There is much speculation about when professional sports will return from this COVID-19 ground halt. Some are hoping for this summer. Others fall. And still others suggesting that it may be well into 2021 before professional sports can safely return.
The issue of safety is multi-pronged. Obviously, there is the safety of the players and the fans. But there is also the safety of all other workers involved in putting on a sporting event. This doesn’t simply include those working in the venues, but also those behind the scenes. The team support personnel. Even in tennis there are dozens of people behind the scenes for every player. One player questioned who would want to go to a tournament only to contract the coronavirus via someone else’s racquet stringer.
The chance of bringing any sport back where tens of thousands of people attend is unlikely in the relatively near future. Surely not until September and then perhaps not until 2021. Thus, for the NHL, NBA, MBL, MLS, and NFL, I can’t imagine a season starting this fall. But who know?
There has been talk about holding isolated games and events for these sports. Currently MLB is discussing starting their season in Arizona where about half the teams play during cactus season. The problem here is that it isn’t just the players: it is everyone else. So this possibility is unlikely, or at least imprudent. The NHL has had a similar discussion, but I can’t imagine the players association getting behind this. What player wants to potentially leave his family for an extended period of time—a time where all personnel must be together for a 14-day period or at least be tested clean, including players, coaches, trainers, and every other staff member one can think. They would have to live and work in quarantine to protect everyone. And then play in front of zero fans. On the NHL network the other day, one of the hosts asked what fan would want to risk attending even if they had a partial opening?
Golf has been identified as a potential carry on sport. Even now, the “Outlaws Tour” is playing as I type. Because of the individual nature of golf, this is possible. The players drive by car to their courses and the number of people involved is limited. Some NBA and WNBA players have been involved in virtual games of HORSE, which is interesting and also creative. It has allowed players of all types to play against each other, regardless of gender or league. But it isn’t the same. Just an example of inventive thinking in a vacuum of sports.
Thus, we simply don’t know what will happen. But it is hard to imagine hockey this fall given the current circumstances, as even a report this morning warns against a second wave this fall. Safety is paramount, even if the lack of sports is also killing us. At least figuratively.