Aidan Sheedy, Staff Writer
AP Photo/Eric Risberg, Featured Photo
It’s finally June- the beginning of summer. Almost exactly a year ago today, sports fans were watching in awe during one of the most thrilling two days in sports postseason history as the St. Louis Blues captured their first Stanley Cup in franchise history, going from last place in the conference halfway through the season, to defeating the mighty Boston Bruins in game seven.
The following day, basketball fans were marvelling at Kawhi Leonard’s incredible playoff performance, leading the Toronto Raptors en route to win their first NBA title and becoming the first non-US team to do so. Historic moments like those are what keep the fans’ enthusiasm alive. The postseason brings out the most unlikely of heroes, makes great players into legends, and brings an entire fanbase to tears.
However, this year is different to say the least. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, all major sports leagues have postponed any and all league events until further notice. The last game played in the NBA or NHL was on March 11. Since then, fans have entertained themselves with nostalgia as major sports networks and their affiliates have been filling the void by airing classic games of the past. But, fans are only growing more restless, and are eager to resume a significant piece of their life.
Major League Baseball recently came out with a 67-page regular season proposal, first reported by The Athletic. This detailed plan for a late push for baseball not only adapts certain rules, but actually changes the identity and personality of all players, as well as the game itself.
Commissioner Rob Manfred aims to begin their Spring Training with a maximum of 50 potential players invited to camp. As well as limited player opportunities, all team personnel would receive a routinely scheduled temperature check, viral test, and have their blood drawn for an antibody test. This results in a rate of 10,000 viral and antibody tests per week. According to ESPN, anybody that fails any of the tests will not be allowed in any team facility until cleared by a medical professional.
Severe off-field training precautions were also stated in the proposal. Included is the prohibition of saunas, steam rooms, therapy pools, and cryotherapy chambers. With all players being barred from their regular training rituals, teams and their training staff should be gravely concerned about a spike in game-related injuries. If a professional athlete has specific training and therapy programs they have been following for years during the season, their bodies are going to tighten up or constrict because their body is not trained to be ready for activity without their pregame routines.
The most devastating component for fans in this proposal is the change of player interaction and the game’s identity. Some of the oldest traditions in baseball will be terminated if the season continues as proposed. Regarding coaches and managers, there will be no exchange of lineup cards or pregame handshakes before each game, base coaches are not allowed to interact with baserunners, and coaches will not be permitted to relay signs where they touch their face (as most coaches will touch their nose, mouth, or ears).
For players, there will be no chewing tobacco (sorry, José Ramírez), no sunflower seeds (a staple and a delicacy for all ballplayers), and, of course, no spitting of any kind.
In relation, NBA commissioner Adam Silver says he plans to resume the regular season and ultimately finish the playoffs in time for a delayed 2020-2021 regular season starting on July 24th. Silver and a board of NBA governors told ESPN on Thursday, June 4, that the league has approved a 22-team format to resume the season exclusively in Orlando, Florida.
The site for all future NBA regular season games in 2020 is said to be The Walt Disney World Resort. The league has already begun informing players and staff. Lakers’ power forward Jared Dudley said May 20th, regarding the original proposal, that he would not be on board with being contained in a “bubble environment.”
As for the NHL, they have been arguably the most progressive in their “return to play” plan. The NHL was the first major sports league to release a plan to resume that starts as early as July 31st, and it is certain that there will be a 24-team playoff. However, 11 out of 200 NHL players have tested positive for COVID¹, causing public concern for the return to play.
In contrast to the NBA, the NHL will face a tougher challenge with border and quarantine laws and regulations as more than 17% of NHL players are currently outside of the United States, and the rest are spread out across the country at home, away from the team.
The biggest remaining component simply pushed aside by each league is their fans. A lot of leagues rely on game day revenue and stadium-related income. Over 40% of league revenue in the MLB comes from ticket sales and in-game purchases alone. Big market teams like the Yankees, Dodgers, or Red Sox will lose a lot of money they could ordinarily use to bolster their lineup or improve their pitching staff for next season. Not to mention, well-managed small market franchises like the Tampa Bay Rays or the “Moneyball” Oakland Athletics may have their teams shattered or relocated without their fans in attendance.
As for the athletes of any level, whether it’s school or professional, “…their whole world crashes down,” says New Paltz High School health teacher Shannan Magnetico. “Every part of your physical health affects everything else.”
As proven time and time again by doctors and health specialists, every aspect of health, affects every other aspect too. A perfect example given by NPHS School Psychologist Mary Kay Fiore is, “…when your mental health needs an increase like in times like this, you become more and more sad and anxious, which will always affect your [physical] health.”
In a time when professional athletes are not entertaining us with excitement, take time personally to become an athlete yourself. Exercise eases the detriments of depression, increases your metabolism and makes your body feel good, especially if you are outside.
Passan, Jeff. “MLBPA, Owners Clear Final Hurdles; Players Set to Report to Camps July 1.” ESPN, ESPN Internet Ventures, 23 June 2020, http://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/29354014/sources-mlbpa-agrees-report-july-1-discussing-health-safety-protocols.