How sports leagues are responding to coronavirus

Sports

 (CNN) — One of the many facets of life put on hold by the coronavirus pandemic are, to the anguish of many fans, sports.

Days of obsessing over beloved teams — chatting about NBA playoff bets, lamenting about March Madness brackets or meticulously following the opening days of the MLB season — have been cut.

Just ask Benjamin Dennison.

The 24-year-old grew up watching basketball; he follows March Madness every year and told CNN he watches a few NBA games a week. When the NBA suspended its season and March Madness was canceled, he was shocked. Still, he said the changes were “totally necessary.”

Getting that many people together would just be too dangerous right now, he said.

To fill the void, Dennison said he watches classic NBA games that some channels have been airing. He’s also gone on YouTube and watched highlights. It helps, he said.

Pat Del Rosario, 28, got a little creative with his group of friends. Originally from the Bay Area, Del Rosario will sometimes stay up until 1 a.m. watching Golden State Warriors games from the East Coast. With the NBA on hold, he and some friends got together virtually and watched an old game together on YouTube, hitting play at the same time so they’d all be in sync.

“It kind of feels like we’re hanging out and COVID isn’t happening,” the New York City resident told CNN. “It’s like an outlet. It makes you feel normal.”

Though he’s saddened that so many sports are now on hold, he agrees with Dennison — the suspensions are necessary, he said.

And most leagues probably won’t be returning to normal anytime soon.

For everyone in mourning, here’s everything you should know on where professional leagues in the US stand on their coronavirus response, and when you can expect your teams to return.

MLB

In March, Major League Baseball canceled spring training and indefinitely delayed the start of the 2020 season, meant to begin on March 26.

But as the coronavirus spread has yet to slow down, the league is now considering other options — most notably playing the entire season in one location.

“While we have discussed the idea of staging games at one location as one potential option, we have not settled on that option or developed a detailed plan,” the MLB said in a statement Tuesday.

The league is considering “numerous contingency plans” for once the situation improves, the league said.

Baseball could actually be back beginning as early as May, ESPN reported.

Other reports say the league is looking to get all teams to play in Arizona, where half of MLB teams hold their spring training in the Phoenix area. The stadiums are all within about 50 miles from each other, allowing teams to quarantine in a hotel and not have to travel far for their games.

The games, of course, would be played with no fans.

Still, the MLB says it has yet to seek approval for any specific plan from government officials or the players association so far.

NBA/WNBA

Almost a month ago, the NBA suspended its season after Utah Jazz player Rudy Gobert tested positive for coronavirus. This week, commissioner Adam Silver said there would be no word on when basketball will be back until May — at the earliest.

What’s a bored NBA fan to do?

Well, for one, it seems like the players are just as antsy as the fans. Sixteen players — including Trae Young, Devin Booker, Zach LaVine and Demarcus Cousins — have been participating in an NBA 2K20 tournament, in which they battle each other in the basketball video game. So, it’s not real ball, but maybe it’ll fill the void in fans’ hearts.

If simulated basketball just won’t do, the NBA has made League Pass free until April 22 for fans stuck at home. The service offers replays of games from the 2019-2020 season, as well as archived classic games.

Still, many questions remain about the NBA’s return, and it’s not just about the start date. How will the regular season’s timeline be affected? How will playoffs operate? These are questions Silver alluded to in an interview with TNT, but he said it is too early to make any projections.

The WNBA, meanwhile, was meant to begin its season May 15, but it has since been postponed. New start dates have yet to be announced.

NHL

On March 12, the National Hockey League suspended its regular season, which was originally scheduled to end on April 4, followed by the Stanley Cup playoffs, of course.

Obviously, a wrench has been thrown into the regularly scheduled programming.

The league, like many others, doesn’t know much right now, though commissioner Gary Bettman said Tuesday officials hope to know more by the end of April. That means the fans could be watching hockey in the middle of summer.

NASCAR

NASCAR has postponed all race events through May 3, but that doesn’t mean there’s no racing to be seen. It’s just gone virtual.

Many NASCAR drivers, including the likes of Dale Earnhardt Jr., have taken up iRacing — where drivers race from the comfort of their home. The sport existed long before coronavirus, but has been getting extra attention because of the virus.

Fox Sports has plans to air the rest of the iRacing season on their platforms, making the sport easily available for NASCAR fans to tune in.

NFL

The actual National Football League’s season may be a few months away, but the 2020 draft is still scheduled for April 23.

How’s that possible? The draft is going full virtual, with coaches and team personnel making picks from their individual homes, announced commissioner Roger Goodell in a memo.

Meanwhile, league and club facilities will remain closed indefinitely. The NFL season is scheduled to kick off in September, but depending on the status of the epidemic, that could change.

Tennis

Both men’s and women’s professional tennis — the ATP and WTA tour — have suspended their seasons until June 7, freezing the rankings in the process.

That means that the French Open, or Roland Garros, which typically begins in May, has been moved to instead begin on September 20.

Wimbledon, however, has been completely canceled. It had been scheduled to begin on June 29.

That being said, it’s a difficult time for tennis fans everywhere. With players stuck at home, some have taken to social media to provide some content for those feeling tennis-deprived.

Venus Williams, for example, teamed up with Grigor Dimitrov to host a workout session on Instagram Live. It might not make up for Wimbledon, but it’s something.

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