By Sam Frellick and Charlie Brown, Staff Writers
As the coronavirus pandemic continues on into its third month, one group of Payton students hoping for some return to normalcy is sports fans. Like most industries in America, the NBA shut down in March, and as the shutdown has continued, leagues such as the MLB have had to completely reshape their leagues on the fly. Now, after months of discussions, plans are coming into place for a return for professional sports, a boost that Americans sorely need in these difficult times.
The NBA was hit hardest by the coronavirus, with numerous players contracting the virus, including star players Kevin Durant, Rudy Gobert, and Donovan Mitchell. The league shut down completely in March, and is just now finalizing plans to return. Thankfully, fans hoping for basketball entertainment during the shutdown were able to watch The Last Dance, a ten part documentary covering Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls of the 1990s. The documentary recently ended its five week run on ESPN, but for many Payton students, it was a welcome look into a past period of Chicago history, and a great doc for basketball fans looking for a fix.
As senior George Stamatis said, “I thought the documentary was awesome. You hear all about Michael Jordan growing up in Chicago, but I obviously never got to see him play with my own two eyes, and this documentary was a great chance to see how great he and that team were during the 90’s.”
The Last Dance, a documentary over 20 years in the making, featured behind the scenes footage and exclusive interviews with every member of the Chicago Bulls dynasty of the 1990s, but was criticized by some as not being critical enough of Jordan. Nonetheless, NBA fans suddenly finding themselves without any basketball to watch will be happy to know that the NBA is finalizing plans to return in late July, with more concrete details to be released on Thursday. Hopefully, this can serve as some sort of return to normalcy for basketball fans everywhere.
While the NBA season was cut short, The MLB season opener was right around the corner when COVID-19 hit. While most of America’s major sports are trending upwards in popularity, baseball has been struggling to maintain its status as one of the most viewed sports in the nation. With the game’s popularity declining recently, the MLB has been trying to make the game more entertaining by setting a time limit between innings and making it so relievers must face at least three batters before getting pulled (this expedites the game as bringing in new relievers takes time).
It is likely that if sports were to resume in the next few months, games would have to be played without fans. According to ESPN, the MLB told players that if they played for their normal salaries without fans in attendance the MLB would lose an average of $640,000 per game. This is a big issue, and to address it, the MLB had to negotiate with players about their contracts. Nationals pitcher Max Sherzer, who is one of eight players on the Player Union’s executive subcommittee tweeted, “There’s no reason to engage with MLB in any further compensation reductions.”
Other players who were upset at the idea of taking a paycut were Bryce Harper and Blake Snell. Blake Snell made controversial comments on the situation stating, “The risk is way the hell higher and the amount of money I’m making is way lower,” which was supported by Bryce Harper who stated, “Somebody’s gotta say it. At least he manned up and said it.” With a league that was hoping to see big improvements this year, the MLB needs to find a compromise with their players soon if they hope to find their success of the past.
As quarantine continues to keep Americans indoors, our thirst for sports grows every day. While the audience is there, professional sports organizations like the MLB and NBA struggle to find a way to deliver us entertainment due to issues like player safety, contracts, a lack of a live audience, stadiums, and other technicalities that further delay players from stepping onto the field or the court.
While the wait has been long, it seems that American sports should be back soon enough, and the nation can take one more step towards returning to life before COVID-19.