This has been an interesting year. If you didn’t know that already, now you do. No one expected a global pandemic to halt education, overwhelm hospitals, shut down travel, and put many out of work. Beyond this, sports fans were in shock when their favourite athletes were no longer assuming position on courts and fields across the world.
Athletic organizations had to get creative with their approach to playing their respective courts. In the NBA, 22 teams travelled to Orlando for the bubble with no fans present, and the longest season ever just capped off with the Lebron-led Lakers winning a championship.
This NBA season also saw lower Finals ratings than ever before, although this was in large part due to popular frustration with social justice pandering. By now, we're all familiar with the ever-present 'Black Lives Matter' logo at center court.
Commissioner Adam Silver has said that these social justice messages will not be present next year and conceded that these gestures led to “a certain amount of fatigue”.
He also stated that he does not expect a return to basketball at least until January, with the current draft date set at November 18th of this year.
In the NFL, games officially resumed on September 10th, although no fans are present in the stands. There are now talks of fans returning to some stadiums, albeit in very limited numbers. The NFL has not been nearly as political in their return as the NBA, leading to significantly higher ratings.
Unfortunately, there have been some major injuries since the NFL’s return, but it is worth noting that these injuries have been featured as headline-news more than Lebron’s 4th Championship, further illustrating the need to de-politicize sports.
This Monday, the MLB had its first game with fans since March. The Atlanta Braves faced off against The Los Angeles Dodgers with 11,500 fans distanced around the arena. There were finally no ‘fake crowd noises.’ According to players, even with so few fans, it sounded a whole lot louder in there.
While leagues in the USA and Canada are tentatively returning to a somewhat normal state of affairs, other countries have quickened their pace. Most notably, New Zealand held a rugby game for the Bledisloe Cup this past week with 31,000 unmasked fans present. Although it now seems that New Zealand will be withdrawing from the tournament due to player availability and COVID-19 complications.
In South Korea, the Korean Baseball Organization announced that fans would be returning to arenas, and they would be distanced by using only 20% of the arena’s capacity.
European sports have had a wildly different approach to sports during COVID-19 than the rest of the world. In the USA and Canada, if someone gets coronavirus, the entire league gets shut down. In Europe, when athletes have caught the sickness, events have continued and players eventually return when they feel better.
In Germany, there are once again spectators at soccer matches. The Tour De France has gone on as expected, with the only major event cancellation in Europe being the UK's Wimbledon Championships in tennis.
It’s clear that athletes and fans alike are ready for arenas to be filled again. As to how long that will take, it depends where you are, and what league you’re a fan of. The USA seems to be the most timid when it comes to filling stadiums 一perhaps rightfully so一and the NBA is likely a long way away from returning to action.
Regardless, there are still many ways you can tune in to sports right now, and hopefully, before long, we’ll be back in arenas.