Coming back to campus, it may be hard to feel excited about social activities — or their absence. For the time being, students can no longer participate in competitive sports or group athletic activities. Fortunately, over the past few months many major professional organizations have developed strategies to continue or start the playing season despite COVID-19.
Although live television may be hard for college students to come by, there are some options. Unknown to many students, some living areas at UR have cable televisions, and with this comes access to Fox Sports, ESPN, and broadcast networks for MLB, the NHL, the NFL, the NBA, and the Golf Channel. There are online options as well, such as ESPN+, Hulu, SLing, or AT&T Now. Many leagues have their own subscription-based service, though these are often subject to blackouts as a result of broadcast rights distributions. There is illegal streaming, but that is, of course, illegal.
Most major sports have resumed or started play in various states of pandemic preparation. In the United States, the only major league with more than a handful of COVID-19 cases is Major League Baseball (MLB). The others have been very successful in preventing the spread of the virus.
Concern grew for the future of MLB’s season when the Miami Marlins announced on July 28 that 17 players and at least two personnel had tested positive. Unlike the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the National Hockey League (NHL), MLB did not create a bubble. All teams are using their home stadiums with the exception of the Toronto Blue Jays, who are playing in Buffalo as the Canadian government rejected a plan for players to travel between the United States and Canada.
The MLB season continues with trepidation: Just days after the Marlins returned on Aug. 4 following their suspension, the St. Louis Cardinals missed 19 games when 17 members of that organization tested positive and some team members had to visit the ER. It came to light that groups of players from both teams had violated safety protocols. Several other players from various organizations have also tested positive, and the league has thus far postponed 32 games.
The NHL, the playoffs for which started last week, created two isolation “bubbles” for its Western and Eastern Conferences, in the Canadian cities of Edmonton and Toronto, respectively. The most successful so far at preventing COVID-19 transmission, no NHL players have tested positive for the virus since entering the bubble.
The NBA has created their bubble in a sports complex at Walt Disney World in Orlando, FL. Early in the restarted season, two players contracted COVID-19 — Lou Williams of the Los Angeles Clippers made headlines when a friend revealed that Williams had stopped at a strip club for an order of lemon pepper wings. There have been no further cases in the league, and the playoffs are due to start on Aug. 17.
But not every sporting league in the world has required such extreme measures.
Despite handfuls of positive COVID-19 tests across various teams, the Champions League, the primary competition for the Union of European Football Associations, has proceeded fairly regularly, albeit with players prevented from leaving their hotels and no fans in the stadium.
If your favorite American sports have been disrupted, consider outsourcing to international leagues for fall 2020 — they may be more niche, but are prominent in their own right. Australian football, closer to rugby than its American or European counterparts, has resumed its season after postponing following just one round of matches in March. Korean and Japanese baseball have both resumed play. The two codes of rugby, Rugby Union and Rugby League, have active leagues in the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and a number of other countries.
While social distancing has certainly narrowed the in-person experience available to sports fans, it’s never too late to seek out something new. Even though UR’s sports have ground to a halt, professional teams and leagues are innovating and trying to create a new culture of participation within the bounds of social distancing. It just might be worth keeping up.