The Day Sports Paused

As COVID-19 sweeps the nation, the whole sporting world has shut down


The scene just before the Thunder vs. Jazz game was postponed on 3/11

As concerns surrounding COVID-19 grew, the sports world was on alert. The NBA was preparing to play games without fans beginning in the Bay Area as the Nets visited the Warriors. MLB teams were taking necessary precautions during their Spring Training games. Teams were just getting used to bumping elbows instead of high-fives. The NCAA had even pondered playing March Madness games without fans. Then IT happened. On March 11th, the Oklahoma City Thunder and Utah Jazz were moments from tipping off with the Jazz sitting at fourth place in the Western Conference at 41-23 while Oklahoma City was just a game back in fifth place. And it may stay that way.

The Jazz had two players that fell ill and didn’t travel to the game, Emmanuel Mudiay and Rudy Gobert. The latter tested positive for the novel coronavirus, prompting the game to be canceled. The immediate results also included both teams being quarantined within their respective locker rooms to be tested until late into the night while the sports world went into a frenzy. The NBA decided to suspend all operations for at least a month, likely longer with all recent opponents of the Jazz asked to self-quarantine and test for the virus if they experienced symptoms. The second case in the league came from Gobert’s teammate Donovan Mitchell after allegations surfaced of the former being reckless and touching everyone’s personal items as well as a table of microphones set up by local media all before he was diagnosed. Since then, five players have also tested positive for the virus. First was Detroit Piston Christian Wood followed by four members of the Brooklyn Nets, though only former MVP Kevin Durant has identified himself as among them. Interestingly, Durant has been inactive all season after an injury in the 2019 playoffs, and Brooklyn has played neither the Pistons nor the Jazz recently.

In the baseball world, the MLB postponed the beginning of both the Major and Minor League seasons indefinitely while canceling all Spring Training activities for both. Likewise, the 2021 World Baseball Classic qualification set for later this month was also canceled with no rescheduling date set at this point in time. It was only after all of this that news emerged of two unnamed minor leaguers in the New York Yankees organization also tested positive for the virus, though neither was practicing with the major league club this year.

The National Hockey League as well as NASCAR have also suspended their seasons with no known date of resumption while IndyCar and Formula 1 have canceled events into the month of April. Likewise, the PGA Tour has canceled or postponed all of its tournaments through the middle of May, which sadly includes both the Masters in April and the PGA Championship in May being pushed far back into the calendar. The Association of Tennis Professionals and Women’s Tennis Association also canceled all of their spring events, including the French Open and the popular Volvo Car Open on Daniel Island.

But what really hurt a die-hard sports fan like me was the cancellation of college sports. The biggest domino to fall was the NCAA Division I  Basketball Tournaments. In the aftermath of the Gobert incident, the National Collegiate Athletic Association felt it would be dangerous to hold any events, even without spectators. This meant no Selection Sunday, no March Madness, and no bracket challenges in the men’s or women’s games. But it wasn’t just basketball. They cancelled all championship events through the end of the 2019-2020 academic year, effectively wiping out spring sports as well. This was particularly tough given my affinity for college baseball, which wasn’t due to end until late June with the College World Series. However, as humans first and sports fans second, albeit a ver close second, we have to applaud the proactivity and caution shown by all governing bodies in sports. With everything cancelled we can focus our individual health and happiness as we push through this terrible pandemic and restore order and safety in the world.