As the drought of live sports — and just about every other type of social event — is well into its second month, there is rampant speculation about when fans will next be able to see their favorite teams in action.
The stoppage of competition came in one fell swoop, as a few days of speculation about games possibly being affected turned into a total halt across the entire sports spectrum in less than a week. And what started as a speculated short break for some leagues has now turned into the cancellation of all spring collegiate sports, NBA and NHL seasons wondering if they’ll play out their postseasons, and Major League Baseball trying to figure out when it can take the field to begin its 2020 campaign.
The last few days have brought murmurs that NBA teams might open up team training facilities in the next week. Meanwhile, baseball seems to come up with new possibilities every few days for how it might be able to construct as much of a regular season as possible.
There’s something to be said for the importance of sports making their return to the spotlight. On one hand, playing games can seem pretty trivial as thousands continue to fall ill and even die from the virus. And if returning to action means that leagues will have to continually test players, current testing shortages across the nation would make a decision to hold games a bad look.
The other side of the coin is that sports - much like many other businesses around the country - are trying to keep themselves viable by getting back to business as soon as possible. Over 30 million Americans have recently become unemployed and thousands of those workers come from professional sports teams who can’t keep up their payroll with no ticket sales or broadcast deals keeping the money flowing.
There’s also something to be said for the benefit sports can bring to the mental health of myriad fans around the nation. Sports can’t heal the sick or pay the mortgage of someone who has been laid off, but there would be something comforting and reassuring to sitting down and watching games that have always been a huge part of the everyday routines of so many.
It’s impossible to say when the right time will be for sports to return. Public health officials still warn that large gatherings won’t be advisable until a vaccine is found, meaning that the earliest sporting events likely won’t have crowds. There is also polling data indicating that a large majority of people wouldn’t attend a game right now, even if crowds were allowed.
Safety, economics and fan demand are all pulling in different directions, with each new batch of statistics or press conference held by a public official throwing more variables into the mix.
The sports world needs to keep a social conscience and take responsibility to make sure that it doesn’t create a further burden by jumping the gun on a restart. But it also needs to have a comeback sooner or later.
The athletes need it. The employees of those teams need it. And — in an attempt to forget about larger problems, even for a few hours — millions of fans need it as well.