Sports world left in limbo amid coronavirus outbreak

Sports world left in limbo amid coronavirus outbreak

Photo Credits: TESSA KOGA / AGGIE

How COVID-19 has impacted athletics across the globe

The entire world of sports has been catapulted into a state of uncertainty following a series of unprecedented events in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The U.S. recently became the country with the most reported cases of coronavirus worldwide. As the number of cases continues to grow every day, it is safe to say that this pandemic has impacted the world in ways that are far beyond what many could have imagined. The sports community is just one among many that has been seriously affected in this past month. 

The caution surrounding this virus began with some teams, like the Golden State Warriors and San Jose Sharks, planning to play games without any fans in attendance amid the growing fears of coronavirus that were taking place within the Bay Area at the time. Around the same time, the NCAA announced that they planned on limiting attendance at their competitions to “essential staff and limited family” as a precautionary measure to avoid community spread. 

Although it is clear that some organizations had begun taking steps to protect everyone from further spread, the fallout that ensued was unprecedented, as the world of sports came to a standstill in what felt like an instant. 

On the evening of March 11, a game between the Utah Jazz and Oklahoma City Thunder was postponed after Jazz player Rudy Gobert tested positive for coronavirus before the game began. All Utah Jazz players were told to remain in Oklahoma City for testing, and Gobert’s star teammate Donovan Mitchell tested positive as well. 

The postponement of the Jazz-Thunder game was immediately followed by the NBA’s shocking announcement that it would be suspending the rest of the season. 

NBA commissioner Adam Silver explained that the league’s main concern at this time is the “well-being of fans, players, everyone connected to our game, and the general public.” Silver’s immediacy in handling this situation is commendable, as the NBA was the first league to display such caution and officially suspend its season.

In the days that followed this announcement, other NBA teams began testing their players. There are now 14 confirmed cases within the NBA, including Kevin Durant and Marcus Smart. 

As disheartening as Silver’s decision may have been for fans in the moment, it soon became clear that the suspension of all other sports competitions was inevitable. Fears evolved into reality by the next afternoon, as Major League Baseball pushed back spring training and postponed the start of the season, while the National Hockey League suspended the rest of its season as well. Major League Soccer has also followed suit, suspending play for a minimum of 30 days.

The exponential growth in the confirmed cases of the virus and the fact that tests are still not readily available, suggests that the nation will continue to see a surge in cases before any decline. Thirty days will most likely not be enough time to determine the end of this outbreak. 

In the midst of all these adjustments, one of the biggest announcements was made on March 24, when the International Olympic Committee decided to postpone the upcoming 2020 Summer Olympics, set to take place in Tokyo from July 24 to Aug. 9. 

The committee initially appeared hesitant to go through with postponement, but after pleas from several Olympic athletes and various countries’ Olympic committees and due to the undeniable severity of the situation, the committee eventually decided it would be best to move them to “no later than summer 2021.” 

All marathons scheduled for the next few months have also been postponed, including the Boston and London Marathons — two major races that take place each year.

College sports have also been impacted by concerns surrounding the coronavirus, as the NCAA cancelled all remaining tournaments and championships, resulting in the suspension of play from conferences like the Big West, Big East and Big 12. 

The adjustments being made in response to the coronavirus have also significantly impacted the UC Davis athletic community. On March 12, UC Davis athletics announced that all remaining winter and all upcoming spring sports will be cancelled, effective immediately. 

This decision was made “in the interest of the health and safety of student-athletes, coaches and staff, administrators and fans” and extends to all practices, including those that would have been held in spring to prepare for the upcoming fall season. 

UC Davis Director of Athletics Kevin Blue recently released a letter to the Aggie community, reassuring that everyone’s health and safety remains the top priority as the athletics department continues to monitor the current situation.

The decision to suspend all sporting events and practices was soon followed by the UC Davis administration’s announcement that the campus will be switching to complete remote instruction for Spring Quarter. 

The fact that the limit for public gatherings was set at 1,000 people just weeks ago and has now subsequently been condensed to less than 10 indicates the gradual seriousness and unpredictability of this pandemic. Given this turbulent situation, shutting down all in-person operations and large events until it can be confirmed that it is safe to resume is certainly a wise decision. 

The uncertainty that the coronavirus has left not only on the world of sports but on all aspects of life across the country is unlike anything we have seen before. What originated as a possible cause for concern has developed into a global pandemic, eliminating the routines of life as we knew it before the spread of this virus. 

The coronavirus pandemic has also taken away the one certainty that sports fans have always had of being able to watch their team perform even when everything else in life felt unbearable. The reaction from the whole nation, however, has proven that this is something that extends far beyond any game or championship. 

When sports do resume, there will most likely not be a sense of true normalcy for some time. Although some fans will be excited to return to games, this virus has instilled a level of fear and cautiousness within people that is unlikely to fade away quickly. It is unlikely that stadiums will be filling back up immediately. 

As unimaginable as this situation may be, it is important to understand that sports will eventually be there to pick us up once again, as soon as it is absolutely safe to do so. The most important thing to do now is to support one another and keep ourselves safe. 

Written by: Rain Yekikian — sports@theaggie.org