Sports look to be back just in time.
The world is torn as to whether we should be celebrating the return of professional sports so soon. Some say that they waited too long to return and others are saying that they did not wait long enough. With this controversy in mind it’s important to also consider how this decision is going to affect the fans, the athletes and the industry moving forward.
Many people believe that the return of professional sports was well timed. As Bill Brooks stated, they used their time off very well to stay safe and to come up with some excellent safety protocols. The required testing, reduced practice sizes, and keeping fans out of stadiums provide some comfort that everything is being done to effectively care for the health of those involved and to keep the industry alive and flourishing. Even with the extra precautions in place, Brooks reports that the overall enjoyment that he feels for the game hasn’t shifted. When we watch from the comfort of our homes we are focused more on the players than we are on the fans and we are not exposed to the pregame precautions of testing and isolating which helps to preserve the enjoyment that we feel when watching our favourite teams. The return of such a large staple of our society allows for us to feel a bit more normal about the entire situation that we are currently living in, and it could not have come at a better time.
Not everyone agrees with the return of professional sports so soon. Many people believe that they should have held off on this return. Some, like Tiana Karhut, would go so far as to say that they should have waited another year before starting these leagues again. This strong opinion brings up an interesting idea about the sports world as a business. What stopped them from waiting until next year to have a proper start to the season? Was it pressure from the fans and players or does it come down to them just trying to run a successful business?
In order for the business that is professional sports to thrive they need the support of their fans. Even though some are excited that they have returned for us to enjoy from the comfort of our homes, there is a general consensus that they do not have the same level of enjoyment. Many are finding it significantly difficult to get into a game and experience the joy that we would have felt before. Whether it is the shock of seeing the stands initially empty, the feeling of being disconnected when you cannot be physically present in the stands or the ability to enjoy the game with other fans, many of us question if this truly was worth the risk.
We are craving this feeling of normality in our lives, and being able to return to the stands in the future may help provide this for us. However, everyone agrees that serious precautions need to be put into action before any of us seriously consider stepping foot into the parking lot of a stadium, let alone sitting inside. Karhut states that she would not feel comfortable going to a live game as long as we still have active cases within the province. Once we are to that point she strongly believes that masks would need to be made mandatory at events and that we would need to start at half capacity to ensure that social distancing precautions can be enforced.
There are disagreements when it comes to the idea of having sporting events at half capacity. Brooks stated that it should be an all-or-nothing approach. If we do not have a vaccine, there are still active cases and they do not have effective protocols in place then nobody should be allowed to attend the games live. Although we may enjoy the experience of going to a live event, it is not worth the risk for franchises to throw together haphazard precautions to try and have a portion of fans back into the seats. If we want things to feel like they are back to normal then a half-full event is not going to do the trick. It will end up drawing more attention to the tension of the times that we are currently living in.
Not only are there many opinions being expressed about the safety of the fans, there is also a division about the wellbeing of the players who are returning to their respected teams currently. James Wasyliw is one of many who are concerned about the negative impacts that this is having on the psychological wellbeing of the players.They are being put under enormous pressure to return and many feel as though they are not being given a choice as this is their livelihood. That, accompanied with the increased exposure risk from teammates, staff, and opposing teams causes huge amounts of stress on an individual – stress which weakens their immune systems making them more susceptible to potential illness.
Others do not express these same concerns and believe that this is a positive thing for the players. Brooks states that it should be uplifting as they are returning to their work and doing what they love to do. These athletes show their passion for what they do by training harder, pushing past their perceived limitations in games and demonstrating their appreciation to their fans. Now that they are able to hit the practice fields and resume league play they are able to continue to share the passion they have with the rest of the community.
Although people are in agreement that there is no way that fans should be attending sporting events anytime soon there is still much controversy that is present. Was it the right decision to resume leagues or should they have postponed till next year? Was this just a business scheme or did they take enough time to ensure proper precautions were in place? How are players handling the decisions being made? So many questions and yet so little answers for the fans. For now I suppose, kick back, grab a snack, and enjoy cheering for your favourite teams in the comfort of your pyjamas.