A year in sports: How different leagues adapted to COVID-19

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MLB

The past year has been a learning curve for the various sports leagues. But with the baseball season starting up on April 1, fans can finally watch their favorite teams in person once more.

On March 11, 2020, Adam Silver, the National Basketball Association (NBA) commissioner, shut the league down due to a positive COVID-19 test. Within days, leagues such as FIBA, La Liga and MLB suspended their seasons. The NCAA canceled all remaining winter and spring championships, bringing the sports world to a halt. After four months of no live sports, the NBA restarted their season on July 31 in Orlando at the Disney campus with no fans. 

A year after the sports world was forced to take a pause, a couple of leagues have begun allowing fans to re-enter stadiums. As of late March, only eight NBA teams have yet to allow fans back into their arenas. When the 2021 MLB season begins on April 1, only 10 clubs won’t host fans. One baseball club’s plan for inviting fans back for 2021 includes full capacity.

The Texas Rangers, who used their new ballpark, Globe Life Field, to host fans throughout the Championship Series and World Series last postseason, plan on allowing 40,518 fans for their home opener on April 5. Despite Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s lifting of the mask mandate, the Rangers have said masks will be required to attend games. 

MLB fans being allowed back into the stadiums could not have come at a better time for both the league and the fans. This offseason saw several familiar faces get signed or traded before the start of spring training. Out in the National League, the reigning World Series Champion Dodgers kept most of their roster intact and signed 2020 CY Young award winner Trevor Baur. In the same division, the Padres made a couple of trades acquiring Blake Snell, Yu Darvish and Joe Musgrove while also signing top international free agent Ha-Seong Kim to a four-year, $28 million contract. 

On the American League side, the Blue Jays and White Sox spent their money on this year’s top free agents. The Blue Jays signed away the Astros right fielder George Springer along with signing much-needed bullpen help. The White Sox signed one of the league’s best closers, Liam Hendricks, while also adding some much-needed depth to the rest of their bullpen. Although many are excited to have fans back in the stadiums, is it too soon? 

Before 2020, I can’t remember the last year I didn’t spectate at least one professional sporting event from the crowd. Whether it was baseball, football, basketball or any other sporting event, I always found time to watch at least one sporting event in person. There is just something special about watching a game up close. The roar of the crowd provides energy not only to fans, but to the players as well. 

With that being said, I feel like the risk is greater than the reward. Although I miss watching sporting events in person, I would not feel safe surrounded by people in a packed stadium. Although leagues such as the NBA and MLB are enforcing fans to wear masks and participate in social distancing, the protocols they have in place are not enough to keep fans safe.