Just over  fourteen months ago that the sports world had never heard of “COVID-19”, but since early March 2020, “the virus” has become part of our sports vocabulary and it remains a constant concern.  When the 2021 Major League Baseball Season started on April 1st, the Washington Nationals had their first four games postponed due to COVID, and played their first game on April 6th with ten players on the sick list.  And in the midst of the 2021 National Hockey League season, the Vancouver Canucks were shut down from March 24th through April 18th when the majority of their team was hit by a COVID outbreak.

The COVID virus has changed our way of life, and people have lost things they have always taken for granted.  Sports are among those things that people have lost; both the ability to play sports and the ability to enjoy watching sports.  While this doesn’t affect lefthanded people any more than righthanded people, it does affect the world of sports and that is why we write about it.  We start with the major professional sports, and how they adapted and adjusted to allow the games to be played.

Major League Baseball was in the second week of spring training when the virus forced an immediately shut down.  They reconvened in July for a 60 game schedule (with no fans) and an expanded playoff.  There were a lot of games postponed due to COVID, but they managed to complete the season and an exciting playoff season and World Series.  The 2021 MLB season is underway (with some fans in the stands) and they hope to play all 162 games this year.  Minor League Baseball did not play at all in 2020, but they started again on May 4, and the 5000 players plus all the coaches and stadium staff who missed an entire year of their careers will try to resume them again.

The National Basketball Association had played about two-thirds of their regular season when they suspended play on March 11.  They resumed three months later in Orlando in the "bubble” that kept players and team staff secluded from the outside world.  The season was completed successfully, but the late ending forced a delayed and shortened 2020-21 season.  Most of the games have been played, although some players have missed time due to COVID-19, and limited numbers of fans have been allowed to return to the arenas.

The National Hockey League suspended their season just a few days after the NBA move, and followed a similar timetable and formula in returning to action.  They gathering into a few “bubble” sites in Canada to finish the season and the playoffs.  Their 202-21 season was also delayed and shortened, and they had to rearrange their divisions to avoid travel restrictions at Canadian/United States border.  Most of their games have been played except for the previously mentioned Vancouver Canucks and the COVID outbreak that ruined their season.

The Professional Golf Association Tour postponed most of their March, April and May 2020 events, but made up most of them later in the season (without fans), and the ladies on the LPGA did the same.  The Professional Bowlers Association stopped play in March and did not resume, and the women’s PWBA season was cancelled.  Both the ATP and WTA (men’s and women’s tennis) tours were shut down and many events including the beloved Wimbledon Tournament were not played, but they did return later in the summer to complete a shortened tour season.

Professional sports survived the pandemic, and we should always appreciate the sacrifices made by the players and team members who returned to play under some very difficult circumstances.  But the professional athletes, or the team owners, are not the ones we should be concerned about.  It is the effects of COVID of the entire world of sports, from college sports down, through high school and junior high sports and youth sports, and recreational sports for children and adults of all ages.  The entire world of sports was shut down, the courts and the fields were empty as people just stopped playing, and many people will never get back to where they were before.

College sports were severely hurt by COVID, starting with the NCAA College Basketball Tournament being cancelled.  Most colleges cancelled all sports related activities for the remainder of 2020, although college football managed to play the majority of their games and their championship season.  Economic losses caused by COVID are leading to some schools to end their sports programs, and many more to severely limit the number of sports they participate in.  And many individual players, especially seniors, lost their best chance to impress the professional scouts.

High school athletes were affected much the same way, and many will never be able to make up for the lost year.  The best and most dedicated might overcome the damage, but many of the average or below average athletes might never participate again.  Even amateur athletes, both children and adults, lost the ability to just go out and play ball when parks are closed, courts roped off, and baskets even removed from the hoops to keep us six feet apart.

When the virus is no longer a direct threat to us, the consequences of the pandemic will continue to affect us.  The professional sports world will need to fund and support a major effort to re-build and re-introduce sports to children and young adults who have been driven away from the games they love to play.  Otherwise, their pool of talented prospects will be interrupted and dried up, and the only sports that future generations will know are ESports.  For the sake of all our lefthanded friends, and even for righthanders, we hope that doesn’t ever happen.   

The COVID World of Sports

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