COVID-19 scare causes almost complete sports shutdown


March 12th has always been a special day for me. It’s my mother’s birthday. But if you’re a sports fan, Thursday, March 12th, 2020 will go down in history as one of those days where you will remember where you were, and what you were doing.

I’ll start with the football world since we are a news site for that sport, but this is something that has affected the entire sports world.

NCAA Football usually has its Spring Games, and practices this time of the year, but for now, all of that has been suspended. Pro days and team workouts for Draft prospects have also been either canceled or postponed.

Recruiting trips have been canceled, whether on or off-campus. Every Power 5 conference has decided to suspend ALL winter and spring athletics until at least April.

The NFL has closed its offices, and many-if not all by the time you read this-teams have also suspended operations at their facilities, only having essential staff showing up in the offices. Limited Pro-Day visits. Very few draft prospects coming in for private workouts (JK Dobbins is in Miami today), and I believe the last scheduled FA visit was TE Jordan Reed in Seattle yesterday.

No dates have changed for the start of the 2020 League Year, which begins on Wednesday, March 18th. Free agency is still set to begin on Monday, with the voting for the proposed CBA being the only date still possible to change.

The NFL is looking into what it needs to do about the upcoming draft, which is set to begin April 23rd. With many communities placing bans on large gatherings, it is looking more like the 2020 NFL Draft will happen with no fans in attendance.

The yearly owner’s meeting has also been postponed. No staff will be traveling and most employees will be working from home. Those players that are eligible to sign anywhere at this moment are still able to sign, but visits have been put on hold.

The XFL has decided to cancel its inaugural season after 5 weeks. All staff and players will be played, season-ticket holders will be refunded, but the league has said they are determined to return in 2021.

This strain of the coronavirus has rocked the entire world. Italy has experienced some of the worst effects of the virus, next only to China, where COVID-19 originated. The numbers of those affected continues to change, so we will not report any of the statistics. We’re not qualified to make general statements about disease, only about how it affects the sports world.

It’s been said that sports are a microcosm of the rest of the world. To tell how well a society is doing, look no further than the culture around athletics. It’s not pretty out there, so when we look at what is happening, it’s obviously going to have a dramatic effect on how sports leagues handle it.

In an attempt to limit exposure and transmission, many leagues decided 1st to compete with no fans. But that evolved when the NBA suspended its season altogether after a player tested positive for the virus.

In college basketball, the Ivy League was the 1st Div I conference to cancel its conference tournament, but just 2 days later, the rest of the league followed suit. And then it came out that Duke had suspended all athletic competitions INCLUDING championships.

Kansas had also suspended activities, but left the door open for the NCAA Tournament, had they decided to play in empty arenas. But that decision was made for the Jayhawks, and the rest of Div I, when they decided to cancel both men’s and women’s championship tournaments.

And that means canceled. Professional sports can postpone games. But for collegiate sports, that is much more difficult. Entire campuses are closed at this point. There are deadlines for prospects to declare for the pros, there are incoming student-athletes. Funding for scholarships and eligibility concerns begin to come into play when certain calendar dates approach. SO saying the NCAA Basketball Tournament can be played in May, just isn’t possible.

And it isn’t just relegated to basketball. ALL winter and spring competitions have been stopped. Baseball, softball, lacrosse, golf, and more. While seasons can be shortened, to delay play just isn’t something that can occur.

So there are seniors, or at some schools in some sports only there to address the age requirements before moving on to the professional version of their sport, who walked off the court, or field for the last time, without even knowing it. Without being able to compete for a championship. Without giving that moment the correct amount of emotional attention.

We’ve never seen this before.

The NHL, **PGA, MLB, MLS, and many more sports leagues have also decided to suspend operations, with *NASCAR being about the last one to decide to continue, albeit with nobody in the grandstands. While they draw big crowds, the fans are much less part of the entire experience in racing, as compared to other sports played in much closer proximity to its fans.*

The bigger picture here is to stop the spread of this potentially devastating virus. And if that means putting a stop to ALL large gatherings, then so be it. The reason we are seeing an outcry from fans, is that sports have long since been an outlet when things get tough to deal with in the world. During other tragedies, it was a way for us to unite as a country.

Not having that will be tough, but we can still come together as a society, as fans, and fight this thing. But don’t panic. Listen to respectable reporting outlets, medical professionals, and the CDC when making decisions for your family. And please, practice good personal hygiene, and keep your hands clean, either by washing them, or using hand sanitizer.

We will make it through, but it will be tough. With or without sports.

*UPDATE: NASCAR has decided to postpone this week’s race in Atlanta, and next week’s Homestead Races. No dates have been set for a makeup of either race.

**UPDATE: The PGA has decided to postpone The Masters Tournament. Set to occur in April, no date has been set for the match.