Florida Professional Sports After COVID-19

Ah, sports. What would we do without them? One of the premiere American traditions is getting together on Sunday and catching football games at 1 p.m., watching the primetime basketball matchups on Saturday, and going to support your team at their stadium no matter how badly they are playing. At this point, we worship sports as a religion. However, given the unfortunate health concerns from the COVID-19 outbreak, all professional sports have been either postponed or their seasons have been canceled.

Luckily, NASCAR has started holding televised races once again, so sports fans finally have something to watch. But with no basketball, baseball, soccer, hockey, or football to entertain and excite fans, everyone wants to know when we can get back to yelling at TV screens and buying hot dogs at Raymond James stadium. Football fans in particular feel starved of the intense matchups of their favorite teams and are dying to know if the season is returning in the fall. Well, the answer isn’t really black and white.

The plan

The NFL has stated that they plan on proceeding with the regular season per usual, minus the international games that were canceled in an effort to quarantine Americans. However, they maintain that they will be flexible and make the smartest decisions based on the current health info available at the time.

But will our beloved teams be playing in front of audiences? That, we also do not know. With the US federal government leaving the allowance of large gatherings in sports arenas up to individual states, there are many different opinions and strategies. 22 states currently have at least one NFL team, so that means 22 different governments must make a decision. We Floridians have so far been a part of the lucky and optimistic bunch.

Governor’s announcement

Governor Ron DeSantis has already announced that the Sunshine State will be open to all professional sports practices and games. He even went as far as inviting teams from other states to play ball here in Florida. At a news conference he announced to the country, “What I would tell commissioners of leagues is, if you have a team in an area where they just won’t let them operate, we’ll find a place for you here in the state of Florida.” Like Florida, announcements were made in Arizona, as they were the two first states to announce the reopening of professional sports.

Other states, such as Michigan, are taking a more precautious approach, and have not opened up games yet. The governor also told the public that there will be no full stadium until a vaccine is found and considerable strides are taken. Time will only determine the rate at which governors open our beloved games to be played and give the green light for fans to attend.

Players’ thoughts

What do players in the league have to say about this? Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins has said playing games without fans present would be “kind of be refreshing.” Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford recently said, “It’s like going for a long run with no music or whatever it is, it’s just different. It’s just something that those guys have become so accustomed to, feeding off that energy. There’s definitely a feel. It would definitely feel different, I would think.”

COVID-19 has led to so much uncertainty in all aspects of our lives. But one thing for sure is that this NFL season is going to be one of the most unique and entertaining runs in the league’s 100-year history.

Read Shane’s previous story for The Suncoast Post.

Photos courtesy of Raymond James Stadium Facebook Page.

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2020-05-22