A safe return to sports requires us to temporarily say goodbye

by Mohammad Samra / Staff Reporter

Bulls legend Michael Jordan gets emotional during his induction ceremony into the Basketball Hall of Fame. Photo courtesy of NPR.

I’ve been a sports fan nearly my entire life. I got my first baseball glove on my sixth birthday, my first basketball rim when I turned 12 and my first pair of Jordan’s when I turned 14. There was never a moment where I couldn’t go to a park and join pick-up games or stay at home and turn on ESPN or Fox Sports 1 to watch whatever game was on.

Until now. 

The sports world has been shut down since early March, and while a return is seemingly on the way, a safe return beneficial for all involved is nearly impossible. 

Each of the affected leagues has proposed potential plans to finish its suspended seasons in different ways. 

The National Basketball Association has a 25-day plan which would begin in May that would include 11 days of stretching from a distance and a two-week training camp for entire teams after they’ve been medically cleared, according to ESPN

While the plan seems hopeful, there is a growing concern over the likelihood of injuries from players and coaches. Oklahoma City Thunder guard and president of the NBA Players Association Chris Paul said it would take at least three to four weeks for players to prepare to resume the season without an increased injury risk. 

Major League Baseball has multiple scenarios for returning to play. The league has considered restructuring divisions and shortening the season while holding games at Spring Training Facilities in Florida and Arizona. There are also plans to take the season to Japan, but MLB is also focused on holding all games at various fields in Arizona, according to Bleacher Report. 

The league, with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, constructed a plan where teams would play seven-inning-doubleheaders. Players would remain six feet apart by sitting in the stands, no fans would be present, an electric strike zone would be used and players and coaches would live in remote isolation and only travel to stadiums and back to hotels. 

Although MLB is taking a safer approach than the NBA, the ideas that league officials are pursuing can still be harmful to those essential to the game. Various players spoke to ESPN under anonymity to freely voice their concerns over the concept. 

“When I think about being isolated for four to five months without being able to see my family, I don’t think that would go through at all,” one American League starting pitcher said. 

“I love baseball; I want to play baseball. But if it’s not safe for us to be anywhere off the field except for a hotel, then it’s probably not safe for us to play games,” another pitcher, who is also a union representative, said. 

The National Hockey League is weeks behind the MLB and NBA in terms of knowing when games will resume. Commissioner Gary Bettman is willing to have teams play deep into the summer, but acknowledged that there is a possibility the season gets outright canceled if the league can’t start back up in time according to NBC Sports

Organizations remain eager to salvage what’s left of their respective 2020 seasons, but the safety of players and personnel should not be put at risk to provide temporary distractions for a crisis that has no intention of going anywhere for the time being. Efforts to continue play in 2020 can heavily impact the following season. If NBA and NHL players are playing into August or September, it’ll be impossible for them to be ready for a brand new season only a month later. 

Everyone has had to make sacrifices to contain the virus. The definitive shutdown of all sports organizations until at least October of 2020 might hurt economically, but it allows for more time to plot a safe return. 

The extended hiatus will only add to the misery a majority of the public already faces. But, in the bigger picture, it’ll absolutely be worth it.     

Categories: Sports

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