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NBA’s season suspension is unprecedented in American sports

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Could MLB be next?

UT: Phoenix Suns v Utah Jazz Photo by Chris Elise/NBAE via Getty Images

Where were you around 8:00 PM CT last night, when the NBA indefinitely suspended its season?

While signs had been pointing to this conclusion for a few days now, I still had to pick my jaw up off of the floor when I saw the announcement come onto the television at the rec center where I was working. Following the positive test for COVID-19 by Utah Jazz Center Rudy Gobert, the NBA would be suspending its season, indefinitely. Earlier in the day, the NCAA had announced that March Madness wouldn’t be so mad this year, as the games would be played without fans in attendance. While this was all but a certainty for NCAA and you could reasonably expect that the pro leagues would follow, a season suspension was quite a shock. Nothing like this has ever happened in the major American sports leagues. Could MLB be next?

Whether it was the Great Depression, or a World War, or Korea or Vietnam, pro sports have always provided a diversion from the grim reality of the situation. The NHL contracted during the Depression, the NFL contracted during WWII, but play has always gone on. None of these leagues have ever suspended play for an extended period of time for any reason other than labor disagreements. History is being made right now, for better or for worse. It’s something out of an H.G. Wells novel.

I’m still coming to grips with the fact that MLB Opening Day may be pushed back. Like Rogers Hornsby, all winter I’ve been staring out the window, waiting for spring.

However, I fear that the season will be pushed back, and MLB may not have a choice. With real lives at stake, and with the NBA taking the lead, I would be surprised if the other sports events do not fall in line. The media coverage of the entire COVID-19 debacle has been overwhelming (even panic-inducing). A frustrated part of me asks, “Where was this level of panic for Zika, Ebola, the swine flu, and the bird flu? Life went on when faced with these! Some of them were even deadlier than the Coronavirus!”

For better or for worse, the age of self-accountability has passed. The media and establishments no longer trust people to make the right decision and stay at home when sick. My university just suspended in-person classes until April 6th. And in a world where many can’t afford to miss work or class, and even more can’t afford to throw away the money they spent on a ticket, it’s easy to understand why someone may just write off their cough as a cold and keep on going. It’s the American Way. We praise people for toughing it out, for playing through it. The NBA took a stand and took that choice away from the people, and the NHL and MLB could be next. It might be a much longer winter than we could have ever anticipated.

Ed Note: Looks like MLS was next, but Hockey won’t be far behind.