When the Coronavirus struck in early 2020, a lot of people were unsure how long our lives would be altered. From school, to regular business hours, to sports and everything in between, people worldwide were wondering when this pandemic life would end and return to normal. Recently, there was one change that brought the world a slight sense of normalcy, and that was the return of sports.
This idea of bringing back sports had been talked about since the very beginning of the pandemic when basketball and hockey season were halted and the start of baseball and many other seasons were delayed. Even the status of the 2020 Summer Olympics was talked about early pandemic when no one was sure what was to come of the Coronavirus.
Now, after approximately five months of "quarantine," sports are finally making a comeback. The MLB decided on a late start to baseball season and opening night is now July 23-24th featuring a double-header . The NBA is resuming their season starting July 30th with a week of scrimmage games preparing the athletes for returning to play from July 22-28th. The NHL is planning to return on August 1st, and the NFL is planning to make a timely start on August 13th. The return of sports is just one more thing on the long list of things that are slowly helping our world return to a sense of normalcy, and I am here for it, but the stands will be empty.
Sports have a long standing history worldwide and so many people are die-hard fans and will spend astronomical amounts of money to support their team live. There is something special about the energy in the arena while you're watching your favorite team. Due to COVID-19, it clearly isn't the safest idea to have fans in the stands because of the impossible feat of keeping up with social distancing and sanitizing before, during, and after every contest. However, how do these athletes feel competing without fans?
Many sources believe that fans will not be able to return safely to the stands for another year or so. With the unpredictable and mutative nature of this virus, scientists and professionals are suggesting that the return to normal play of sports with fans back in the stands will not be possible until a vaccine is widely available and implemented into society. As far as regular competition goes, I very much believe the loss of the fans makes a huge negative impact on the nature of the game. So many athletes rely on the adrenaline and the hype from the fans to give them that competitive feel, and now that isn't possible and may not be for quite some time. Home court advantage is also out the window thanks to COVID-19 because of the absence of fans.
To compensate slightly for the empty stands, some sports and teams have decided to fill portions of their stadiums (for the most part, in the lower decks that the players are able to see) with cardboard cutouts of fans. This was started in the MLB world of baseball and fans have had a shockingly great time and positive response with this opportunity. Teams like the A's and the Dodgers are even selling "season tickets" for their cardboard cutout fans and you can submit and purchase your picture so that it is in the stands rooting on your favorite team all season long. This creative way to implement the feeling of fans and making money to replace the loss from actual fans is the latest of the changes that are being made to sports in 2020.
Although the fans make up such a huge part of the sports industry, us sports fans should be grateful that the leagues have found a way to move forward without us for now and given us a way to enjoy watching and streaming sports from the comfort and safety of our own homes for the time being. For the athletes that are taking a major risk by playing for our entertainment, I'm sure they'd rather have their fans there so that they can feed off their energy and have their sense of normalcy back, but for now cardboard cutouts and empty stadiums being streamed into home electronic devices is the best we can do while staying safe amidst this COVID-19 pandemic.
Before we know it, we will all be able to be back in the stands, enjoying stadium snacks, and watching our favorite teams and sports live.