Sports vs. COVID-19. By: Darby Childress

As of March 12th, 2020 the NBA postponed its regular season following multiple players testing positive for COVID-19. This was soon followed by the MLB postponing the start of its season, and the NHL postponing the rest of its remaining season. The Olympic Committee then announced, on March 24th, 2020, that they would be postponing the 2020 Tokyo Olympics to July 23rd, 2021. This brought the world of sports to a screeching halt, but professional sports haven’t been the only thing affected by the coronavirus.

College sports fans have been dealt a harsh blow. Rather than their seasons simply being postponed, whole seasons are being canceled altogether. The NCAA canceled the March Madness tournament, for college basketball on March 12th, 2020. Shortly after the NCAA announced the cancelation of all remaining 2020 spring and winter sports seasons due to fears surrounding the spread of coronavirus. For the players on these teams, the realization that their seasons are being cut short, or not starting at all was heartbreaking, to say the least. Though the safety of these players, their families, and the fans is of the utmost importance, we cannot forget that they are still people underneath those uniforms, though for many of us this is just a form of entertainment that we can live without, many of these players’ lives revolve around these sports. These people have spent an enormous portion of their lives devoted to these sports and some plan on building a career out of them. To ignore the emotional aspect of these decisions, especially as it affects its players, would be extremely insensitive, to say the least. For the seniors on these teams, the emotional toll is much more severe, as they soon realized that their sports careers may have just come to an end, and not in the way they intended.

Luckily for these seniors, the NCAA quickly realized this issue and have begun discussions on how to provide these seniors with an extra year of eligibility, as well as the problems surrounding that such as roster limits, limited scholarships, etc. But even with these new guidelines being discussed, for some seniors, staying for an extra year of eligibility may not be an option. Some have already entered the draft for their respective sports and were counting on this last season to give them the extra boost they need to improve their draft ratings that they are now missing out on due to their seasons ending. This doesn’t include the players who do not want to pursue their sports careers any further but still wanted to finish out their college careers with the teams they helped build. Those living in college towns are having some difficulties with the loss of sports in a much different way than was expected.

On top of losing a form of entertainment, they are also economically struggling. Small businesses are having difficulties staying afloat due to the loss of tourism that sporting events bring. Hotels are all but empty, souvenir shops that provide game day gear are closed. On top of that now those that are deemed “nonessential” cannot open at all. Small businesses specifically are being hit the hardest. Restaurants are only being allowed to serve carry out, and many are closing all together because they are not bringing in enough money to make staying open and paying their employees worth it.

Many of the fans who live in these college towns make a portion of their incomes based on people coming into their towns to watch the games. This income comes from driving Uber, renting out their houses for tournaments, and allowing people to pay to park in their yards. That extra money they make from doing those things allows them to make ends meet in some cases. This being said, these economic downfalls are what we are facing now. This does not include the possibility that college football may not be played this year as well. Many colleges make a large portion of their money for their athletic programs from ticket sales brought in by college football. Without this, even for one season, schools will see a dramatic loss in funding for not only their football teams but also their sports teams that do not draw in huge crowds, which may result in the schools cutting those teams until the funding lost can be made up in future years.

But sports will not be the only thing affected. The loss of ticket sales will likely result in raises in tuition prices, as well as limiting the number of students accepted, availability of financial aid/scholarships, and programs available for incoming students, just to name a few. Sports fans as a whole are coping with the loss of spring sports in various ways. For many, it is more than just a form of entertainment. For some sports are an escape. Regardless of the outcome of a game for those few hours, all the problems of the world melt away and the primary focus is those players on their respective fields playing the sports they and their fans love.

Sports have always been a way of bringing people together, regardless of age, race, background. People have been drawn to all forms of sporting events Many children grew up going to games with their families. Friends come together to watch sporting events. New friends are made at tailgating events or bars and restaurants when they hear someone from a different group mentioning they like the same teams as them. With the loss of these sporting events, these new connections are not being made. This way of escaping the harsh realities of the world does not currently exist outside of watching reruns of games past. One college sports fan Brian Bennett had this to say about the loss of college sports- “The loss of spring sports affected me a lot as a fan because of two major events being canceled, March Madness, NCAA Basketball, and NCAA College World series. Our only memory now is COVID-19 taking great moments and memories away. Thought of not having CFB is devastating. One can only hope we do not experience it being canceled but if it does I won’t know how to cope. College Football has been apart of my life since childbirth. My family knows, wife and kids, Saturdays are geared towards watching all the games because they each mean something. Although my team may win or lose there is nothing like talking trash about other teams because that is what we as fans do.” This is just one person out of the millions of sports fans around the globe whose way of escape has been stolen by something that we cannot see with the naked eye. At the end of the day, the safety of our friends, family, and players are the most important thing right now. But it is important for society as a whole to realize the economic, social, and emotional repercussions of losing both professional and college sports. The longer this goes on the harder it will be to come back from it. For the sake of your friends, families, and fellow sports fans, please stay inside, stay safe, follow the regulations and guidelines set out by your local governments, and if possible support the local business that supports you and your favorite teams. Because when all of this is over, your favorite game days won’t be the same without everyone there to celebrate it. Brought to you by:

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