By: Riley Gillespie-Wilson
COVID-19 has swept the nation. The pandemic surrounding the illness has robbed a lot of people of a lot of things. For sports fans, the main compromise has been being able to enjoy game action at the end of the day. The NBA was the first to pull the plug, and the NHL and various other leagues were quick to follow.
These same fans were thieved of some major events as well, March Madness, the grand finale of NCAA Men’s Basketball being a prime example. Now, they very well may be forced to go without the wrap-up of the NHL and NBA also, as playoffs would normally be taking place in April, and we’re well into May.
Most recently, the MLB delayed the start of its season indefinitely, leaving sports fans to feel that the sporting season is lost, save Bundesliga soccer and a few other sports continuing with no fans. Even if that’s the case, however, there are still a lot of events happening that can put a smile on a sports fan’s face.
There are a lot of events happening that prove the versatility of sports, and the fact that there is always some form of content, even in a glorified offseason for every sport.
With large gatherings off the table, the NFL had to get creative for their draft. Seemingly, the only possibility was to go live from each player’s respective home, and have commissioner Roger Goodell run the draft from a remote location.
With fans so desperate for sports, and entertainment for that matter, reactions to the draft were rampant on social media.
Social media wasn’t the only place the draft was generating a buzz. A lot of people tuned in, shattering the previous viewership record. The first round alone was up 37% over 2019’s viewership numbers, with over 15.6 million people tuning in.
The numbers didn’t slow down from there, and the NFL’s virtual draft is proof that an entertaining product can still be put on by not only a sport during a global pandemic, but a sport in its offseason, for that matter.
Free Agent Frenzy
Just because there are no games going on, doesn’t mean there aren’t transactions, and these transactions have been key conversation starters during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The NFL, being in its prime acquisition window, has led the charge, the biggest news coming out of what is now being dubbed “Tompa Bay.” That is, because possible NFL “G.O.A.T,” and six-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady joined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in late March, on a two-year, $50 million deal.
Brady isn’t the only big name to sign in the Bay, as he was joined weeks later by former teammate Rob Gronkowski.
Aside from the big names, Andy Dalton is a notable inking for the Dallas Cowboys, and highlights the fact that sports never stop. Even in dire times, fans still have relocations to keep their sporting appetite satisfied.
Outside of the NFL, some leagues weren’t so lucky to be in the offseason when the outbreak began. As mentioned, two leagues specifically, the NHL and the NBA, were just gearing up for their respective playoffs, while the MLB was getting primed to kick off the season.
That begs the question, what next? It’s no news that not playing games is detrimental to the major sports leagues. Just how detrimental, though? The tune of $5 billion over two months, according to Forbes. The MLB will lose the most (around $2 billion), while the NHL, NBA and others will all lose around $1 billion apiece.
Several playoff formats have been discussed for the NBA and NHL, with Doc Rivers suggesting a format involving a play-in tournament for an NBA bracket the same size as years past.
The NHL, meanwhile, is reportedly discussing a 24-team, conference-based tournament for its playoffs.
Even without games, the possibility of competition, and how it should look, is keeping fans on the edge of their seats.
While there are clearly better times ahead, as demonstrated, there are still outlets available for sports fans to get their fix.
Be it a league going virtual to bring them a draft, signings getting done remotely, or conversation about if and how a league should return, sports simply never stop. Not even COVID-19 can stop sports.
MOCK TWEET: Most sports may be off, but there’s no shutting down the sporting world.