The NBA and NHL have both suspended their seasons indefinitely halfway through. The MLB is postponing theirs. All NCAA sports are cancelled. Even the Olympics have been postponed. This sucks if you’re like me, and your preferred way of killing a somewhat ridiculous amount of time is watching sports. It’s even more unfortunate for many players.
It sucks a little if you’re an NBA, MLB, or NHL player, whose careers last around five years and will make somewhere between 15 and 25 million dollars before they’re through.
It sucks a lot if you’re an NCAA athlete, who isn’t getting paid at all, and whose career lasts at most four years. Even though the NCAA has given those athletes who missed out on their seasons an extra year of eligibility, they will have to come back for a fifth year of college to do so.
That is a decision with its own issues, as an extra year in college can be expensive for those not on scholarship, and it can mean entering a professional league late for those who choose to return. Of course most collegiate athletes don’t go pro, and will either graduate on time or take five years and then move on from athletics. So even the first-years and sophomores are likely going to lose a year of their career.
For Olympians this is even more problematic. Although the International Olympic Committee has promised that the Tokyo Summer 2020 Olympics will take place no later than Summer 2021, the logistics haven’t exactly been worked out.
Olympians can peak incredibly young, with some (like gymnasts) reaching the pinnacle of their talent at 16 years old. For athletes beginning their careers this could mean the difference between having gone to the Olympics and having won a medal. For athletes soon to retire, it could mean they don’t get to play at all.
Consider the 1992 U.S. Men’s basketball team, known as The Dream Team. The team is generally agreed upon as the best basketball team of all time, and featured all time greats Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. Bird retired after 1992 due to debilitating back injuries, and Johnson had just announced his retirement after being diagnosed with HIV (Johnson would later return to the league). A year-long delay might have taken two of basketball’s greatest players off of its greatest team.
We’re going to miss a lot of great moments because of the coronavirus. Some might happen anyway, just later. Others will never occur at all.
While unfortunate, this is the reality of responsibly handling a global pandemic. My boredom at not being able to watch professional sports is not the worst thing to happen as a result of coronavirus. But this will be a year that athletes and leagues will never forget, and its full range of consequences are hard to predict.