Bulldogs & Beyond: COVID-19 and Sports
Updated: Jun 24
By Greydon Buhlig
For The Southwestern
So sports were basically cancelled or postponed. Well, at least the major spring and winter sports were. None was more disappointing to me, and to a lot of people, was the end of basketball at the college level as all NCAA tournaments, either national or conference, were canceled.
Now, this isn’t saying that I was not disappointed that a lot of sports were either canceled or postponed, it is just college basketball means a lot to millions of people in this country.
Basketball in general means a great deal to billions of around the world. During the NBA Finals last year, an average of 20.5 million viewers watched the games, according to sportsvideo.org. And according to variety.com, while viewing numbers are down on a nightly basis, the NBA still averages 1.3 million viewers a game.
While college basketball, last season saw an increase of viewership of 15%; this is according to sportsbusinessdaily.com. On a nightly basis, college basketball games averaged 1.2 million viewers per game. This just goes to show how large of an impact basketball has, and it isn’t easy not being able to distract yourself form the crazy world without it.
The craziness started over in China back in 2019, and in January the CDC described it a “public health emergency of concern.” Well the U.S. was concerned when people traveling back and forth from Asia started to show symptoms and tested positive for COVID-19.
The sports world was rattled when, on the night of March 11, right before the start of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Utah Jazz game, the OKC team doctor came running onto the court and told officials to wait as Rudy Gobert had tested positive for COVID-19. He showed no symptoms, felt fine and yet still had the virus. Within the next 24 hours, the entire sports world was in a panic.
The NBA postponed all games starting and that same day, the NBA issued a 30-day hiatus. They are still discussing what should be done as the situation evolves almost every minute. The NCAA followed suit with canceling all winter and spring championships for the remainder of the 2019-20 season.
The NHL, MLS, and MLB all suspended play, the PGA and LPGA postponed events. In Europe, all soccer (or futbol) leagues in the countries of Spain, Italy, England, Scotland, France, the Netherlands, Germany and a slew of smaller countries have all canceled or postponed.
In Asia, most leagues had shut down months ago. In auto-racing, Formula One canceled and postponed races, along with NASCAR. I could go on, but I believe that you get the picture.
The NCAA tournament was, to me, the most disappointing cancellation of them all. I cannot remember the last time I didn’t watch the tournament. I am a huge Kentucky Wildcats fan, and was really excited to see where this team was headed. After an up-and-down start, with beating then No. 1 in the country Michigan St., to taking that No. 1 spot, then losing to Evansville.
They had secured the SEC regular season championship, and a #1 seed in the SEC Tournament. But that isn’t all, my SWOSU Lady Dawgs were set to take on No. 1 seed Central Missouri in the NCAA Division II Women’s Basketball Championship. They had already left to go to Missouri and a day before the tournament was set to start, it was canceled.
I can understand how upset the fans are because I am one. I cannot, however, even comprehend what the seniors on all teams, in every spring or winter sport, must be feeling knowing they may never get the chance to play in college again. Now, this was before the NCAA ruled to give spring sport athletes an extra year of eligibility, but what about winter sports? That is still in discussion.
I haven’t had the opportunity to talk with or to any athletes who won’t get that year back, and I’m not sure I want to, but that has to be heartbreaking. Knowing that everything you worked for, all the hours, all the sweat, is just gone. Can’t, and don’t want to even begin to imagine what emotions those seniors are feeling.
Yet, the NCAA and all the organizations that made decisions on whether or not to continue with these sporting events did what they saw best to protect the fans, athletes, coaches and staff. This virus is spread by human-to-human contact. Several of these events attract thousands of people, and it was the correct decision. Some coaches believed that the tournaments and other events should’ve been postponed before canceled, but decisions were made, and it is just the times we are in currently.
I want to discuss the other side of it, how sports effects how we live our lives. Some of you may not believe that sports has a large of an impact on our society. I believe that is false, and sports plays a huge role in our daily lives. People discuss games, players, events during work, during school.
Almost everywhere people go, they discuss some type of sport. It is a distraction from the crazy world. Think back to a major catastrophe, a major disruption in your normal, daily routine, sports were on constantly. Never in my lifetime has there not been sports to help get the world, its people, through a difficult time.
Think of 9/11, this atrocious act of terrorism brought the entire country together, and I believe sports had something to do with that. September is right in the middle of football season, baseball is in its postseason. Basketball is just over a month away from starting up. It was there to not only distract, but bring people together. You look at the Boston Marathon Bombing; the Boston Red Sox pledged the rest of their season to the victims and heroes of that awful event. The city rallied around that team, Boston Strong, and they went on to win a World Series.
Sports do much more than just give entertainment to their fans, they give people something to feel a part of. It gives strangers something in common. Sports give communities a safe place to gather. This hasn’t been an easy few weeks, as more reports of the virus spreading are coming out almost minute by minute, and going at it without sports has only made it more difficult.
I do want to leave you readers on a positive note though. The COVID-19 pandemic is a serious concern, but as long as you are washing your hands consistently, practicing social distancing, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, you have less of a chance of contracting the virus. That doesn’t mean lock yourself in your room, it just means remain conscious of what you’re doing and be aware of your surroundings. If you need to go to the grocery store, don’t hoard, just take what you need and remember that there are people less fortunate than you.
Talk to your family members and close friends daily, let them know you love and care about them. If you see someone who needs help, and you have the ability, help them in any way possible. This is the time for the country to come together, not to fight and bicker about political issues. If the country and the world, can accomplish these small steps, we can prevent the spread of the virus and end the pandemic. Stay safe, stay aware, and God bless.