With the spread of COVID-19 continuing to make its way around the globe, willing itself into familiar cities, states and countries, and as of late tightening its grip on normal, everyday life, forcing people worldwide to socially distance themselves and remain in houses on lockdown for an unknown amount of time, we are faced with the unfortunate reality that this is not the same world we were living in two months ago.
What is worse is wondering when will these restrictions begin to change? When can we venture outside of the house again? When can we visit friends and family in different countries? Is there even going to be football this year?!
While everyday life has been restricted, many escapes have been eliminated as well, and for billions of people around the world, sport is their escape.
In a time of indefinite confinement within our homes, we could probably use sports now more than ever, as that simple relief from the monotony and down feeling of the coronavirus lockdown.
However, sports are nowhere to be found, and their return is nowhere in sight. While this is for good reason, that doesn’t make it any easier for the billions waiting in limbo for that first sporting event to be held when this is all over.
BY EARLY March, sports organizers began to realize that large sporting events attended by thousands are out of the question if the world wants to get a handle on the viral spread - and with that the season postponements began.
In February, here in Israel, an entire section of Bloomfield Stadium was ordered into self-isolation, after an attendee of the Hapoel Tel Aviv vs Maccabi Tel Aviv match - one of the biggest matches in Israel each year, with a nearly sold-out stadium that can seat 20,000 - tested positive for the novel coronavirus about a week later. Shortly afterward, the Israeli Premier League season was suspended.
Just recently, the Tokyo Olympics were postponed until 2021, after much debate and outcry from other countries hoping to stymie the coronavirus outbreak from spreading throughout the Games.
This news unfortunately meant that Israel’s national baseball team will have to postpone its dream of winning a medal in the Olympics for one more year, after becoming Israel’s first-ever qualifying Olympic baseball team, and for that matter the first Israeli team of any kind to qualify for the Olympics in 44 years, as noted by The Jerusalem Post’s Elli Wohlgelernter (“On the Cusp of Greatness,” March 2).
One by one, leagues around the world have been shutting down. First, some organizations started playing games without fans, but once gatherings were limited to 10 people maximum, that no longer became an option.
The NBA’s season was suspended following positive coronavirus diagnostic tests among a couple of its players, less than a month and a half after they were forced to say goodbye to one of basketball’s brightest stars in Kobe Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash in late January.The NCAA canceled March Madness, as well as all other spring and winter championships - promising to extend a year of eligibility to all its athletes affected by the pandemic. Major League Baseball canceled spring training and postponed Opening Day at least two weeks. The English Premier League, Champions League and all other major European soccer leagues postponed their seasons following positive tests, with the English league planning to resume by the end of April. Formula One racing has postponed the first few races of the year, leaving it up in the air as to when that traveling motor circus will be able to carry on again, considering that international travel and the possibility of procuring visas are very problematic at the moment. And last but not least, the Boston and London marathons were also both postponed until the fall.
The real takeaway is that no one is sure of the immediate future of sports, and it’s unclear when organizers will decide to bring these events back to our living rooms.
AS EACH sport fell, the Internet began becoming flushed with memes, wondering how to survive without it.A series titled “Day number ___ without sports” displays either an interesting fact that fan learned about his wife or family that day, an indoor sport activity created out of the sheer boredom of not being able to watch one’s favorite teams play, as well as people setting their video games up for the computer to compete against itself just so they can catch a “live” match, among other examples.
While people are obviously losing their collective minds over the matter, and the thought of not being able to watch your favorite team on weekends has become a (hopefully) temporary reality, if the hiatus continues further it could have a significant impact on the economy as well - which would result in the loss in jobs and revenue for major sporting organizations in the months to come.
The global sports market reached a net worth of $489 billion in 2018, with a 4% yearly growth since 2014 and an expected annual growth of 6% in the years to come, according to Business Insider. The United States holds the highest market share at the moment, contributing around $75b. to the global total in 2019.
With the realities starting to set in, and cabin fever starting to take over our daily thought process, most of us can’t help to wonder when and where we are to find relief.
Before life under quarantine started, sports could be used as that great escape from everyday life - watching or attending a game with your loved ones, playing a game of pickup basketball in the park with your buddies or breaking out of the world news cycle for a day in order to listen to sportscasters argue over who’s going to go to the playoffs this season, are just some examples of how sport has provided an escape for us in the past.For some, sports have even served as a lifeline to pull them out of life’s worst situations - setting many up on a path for greatness after being dealt a bleak hand in life.
Sports, for many of us, is life. Plain as that.
Therefore, we ole faithful shall wait, and wait some more, until this all passes. For on that day when all the stadiums open up, when we finally get the chance to see our sport heroes take the field again, the cheers will be deafening, the high fives will be magical, the stellar play will be all the more awe-inspiring, the tears will be true and the feeling will be back - better than ever.