The world of sports is making a comeback after its COVID setback. Finally, all of us that have been following protocols and trying to keep everyone safe and healthy can watch something other than old Seinfeld or Fresh Prince of Bel-Air reruns (for me, at least). And for the people that have been selfish and haven’t cared at all, then it’s just another thing to do. Maybe it’ll help keep them home so we can get back to some semblance of normalcy in the near future. No? Okay.
While some leagues around the world have had excellent restarts with very unproblematic games, others haven’t been so lucky. Then, you have to ones that just didn’t shut down and continue to play (hello, Belarus).
For America’s pastime, it’s been problematic, to say the least. The Miami Marlins are reporting 17 cases of COVID in their locker room, with the league postponing all of their games through Sunday. This is a direct response to the MLB just freestyling a COVID response and clearly not having set rules for what should happen. Early indications seem to be that the NFL will have a similar approach in the fall. If only there were some leagues that successfully navigated the intricate complications that surround this disease and were able to play after the initial lockdown. Just a damn shame that there isn’t any league like that, huh?
Actually, there are. Multiple leagues, both at home and abroad, have successfully steered their ships through the turbulent sea of COVID.
At home, MLB should look no further than the NWSL and MLS. Now, for those of you that regularly read my articles and columns, you’re probably saying, “Anthony, you’re a hypocrite. You said that those leagues shouldn’t continue“. And you’d be right, I did say that. I stand by what I wrote, and I think that the tests used repeatedly for those athletes and staff should’ve been made available for the general public. What I can’t deny is that both of those leagues have handled the situation excellently. Believe me, if I could find a reason to bash on MLS, I would.
NWSL’s Success in Dealing with COVID
NWSL, in particular, has handled it excellently. While this could be due to the fact that they have a smaller number of teams, there is no denying the success, both on and off the pitch. They proved that the bubble method of handling this crisis works, and you can thrive with it. The entire tournament was hard played and very entertaining, as the league typically is. NWSL saw record TV numbers, showing that they handled the situation expertly. (Also, it shows that if you put women’s sports on TV, people will watch).
The only major setback of the tournament was that the Orlando Pride had to withdraw. This came after, you guessed it, a COVID outbreak in the team prevented them from competing. Ironically, like the Marlins, they are from Florida, the COVID epicenter of the world. Probably just a coincidence, though.
The fact that it seems NWSL Commissioner Lisa Baird hasn’t been consulted by hardly any other leagues on how to go about this is a complete joke.
MLS’ Successful Restart
MLS has also seen a very strong response to the pandemic. While the comeback was put into doubt, with it being in Florida and all, it’s been a resounding success on the field. A big reason for the doubt surrounding the tournament was the fact that two teams, FC Dallas and Nashville SC, had to withdraw after COVID outbreaks in the teams prevented them from competing. I, for one, thought it was a foregone conclusion that this tournament was done, but to my surprise, MLS has pulled it off. With some actually entertaining matches, for a change, I might add. (Sorry, I need to get an MLS jab in here somewhere).
It also seems that the WNBA, NBA and NHL are going to have a lot of success with the bubble method.
Europe’s Got This
If the MLB and NFL are hellbent on games being in home stadiums, are there any indications that this can be done safely?
Let’s take a look at our friends overseas.
All the major European soccer leagues, with the exception of Ligue 1 continued play with a little public challenge. The English Premier League is a prime example of what the MLB and NFL should do. How they seemingly have ignored this is something that is unforgivable.
So, given that everything is in motion now and outbreaks are starting, what’s the solution? Do they just kick the Marlins out? Do they suspend the season again? I don’t have the answer. What I do know is that they shouldn’t have just shrugged their shoulders and hoped for the best.
Hey, NFL, you watching? Better learn from the mistakes of others.