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Leagues struggle to keep playing through global pandemic

Efforts made by major sports leagues around the world to restart their seasons have been made while overcoming a virus and financial instability. 

Along the way, several blunders have been made by various sports organizations, disrupting their schedules and putting lives at risk. In midSeptember, 43 games in total on the MLB schedule had to be postponed due to coronavirus cases. The games impacted 16 team schedules in all as of Tuesday, Sept. 15. By that time, five different teams had a player or staff member test positive for coronavirus, while both the Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals contracted it team-wide, according to CBS Sports. 

Marlins infielder Jazz Chisholm sits on the field prior to his team’s playoff game on Tuesday, Oct. 6. (Photo credit: @Marlins via Twitter)

The pandemic has impacted the restart of the college football season this fall, pushing back the openers for many powerhouse programs and forcing many other schools to abandon the season entirely.  

So far three bowl games have been removed from the college football postseason, the Redbox Bowl, Hawaii Bowl and Bahamas Bowl. The Redbox Bowl is typically held in Santa Clara, California, an area that has become a COVID-19 hotspot. In addition, there is too much to consider when crossing borders to Hawaii and the Bahamas in the short time period where bowl selections are made and teams start preparing. ESPN Events owns and operates both of these bowls, also holding college basketball tournaments in Hawaii and the Bahamas which have now been cancelled.  

“We are disappointed that we aren’t able to stage events at these premier destinations this year,” Pete Derzis, ESPN senior vice president of college sports programming and ESPN Events said. “We are committed to bringing both games back in 2021, and we thank our conference partners, sponsors and the local communities for their ongoing support and understanding.” 

This past week, NFL experienced its first coronavirus outbreak just four weeks into the season.  

On Sunday, Oct. 4, fullback Khari Blasingame of the Tennessee Titans along with a staff member tested positive for COVID-19. The sixth straight day that at least one player on the team returned a positive test. At that time the Titans had amassed 20 positive cases, 10 team personnel and 10 players from seven different position groups.  

As a result, the Titans’ game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday was postponed by the NFL in order to “ensure the health and safety of players, coaches and game day personnel.” It remains unclear whether the Titans will play the Buffalo Bills on Oct. 11, as scheduled.  

The Steelers and Titans treated functionally treated this as a bye week, they will face off during Week 7 on Sunday, Oct. 25 at 12p.m.. The NFL issued certain protocols for the bye week setting the tone for testing. Their guidelines require players to not leave their team’s home city and to get daily COVID-19 tests. If a player misses a test, they are fined $50,000. A second missed test warrants a one game suspension.  

Tennessee Titans players link arms during the National Anthem before a game this season. (Photo credit: @Titans via Twitter)

Yesterday, the Kansas City Chiefs defeated the New England Patriots 2610 to stay undefeated. The game was originally set for Sunday afternoon, but was rescheduled after the Patriots starting quarterback Cam Newton tested positive for coronavirus. A Chiefs practice squad player also contracted the virus, so the game was played on Monday, Oct. 5 at 7:05 p.m.. 

The NFL is using a variety of different approaches to maintain health and safety among the coaches, players and staff. Similar to the MLB, it’s relying on frequent testing, social distancing, and implementing new practices for how teams interact in locker rooms, team planes and sidelines. However, these efforts are heavily reliant on coaches and players self-policing in order to be successful, which has led to issues already.  

Sports are back and the various leagues are trying to recover from the effects of the pandemic. Football in particular is back in a big way, choosing not to play in a closed community of teams like the NBA before them. It remains to be seen if the NFL can pull off a full season ending with the Super Bowl in February considering the problems that have already arisen.  

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