As we continue to await the end of quarantine and the return of our usual routines, sports fans, like myself, are desperate for live sports to come back. While hope remains for the major sports seasons such as the NBA to crown a basketball champion and for the NFL to kickoff as regularly scheduled, the future of all sports (when and if they return anytime soon), much like many other aspects of our lives, will undoubtedly seem vastly different to what we were used to prior to the pandemic.
In regards to all sports, debate has sparked surrounding whether or not these organizations will allow fans admission into any type of event or game. This situation has already seemed to play out with both NASCAR and the PGA Tour aiming to return in mid May and early June, respectively, without fans in attendance. As for the NBA, which continues to seek out a venue to resume play as safely as possible, Commissioner Adam Silver has been exploring multiple options of finishing out the season, most recently toying with the idea of heading to Disney World to do so. Being that this scenario seems the most likely path (as of now) should the NBA choose to resume, the safe admission of fans doesn’t seem at all possible.
In the football world, while the NFL has remained on track to start the season in early September, Commissioner Roger Goodell has not released any decision on fan admission during the season. Some teams, however, are beginning to take initiative and form safety plans for, at the very least, some fans to attend live games once the season begins. At Hard Rock Stadium, the Miami Dolphins recently addressed the issue, debating the plausibility of instituting measures that could make fan admission more possible. Of the 65,000 seats available at Hard Rock, the Dolphins would only make 15,000 open to the public. They would also require that all fans wear masks and, to sum their full plan, would implement ways to keep people away from each other as much as possible. It can be expected for other teams to follow suit, as it remains difficult to imagine a scenario in which both football starts on time and stadiums grant fans full access to games.
The MLB, which has yet to start its season due to Covid-19, has also seemed to rule out any fan admission into parks. According to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, the MLB and MLB Players Association currently aim to start the season in early June, at the earliest, and with empty crowds. The NHL, still with some regular season left to play, seems to also follow a similar script, as noted by Commissioner Gary Bettman comments in an interview with Sportsnet. “…With a lot of timing options,” Bettman said, “we have a great deal of flexibility and we’re not going to rush anything. We’re not going to do anything that’s crazy. We’re going to try and do something, under the circumstances at the time, that is sensible.”
As of now, nothing is set in stone and no one truly knows the answer to if or when all sports can safely return; or how future sports seasons may be affected; or when fans will be allowed in stadiums and at what limitations. The only aspect of sports that seems to be evident is that when the world starts back up again, there looms the chance that we may not return to the world of sports that we once knew; at least, not for a while. This possibility, though, as with all of the other uncertainties, will only play out as time unfolds; and all we can do is wait.