The MLB and the NFL decided to go a different route than the NHL and NBA. Now, they are paying the price.
Professional sports was one of the many things that the Coronavirus took away from the people. Many doubted that it will return at all this year. However, with a lot of effort from both athletes and management, competitive sports finally returned to the people’s home screens. There are still a lot of obstacles that teams have to go through each day to play and entertain the nation, yet it is a small victory nonetheless.
On July 10, the NHL formally announced the the “return to play” plan, where they described how the league is going to handle the safety of its players and staff. The two hub cities were Toronto, which hosted 12 Eastern Conference teams, and Edmonton, which hosted 12 Western Conference teams. All teams were housed in Secure Zones. They included hotels, restaurants, practice facilities and the arenas where the games were played. For seven days, before arriving to the bubble, players and staff were tested three times, 48 hours apart. While in the bubble, everyone was tested daily. Every team had their own designated floor. Players were living in single rooms and weren’t allowed to visit their teammates. Players’ children and their partners were only allowed to visit during the Conference and Stanley cup Finals. It did seem like prison confinement, that is why the management tried very hard to make the transition for the players and staff as smooth as possible. The hotel bars and restaurants were opened, there were outdoor campus areas where players could walk around and mingle with each other. They allowed contactless room service delivery as well as deliveries from local restaurants.
In the end, all the struggles and obstacles were worth it. The Stanley Cup was lifted safely. Everyone in the bubble was healthy. 33,174 tests were administered since the players’ arrival to the bubble on July 26th and none were positive.
The NBA took a similar route. They created a similar bubble in Bay Lake, Florida, near Orlando. They created it Walt Disney World, that’s why it’s called the “Disney Bubble”. It was a $170 million dollar investment by the league to revive its season. Unlike the NHL, the NBA managed to finish its season. They invited 22 teams that were six games out of a playoff spot . They played eight additional games that determined the playoff seeding. The playoffs began on August 17 and the Finals have started on September 30. There has been no positive cases for over 10 consecutive weeks of play.
Yet, the MLB and NFL have struggled through their seasons with multiple coronaviruses cases. Both of the leagues have opted out from playing in a bubble. Teams like the Miami Marlins, Philadelphia Phillies, New York Mets, St. Louis Cardinals and the Cincinnati Reds have battled through positive cases. However, according to the MLB and the Players Association, out of the 12,301 COVID tests administered, there have only been 4 new cases since August 14th. The league has learnt from their mistakes, so that’s why the administered the bubble format for the 2020 playoffs. There are four locations for the bubbles: LA (AL), San Diego (AL), Arlington, Texas (NL), Houston (NL).
The NFL is being plagued with more and more coronavirus cases. Some games are being played with fans in the stands, though way below the capacity of the stadium. The Titans have 18 confirmed cases, that forced the NFL to rearrange their schedule once again. The Titans and Steelers fans will have to wait until October 25 to see their teams play. The New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton and Kansas City Chiefs practice squad quarterback Jordan Ta’amu also tested positive last week. Their game was rescheduled for Monday, October 5.
This virus has shown time and time again that it is merciless. People can treat it with extreme caution and still, the virus has a way of worming into their lives. Sports bubbles is a tough feat to plan and achieve, however, it is manageable. This summer has shown that teamwork makes the dream work. If teams isolate their players, test them everyday and provide good accommodation and in return the players will act responsibly by following the protocol- then anything can be accomplished, no matter how impossible it may seem.