The Return of Sports Coverage During the Covid-19 Pandemic
With the NBA Bubble leading the way, sports on TV and on streaming services is trying to be the new Comeback Kid
For the sports-afflicted couch potatoes of the world, this has been five long, agonizing months. The NBA came to a grinding stop in March, the French Open and Wimbledon were sorry tennis casualties, and even the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo had to bid us sayonara (and see you next year). Soccer made its return last month, but let’s face it, while the rest of Asia may be religiously following these European leagues, Filipino soccer enthusiasts are a distinct minority.
So when July 30 saw the return of the NBA in their Orlando ‘bubble’, that was a cause for celebration. I was out Friday morning, visiting my dentist for my delayed check-up; and as I approached the clinic, I could hear the coverage of the Lakers-Clippers game. To my surprise, it was the building janitor, glued to his smartphone; and obviously, he had downloaded the NBA.com app. The first free TV coverage of the NBA resumption wasn’t going to happen until the following morning.
As of the time I’m writing this, it’s obvious that there will be some surprises in the playoff picture due to this abbreviated regular season resumption. In the East, Toronto will be no pushover, as they were ready to play defense, and not just rely on offensive power. As defending champs, even with the loss of Kawhi, they looked like they were out to prove that We The North (Raptors) would not just surrender their Cup. I can foresee Toronto and Milwaukee eventually lording it for the Eastern Conference crown. Also, look to Orlando to spring some surprises.
In the West, while everyone is putting their money on an LA turf war between the Lebron James/Anthony Davis-led Lakers and the Clippers, featuring Kawhi Leonard and Paul George; I wouldn’t count out the Houston Rockets team just yet. The Harden-Westbrook tandem will outrun most defenses, but they admittedly lack height and rebounding power. If there will be a surprise contender in the West, I’m banking on how the Portland Trailblazers, with everyone healthy, actually have a line-up that’s designed to go deep.
We can only hope and pray that the bubble lasts; as the number of days required to keep this season and the playoffs going, will test the mental mettle of these athletes. One glaring misstep and this bubble may well burst, and that would be a sorry shame.Major League Baseball in the USA had a start to its 2020 season that looked like the first sailing days of the Titanic. Without a ‘bubble’ designed to be coronavirus-free, with teams traveling across the country, it looked like this was a disaster waiting to happen. One team reported 9 players who were found to be COVID-positive, and the domino effect of this, with games cancelled, had me prognosticating that this was going to be one problematic season. We’ll be lucky to see a World Series still happen.
Professional tennis marks its return August 10 in Kentucky, with a minor women’s tournament that has the Williams sisters and Coco Gauff signed up to compete. On the men’s side, there have been tournaments in Europe, all aimed at whitewashing the disaster that struck when Djokovic tried to jumpstart the return of tennis with a tourney in his hometown that ended up with a number of players found to be COVID-positive. The US Open and French Open are coming one after another by the end of August. And luckily for the sport, this is one game that intrinsically has social distancing; so if health protocols are properly maintained before, during, and after the matches, this should be a sport that successfully makes its return.
Golf is another sport that can safely make a return. And with the Tiger Woods-Phil Mickelson Rematch that had Tom Brady and Peyton Manning as golfing sidelights, golf was the sport with the first major event happening during the pandemic. And while European golf is well-established in terms of making its comeback, the jury is still out on whether it can successfully resume in the USA, given that the pandemic seems to be out of control in so many Southern states.
The National Football League (NFL) has its small share of Filipino fans; but I don’t think there’ll be much happening on the front of American football. Mixed martial arts, and its readiness to travel anywhere around the world to stage its bouts, has a much more successful track record during this pandemic.
Back here in the Philippines, the million-peso question is whether we’ll see a 2020 PBA restart? The return of the MECQ this August was like two steps back for our premier professional sports league; and we can only watch and wait if a season does unfold under strict guidelines and with games held behind closed doors. Watching the NBA resume without live crowds was a little disorienting at the outset; but given the skill sets of the players, I soon got used to the relative quiet of the NBA games.
And I’m sure that for one building janitor, that the games were resuming at all was more than enough. He’s just one representative of an audience that’s overjoyed that bubble or not, the games have once again, begun!
Lead photo from Unsplash