A month without sports. Think about that. Thirty days, no games, no major events, no tournaments, no competitions, no races.
When was the last time that happened? Not even 9/11 stopped sports like that. But the coronavirus (COVID-19) did.
When the NBA suspended its season after Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19 on March 11, it set off a chain reaction of postponements and cancellations.
What have we missed in the last month?
- 208 NBA games
- 189 NHL games, plus playoff games that were scheduled to begin April 8.
- 193 Major League Baseball games
- 67 NCAA men’s tournament games
- 63 NCAA women’s tournament games
- Five PGA Tour events, plus The Masters, and four LPGA Tour events
- Four ATP events and five WTA events
- Four NASCAR races
There’s more, too. Thousands of college spring sporting events have been canceled along with a near-impossible-to-count number high school athletic events.
And Dana White finally canceled UFC 249, scheduled for April 18, and postponed other events after being pressured from Disney and ESPN.
The world of sports changed, and it may be altered forever. Of course, that will play out over time when sports resume. Who knows when that will be. The brighter minds in sports say they are listening to what health experts are saying (and don’t listen to some college football coaches).
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the former New York City high school point guard, has been the voice of reason and expertise, and he said there is no predetermined date when life, including sports, returns to some semblance of normalcy. The virus determines the timetable, not us, he said.
"If back to normal means acting like there never was a coronavirus problem, I don’t think that is going to happen until we have a situation where you can completely protect the population," Fauci said recently.
And when sports return, we don’t even know what that will look like — perhaps without fans, just as much their choice as a league’s choice. A poll (762 respondents) released Thursday by Seton Hall’s Still School of Business revealed 72% of sports fans said they would not attend games without the development of a coronavirus vaccine. Just 13% said they would feel the same as attending before coronavirus.
Major League Baseball must contend with fans falling out of the habit of going to the ballpark — at a time attendance has already decreased in six of the past seven years, a 14% decline since 2007.
SportsPulse: USA TODAY Sports' Steve Gardner discusses the story of Myron Rolle, a college football standout who is now battling on the front lines in the fight against coronavirus.
The changes may be small. Giving players high fives and asking them to sign autographs with a pen a fan brought to the game could be off limits. Heck, players high-fiving each other may take on a new look.
"I don't think we should ever shake hands ever again, to be honest with you," Fauci told The Wall Street Journal in a podcast. "Not only would it be good to prevent coronavirus disease, it probably would decrease instances of influenza dramatically in this country."
And it could impact sports in more dramatic ways, too. Maybe this is the time the NBA shortens its regular season to 70 games and starts its season later in the year, closer to December following Thanksgiving.
And maybe it leads to greater change in college athletics where unpaid laborers are asked to generate millions of dollars for schools.
Will we look at pro athletes with more humanity rather than just performers out there for our entertainment?
Regardless, sports will play some role as we find a new normal. Just like it did after 9/11, and there was a special sports exhibit at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum.
This Nelson Mandela quote has been floating around recently, "Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand."
So many are counting on that.
VIDEO OF THE DAY: We miss the Masters
In 2005, Tiger Woods won his fourth green jacket at The Masters on the first hole of a playoff with Chris DiMarco. Before the playoff, however, Woods' chip shot on No. 16 for birdie will never be forgotten.
Story time! Here are some of our best
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- ALTERNATE PRO DAY:Tua holds pre-draft workout despite NFL restrictions
- BOOM OR BUST:Some top QBs among the 15 riskiest prospects in the NFL draft
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- MASTERS FIX:Ranking 10 classic final rounds to relive on YouTube
- NEED TO NAIL IT:11 teams with the most stake in the NFL draft
What to watch
Golf: ESPN will televise the final round of the 2005 Masters — Tiger Woods’ fourth Masters championship. It required a sudden death playoff for him to beat Chris DiMarco.
Auto racing: NBC Sports will air the 2004 Daytona 500. It’s a special one. Dale Earnhartdt Jr.'s first Daytona victory — six years to the day after his father won the race.
Baseball: MLB Network has the classic Game 6 of the 1975 World Series, featuring Carlton Fisk’s famous walk-off home run in the bottom of the 12th inning to force the decisive Game 7.
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