Back in March, nobody would have thought we would be in a situation where the NBA was playing the remaining 8 games of the regular season and the playoffs in a secluded bubble in Orlando, Florida, where everyone was forced quarantine in their hotel rooms before being allowed in.
You even had players like Rudy Gobert mockingly run his hands over the microphones on March 11, then soon after tested positive for Covid-19 which forced the NBA’s hand to shut down the season until a new plan could be developed.
Yet even though March was bad for the league, Adam Silver has once again shown that the NBA is able to evolve quickly, and created the plan for the bubble. And although there were many skeptics, the NBA has not had a positive test since July 20th, and there is no reason to believe that can not be continued until a champion is crowned.
How are other sports doing?
The NHL followed the bubble idea, which seems to be the only proven way to ensure that a season can be played safely and finish. They recently restarted their season as well, with a combination of a round-robin tournament as well as play-in series, and has had no positive cases since the teams joined the bubbles on July 25th.
The NHL has two separate bubbles, both in Canada, one in Toronto for the Eastern Conference and one in Edmonton for the Western Conference.
Major League Baseball, on the other hand, is not doing a bubble, whether because they felt it was not possible or would not be needed. They are taking precautions, such as aggressive testing and no fans in the stands, but there has been the expected outbreaks that have cause many games to be postponed and will attempt to be made up later.
MLB began the season with the idea for everyone to play 60 games, which obviously is much less than a normal 162-game season. Less than a week into the season, however, the Florida Marlins had an outbreak in which 21 members of the team, including 18 players, tested positive.
Their following 2 series were postponed, as well as the Philadelphia Phillies for a week since they were the Marlins’ opponents. MLB did decide to make the double headers 7-inning games, as well as starting a player on second base for all extra-inning games throughout the season to ensure that the season will go as smoothly as possible.
Then the St. Louis Cardinals had their own outbreak, and have missed the last 13 games as they try to get the spread under control. Now there is discussion on how many games a team will need to complete to be available for the postseason, which has already been increased to 16 teams out of the 30 major league teams.
With all of the problems with the first month of the truncated season, it should come as no surprise that the league is now considering a bubble atmosphere for the playoffs.
The National Football League was perhaps in the best position when Covid-19 hit, considering it had just finished its season and had 5 months until the next season started. Unfortunately, the NFL did not seem to think it would be a problem come summer, and didn’t really plan for how to deal with the virus during the season.
Sure, the NFL Draft was done perfectly, and a great sense of normalcy when we all had no other sports to watch. The schedule release added a little excitement, and it looked like the NFL had everything figured out.
Free agency was fun to watch, although there were some players that struggled since they were coming off of injuries and were not able to travel to different teams in order to be checked out.
But then summer came, and training camps were supposed to begin, and little was known about how the season would actually commence. The players had questions, and thew NFL didn’t have the answers.
The players pushed, and it was decided that the preseason wasn’t really needed, so all 4 weeks of the preseason and the Hall of Fame game were canceled. Testing procedures have been established, with an overabundance of testing to ensure that everybody involved with the team is safe. Obviously fans will not be at the games, although that hasn’t been announced by all of the teams yet, but it will be coming.
The first game is on September 10, so until then we will not know if the league’s safety measures are effective or not. 66 players have opted-out for the season, while the updated number of positive cases so far is 59 players, which is a little under 2% of the entire league.
Major League Soccer is trying to do both routes, having a MLS is Back Tournament, which will wrap up Tuesday when the Portland Timbers face Orlando City SC for the final. This was done in a bubble, in which all of the teams except FC Dallas and SC Nashville who withdrew after multiple cases of Covid-19 spread through both teams.
This was a month-long, World Cup style tournament held in Orlando. Now that the tournament is about to be over, the season will continue with teams hosting opposing teams, which will include FC Dallas and SC Nashville, who will play an additional 3 games against each other to make up for missing the tournament.
I am curious as to why the MLS has decided to go this route, especially since outside of the two teams who are thought to have brought the virus with them from their home sites there has been no outbreaks, but we will see how this plays out. The MLS Cup is slated to happen on December 12.
So far, the NHL and NBA are the only leagues that have proven that they can still have some semblance of a season through this pandemic. The bubble structure definitely seems to be working, with both leagues have gone multiple weeks without any cases at all, which is not the case in other major American sports.
Hopefully this continues, because even without fans in the stands, it is enjoyable to watch if you are a sports fan!
What do you think about the NBA bubble? Do you think other leagues should copy the idea and play in a contained area as well? Let me know in the comments below!