A Sports fan without Sports : Uncharted Territories

About a month ago, the world of sports was thriving.

The NBA was experiencing one of its most entertaining seasons in years, and the MVP discussions between Giannis Antetokounmpo and LeBron James were in full force. Fans got goosebumps at even the thought of May and June, as they knew they were going to experience a whirlwind postseason slate.

Spring Training activities for MLB clubs down in Arizona and Florida were well underway, Christian Yelich was in the lineup daily for the Brewers, and Gerrit Cole was settling in nicely in Yankee pinstripes. A highly anticipated 2020 season was scheduled to start in a few weeks.

And we can’t forget about the then looming NCAA Tournament, a sports fans dream. Four straight weeks of complete basketball madness? Sounds amazing.

However, sports and the world as a whole came to a sudden halt. Because of the coronavirus outbreak, the NCAA Tournament got canceled and the NBA  and MLB seasons were suspended, all within 24 hours. The first blow came when the NCAA announced the tournament would take place without fans. Hours later the NBA suspended their season, due to the announcement that Rudy Gobert had been diagnosed with the coronavirus. The next day the MLB suspended their season and the NCAA Tournament was altogether canceled, leaving everyone stunned and sad.

After all this news came out, I was left heartbroken. No NCAA Tournament? At least a month without the NBA? I didn’t even know what was coming. But I knew the restrictions were necessary. 20,000 fans in a packed arena during the outbreak of a deadly virus doesn’t seem like the best idea.

This news especially hit hard for everyone living in Wisconsin. The Badgers basketball team was about as hot as you can get going into postseason play, and all of a sudden, the season gets canceled. If you think it was devastating for you as a fan, think about it from the perspective of a player. As if losing key players due to elgibility wasn’t enough going into the season, Howard Moore, a beloved assistant coach was tragically involved in a car accident that killed two members of a family. Most teams go years without hearing such awful news and now that’s the way your season starts. Wow. The season itself was a struggle for much of the year, resulting in point guard Kobe King to leave the team midseason. After all of that, the Badgers still were adjust, and they got hot at just the right time. They won 8 straight games heading into the postseason after overcoming so much, and because of a virus, they can’t finish their season properly. What a shame.

And up in Milwaukee, man, this doesn’t get any easier. The 2019-20 Bucks team has by all means been the best team the franchise has seen since the early 1970s, and quite possibly could’ve been the best in the team’s history. The Bucks have spent countless season as a non-playoff team, so this season meant so much to Bucks fans. This year was filled with nothing but optimism that the Bucks would bring Milwaukee its first champion since 1971. And it really looked that way. On the day that the NBA was suspended, the Bucks were 52-13 and first in the Eastern Conference by a long shot. It was NBA Finals or bust. While the season hasn’t been officially canceled yet, the season will most certainly be tainted. Even if there is a champion, it won’t be crowned in a sold-out arena, rather in an empty practice facility in scrimmage like conditions. An echoey fieldhouse instead of a raucous, hungry Fiserv crowd.

In a strange way, no sports in the world feels worse than losing. The feeling you get when you think about how your favorite NBA team might not get the chance to compete for a championship is crushing. If they played out the season and the Bucks lost, you’ll deal with it, it’s still basketball, but when you’re not given a chance, it gets you more frustrated. You can’t help but think that a month from now you should be watching Giannis Antetokounmpo lead the Bucks through the Eastern Conference in a jam-packed Fiserv Forum. Instead, you’ll be thinking about the what-ifs. “Who would’ve won a Lakers-Bucks Finals” “Will Giannis have improved since last seasons playoffs?” And worst of all: “What would it have been like to see the Bucks win a title?

Onto baseball. The Brewers went through a major offseason re-haul, and the 2020 team was destined to be an interesting one. The roster is filled with a bunch of new misfits, which automatically builds anticipation within a fanbase to see them play. Unfortunately, because of the same reasons, there will not be baseball either for the foreseeable future. Strange ideas have been thrown out, such as playing all games in empty Spring Training facilities. Teams would have to play only in Arizona and Florida, at various team facilities. While this would be weird, I think any baseball fan would take it.

The question still remains, when will it be safe to return to sports, and when will it be safe to have fans fill stadiums like they once did? Also, if fans won’t be allowed in the stadium, should teams even play at all?  Without fans, the overall quality of the game will be for sure diminished. First off, most players won’t be as psyched to get on the field. Empty arenas and stadiums will undoubtedly give an eery feeling to whichever sport is being played. In key playoff games, the intensity will be nowhere close to what it usually is. An NBA Finals game will feel like nothing of the sort. The atmosphere that comes around for a few weeks per year will be gone.  While the desire to win a championship will remain, the absence of fans will give off an uneasy vibe that will make it difficult to compete with the most vigor.

While I know and agree with the reasonings for the loss of sports and temporary closure of stadiums, this is an extremely hard time for me and everyone else living in this world. If you know me at all you know that my life basically revolves around following my favorite teams, the Brewers, Bucks, and Packers. I truly love everything about sports. The experience of being a part of a playoff atmosphere is undescribable. However, I know that the temporary absence of these former mainstays are necessary during these times. We are truly living in uncharted territories. I also know that when sports do return, and when fans are back in the stands, that sports will genuinely be better than ever. The day that the gates of Miller Park and Fiserv Forum re-open will truly be glorious.

Thanks, Jacob Szczap


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