One year ago, sports stopped.
While it feels more like it was three years or five years ago, it was, in fact, one year. It’s been a long 365 days as we’ve seen sports, travel, communities and countries shut down. Many loved ones have been lost and in many places, we’re not through the pandemic. Focusing on sports specifically, let’s take a look and remember what we’ve been through in the last year.
Rudy Gobert Shuts Down the NBA
One year ago, Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert met the media — it was March 9 — where he didn’t take COVID-19 seriously. At the time, few people did. Gobert purposefully coughed on everything and rubbed his hands around – on the microphone, on the table – in an attempt to be funny. Little did he know that he was already infected with COVID-19 and that he’d end up passing it around and days later the NBA would be forced to stop its season.
At the time, Gobert was the butt of all jokes and the scapegoat for the league deciding to shut down. With a year’s worth of perspective, we know the shutdown was inevitable.
Rest Of Sports Follow Suit
It didn’t take long for the rest of the sports to follow. The NHL deliberated on what to do and then closed down operations. NASCAR and golf did the same. Major League Baseball didn’t get its season started. Bettors were starting to look around in the sportsbook and wonder what’s left on what to wager?
The debate shifted from which league was going to shut down next to when the leagues will reopen for business. Some people figured this would be a quick hit while others – even in early spring – were beginning to wonder if football could be played in the fall.
The challenge was that the pandemic was moving at different speeds all around the world. While certain major soccer leagues returned to action in the early parts of summer, the United States was in the throes of its highest case counts. That made it difficult for international sports like tennis or golf to continue. However, as the pandemic started to recede – or at least, the first wave – the leagues got back to business.
UFC Finds A Way
In a time where there was almost nothing on TV or in terms of online betting, Dana White and the UFC saved the day. They were adamant about continuing and they held up their word. They started building out Fight Island in Abu Dhabi – a place where they could avoid the pandemic and host events – and also found a way to safely host events in Florida. It was a bit of a saving grace as the lockdowns and stay-at-home orders really challenged people mentally. Having an outlet like the UFC – even if it was only once a week – really helped.
Table Tennis Takes Off
If there’s one thing that sports bettors will remember from the pandemic is the wild fringe sports that took center stage. Korean baseball got going, there were random soccer leagues in Ukraine and Russia that played, and then there was the star of the show: table tennis. Oddsmakers scrambled to put up lines on whatever was possible and table tennis was the one that took off. North Americans were staying up late, watching obscure internet streams just to have a little action. It goes to show what lengths we’ll reach to get un-bored.
Horse Racing Survives
One other sport that found a way to keep going was horse racing. It wasn’t every track but many of them were able to continue with their meets. At a time when there was precious little in the betting world, the horses kept running and the money kept on being bet.
Normalcy Returns In The Fall
Spring and summer were brutal, but normalcy started to return in the fall. It looked ugly at first as several power college football conferences canceled seasons but the NFL was steadfast about returning to action, and eventually, everything else fell in line. The NBA returned to play in a bubble in Orlando, which proved to be quite entertaining. The NHL also did the bubble-life while NASCAR zoomed on. With NFL games going as per usual – without fans, of course – it really started to feel like we’re getting back to normal life.
Clearly, the pandemic is still going and we’re now in the spring of 2021. More than half a million Americans have passed away. Here’s hoping that we’re through the worst of it and that by the summer and fall of 2021, we’re back to seeing sports as we know it: with tailgating, with cheerleaders, and with fans rocking the stadiums.