This week is a little bit different in the world of sports. A Virus that has been causing havoc all over the world is now impacting the world of sports. COVID-19, or Coronavirus, has hit America and all of the sporting community will feel the pain. Each week I tell you about the things I love about sports, this week I will tell you why I do NOT love this COVID-19 virus and its effects on sports. I’ll discuss what has already been affected by the virus and where it may lead.

Sports and good Mental Health

Let’s face it, the connection between sports and good mental health is something we’ve long known was true. We do not need a doctor or some study to tell us what we can already feel. Sports do affect our mental state of mind. We know that physical exercise can help make you healthier, which in turn can help make your mental state much better. What I am referring to today is the effect sports have on fans’ mental condition.

Throughout all the tough times in our country, whether it is war, an attack upon us as a nation or a community, sports have always been there. Even during times of personal sorrow, we have used sports to bring us together. To make us smile once again when all we were doing was frowning. To help us forget, if even for a minute, at what is going on. After 9-11 it was sports we all turned to as the games went on.

We use these games as a way to get a grip on what is happening and see that together we are strong. This COVID-19 is now taking that relief away from us. One of the biggest downfalls (next to deaths of course) is that groups of people are more vulnerable. Thus crowds such as you have at any large event are not good for containment. So now one of our outlets for pain and sorrow will be missing. If we cannot get together to show joy and cheer for our team, then what do we do?

The Effects on the Sports World so far

COVID-19 and sports results in soccer players playing in empty stadiums

There have already been several sporting events and leagues that have been affected. We have all heard of the soccer games overseas that have been played to empty stadiums. Could this happen here in America? Would we really close sporting events to fans? To media? The answer is, “Yes.” It has already been happening throughout all sports. For beginners, there has already been a consensus with the four major sports. The NBA, NFL, NHL, and MLB have put out statements.

All team locker rooms and clubhouses will be open only to players and essential team employees “until further notice.” The media will not be allowed in locker rooms, the cornerstone of information from the teams. The only access we as fans have is through those on the inside. Those who get to talk to the athletes and coaches so we the fans can be in know. We enjoy that, we need that.

For those of us privileged to be able to go into those locker rooms it affects us in many ways. All of us have a job to do and that job is now harder or even impossible. It will have an effect. But that is just one of the things they have done.

The NBA also sent a memo to the teams stating that teams’ traveling parties, which often include guests and support staff, be limited to “essential individuals only.” Although there have been no game cancellations yet, the league has asked teams for contingency plans if one of them decides to ban spectators from games. This is COVID-19 and Sports.

Just announced today the Golden State Warriors are the first team to go without fans for the foreseeable future. Will they be the last?

More Fallout From More Leagues

What a Major league stadium may look like soon.

MLB has also sent a memo out to teams. According to a memo sent to high-ranking baseball officials on March 3 obtained by ESPN. The memo advises players not to shake hands with fans and not use pens and markers from fans to sign autographs. This has to be just the beginning of decisions that could lead to no more fans being present. The league has also set up a task force that will be in charge of the motoring of the virus in MLB.

The NFL is “closely monitoring developments” related to the coronavirus. It has also stated that as of now the Draft, held in Las Vegas this year, will go on as planned. They have the time to think and see how it goes before training camps and fans get involved. So far, the XFL has not canceled any scheduled games and will continue to allow fans to attend.

A part-time concession worker at CenturyLink Field in Seattle has contracted the Virus. A statement from the stadium said:

“County officials advise that no extra precautions are required for those who attended the Feb. 22 game or who will attend upcoming events, but all King County residents should know that the risk for infection with COVID-19 is increasing in our community, should be aware of their symptoms, and call their health care provider if they develop a cough, fever, or other respiratory problems.”

COVID-19 impacts sports like the NHL which has taken some steps that may be a bit more than the rest. Commissioner Gary Bettman gave a statement to the AP where he mentioned that they were very close to having games without fans. But they took the extra step of not allowing any employees to travel outside North America. Also, all scouts that are based outside the US will have to stay where they are or be quarantined upon reentering the US.

NCAA and the Dance

The Chief medical officer for the NCAA, Brian Hainline, told the Wall Street Journal on Saturday that as a worst-case scenario the tournament would be played with no fans in attendance. This weekend the Div III tournament was held at an empty venue.  The Ivy League canceled its basketball championship tournaments, scheduled for Friday through Sunday, and will award its automatic NCAA Tournament bids to regular-season champions Princeton women and Yale men. Again, all results of COVID-19’s effect on sports. NCAA president Mark Emmert announced Wednesday that the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments will take place, “With only essential staff and limited family attendance.”

There have been several schools that have made it a point of banning fans as well. USC and UCLA have both restricted fans from sporting events at the college. Other conferences have joined in this restriction. The Big West and the MAC will play their basketball tourney without the sounds of the fans. As of right now the ACC, SEC, Big-12, and Pac-12 are all going on as planned with the fans in the stands.

As we all know the Olympics are scheduled for this summer in Toyko. There is a lot of concern for the games but as of now, they intend to go on as planned. Things can and most likely will change but that is the word for now.

Only the Beginning

This is just the beginning as the US has just started to implement precautions in regard to this virus. The sporting world is only following behind as they need guidance as well. This is one of the best times of the year in sports. Just about every sport is going on right now, with only the NFL, not playing some sort of games. But they do still hold the Draft and other large events. With the NCAA Tournament and NBA playoffs coming it is an important time for these leagues. And for fans, we need the outlet that these sports give us.

For employees of the stadiums and teams, this is going to get worse before it gets better. People will be out of work and locked inside for the most part. The togetherness we all crave and the feeling of being in a stadium of our favorite team cheering may be lost. It is bad enough that it takes those we love away, but now the help we seek to get over tough times may be gone for a while as well.

We can do this, sports fans. We can still be fans, and cheer together we just may have to do it online. And that’s okay for now as we will overcome this as we have overcome many obstacles before COVID-19 in Sports. Let us all sit back in our chairs, get a nice drink and support our teams whether there are fans in the stands or not. When this is over we will all get together and play the biggest game of 21 ever!

Follow me on Twitter @Gourmetcasanova and all great content at Belly Up Sports and Belly Up Fantasy Sports.

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Paul Casanova

1 Comment

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