to sign during the winter transfer window. It was bittersweet watching his amazing talent being played elsewhere.
This week, the NBA, NHL and MLB all came out with more updates with how each league would go about re-starting their paused seasons.
So much hope is out there for sports fans right now. I understand that this pandemic is real and is an actual threat to general society. I also understand just how much sports can be a distraction to the masses (and myself).
This gives me hope that things could be continuing sooner than I actually think they will. I figured we’d be looking at March 2021 for the earliest that the sports world would be getting close to “normal” again.
But I also understand that while billions of dollars are at stake in the professional sports world, lives are what is most important. Less than two weeks before the Bundesliga restarted action, Germany’s second-tier clubs had multiple players on multiple teams test positive, leading to entire teams being put on two-week quarantine.
The biggest problem is once one team in the top circuit has a player test positive, it will likely shut down the entire league again, much like the NBA did in mid-March.
Both the NBA and NHL want to finish their seasons as well, especially as both leagues were just a month away from the playoffs. The last time the NHL didn’t award a champion was in 1919 during the “Spanish Flu” pandemic, falsely named as it likely originated in the U.S.
MLB is trying to get its season rolling, aiming now for a July 1 roll-out of the regular season, with a two-week mini-Spring Training to take place in June.
Call me pessimistic, but I think the “re-opening” of everything will hurt more than staying closed — including the economy. The numbers suggest a second wave will be larger and stronger than the first wave. Even if pro sports teams decided to play through the virus, fans will not be able to attend.
The NFL is watching closely, trying to hold out hope that nothing is altered this fall. However, the NCAA is preparing for a possible missed football season. The Big Ten and other leagues are expecting their teams to play, but as the NCAA said, “no school means no student athletes.” Continuing of virtual schooling is an option to back-door the system so these unpaid athletes can risk their health to make their school and governing body millions of dollars once again.
At the prep level, well, there is even less incentive to playing in the fall, as millions of dollars per team are not at stake.
Maybe my pessimism is just that, pessimism, and the virus goes away and everything goes back to normal. Or maybe it doesn’t. I’m being cautiously optimistic.
— Adam Krebs is a reporter for the Times and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.