Beyond the Lines: Coronavirus wipes out our sports

Welcome to a world with virtually no live sports.

In the span of 48 hours last week we went from believing sporting events would go on as scheduled, to games being played in empty ballparks/arenas, to almost all of them being cancelled or postponed.

The first cancellation came on Monday when the Indian Wells tennis tournament was called off. Then on Wednesday the NCAA announced that its March Madness tournament would be played in empty arenas. Next up was the NBA’s Golden State Warriors announcing they wouldn’t have fans at home games, followed by a similar announcement from the NHL’s San Jose Sharks. Washington State banned gatherings of more than 250, leaving MLB’s Seattle Mariners to play their home opener on March 26 without fans.

The first wave of cancellations/adjustments coming on the west coast weren’t totally unexpected, being it was the epicenter of the coronavirus in the U.S. But what came next was shocking.

On Wednesday evening in Oklahoma City a team doctor rushed onto the court prior to the Thunder/Jazz tip-off and informed officials that a Jazz player, later identified as Rudy Gobert, had tested positive for the coronavirus. The game was immediately postponed and fans were told to go home. The league, which had advised teams to prepare plans to play in empty arenas, immediately halted the season.

That started a chain reaction among sports leagues across the country. On Thursday the NHL and MLS followed the NBA’s lead. MLB dragged its feet but the handwriting was on the wall. Thursday afternoon it reluctantly cancelled the remainder of spring training and announced that Opening Day would be delayed two weeks, to April 9. Given the circumstances, that seemed overly optimistic, which the league immediately acknowledged.

The NCAA went from playing its tournament without fans to no tournament at all. That announcement triggered an avalanche of cancellations at the collegiate level, with all winter and spring sports, including postseason tournaments, called off at colleges around the country. The sheer speed of the announcements was dizzying, if not unexpected.

The start of the Minor League Baseball season was also delayed, and the Boston Marathon and the Masters Golf Tournament were both postponed until fall. What we are left with is a world virtually without live sports, the lone holdout being UFC. The fighting league vowed to continue staging fights, despite the paucity of arenas around the globe willing to host them, even without the presence of fans.

This isn’t the first time in the modern era the sports world has been on hiatus due to cataclysmic events. It happened after 9/11 and when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. However, the differences between then and now are not all sports went dark and we knew those that did would soon return. This time? No one can predict when live sports will return.

In the blink of an eye, we are left with reruns, highlights, talking heads making predictions and sports movies. A League of Their Own for the umpteenth time is still worth watching.

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