The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has disrupted schools, festivals and whole ass countries. We can now add sporting events to the list of things affected by the emerging pandemic.
March Madness is a beloved springtime tradition among college sports enthusiasts. Unfortunately, the month-long tournament will be held in empty arenas according to The Hill. The NCAA announced on Wednesday that only “essential staff and limited family attendance” would be allowed at both the men’s and women’s tournaments. This comes only a day after it was announced the Ivy League was canceling both its men’s and women’s tournaments due to the virus. While the decision is completely understandable, it is undoubtedly disappointing to those looking forward to the event. March Madness gives fans and students a chance to rep and celebrate their schools. Seeing a champion be crowned in an empty arena is going to feel a bit eerie.
The NCAA isn’t the only sports organization facing empty arena games. ESPN reports that Thursday’s game between the Golden State Warriors and Brooklyn Nets will also take place in an empty arena. This comes after the San Francisco Health Office issued an order that prohibited events in which 1,000 or more people would gather. A tweet by the Warriors stated that all fans who had purchased tickets for the game would be refunded. In the same thread, the Warriors revealed that all events at the Chase scheduled through March 21 would be canceled or moved to a later date. This is the last home game for the Warriors until March 25.
The Warriors may not be the only team set to be affected by the spread of COVID-19. The NBA’s board of governors is scheduled to have a conference call on Wednesday with the commissioner and representatives for the owners of each of the league’s teams They are expected to discuss how the NBA intends to respond to the spread of the disease. Conference calls between general managers and team presidents are expected to be held on Thursday.
Some of the solutions the league is considering involve playing games in cities not yet hit by the outbreak, doing more empty arena games and even suspending the season for the time being. It’s unfortunate timing too as playoff season is just around the corner. That said, I hope the NBA takes a page from the NCAA and really considers the health of both its athletes and fans. The financial ramifications of empty arena games are obvious but if it helps slow down the spread of the disease, then it can only be a good thing.
Besides, if an empty arena match is good enough for The Rock and Mankind to fight for the WWF Championship then dammit, it’s good enough for an exhibition game.