Although it had already been looming large for weeks, the degree to which coronavirus would upend American life didn’t become clear until March 11. In the span of roughly an hour, both Tom Hanks and Utah Jazz star Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19. The NBA season was suspended indefinitely soon after the test results came back, which became a sign of what was to come for the sports world.
Every major sports league followed suit the next day, with the NHL suspending games, MLB suspending spring training play, and the NCAA canceling all remaining spring and winter championships, including March Madness. It was swift and unprecedented action that underscored just how seriously social distancing practices would take hold.
Since the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games were set to begin a bit later into the summer, there was more uncertainty about if the world will be in a state to participate in the games by its start date of July 24. On Tuesday morning, the International Olympic Committee announced it would be postponing the 2020 Games to “a date beyond 2020 but not later than summer 2021.” This followed pleas from the Canadian Olympic Committee and Canadian Paralympic Committee, which announced on Sunday that it would not send the country’s athletes to the games this summer.
American consumers largely support the decision to postpone the 2020 Olympic Games, with 75% of adults polled by CivicScience strongly agreeing with the decision to push it back to 2021. Perhaps underscoring how seriously most adults are taking coronavirus at this time, just 6% of those surveyed disagree to some extent with the Olympics’ postponement.Although the Olympic Games will likely proceed as planned next year, it’s a bit harder to determine the course of action for American sports leagues with interrupted seasons. The NHL and NBA were both approaching the postseason with most regular season games in the books, so it may be easier to abbreviate those remaining games or shorten early round playoff series. Baseball presents a new set of challenges, with Opening Day being delayed indefinitely and the entire season likely getting pushed into June or July at the earliest.
Does an 80 game season count as a legitimate World Series run? As we wait to see how long the period of heightened social distancing may last, that could become the only way to salvage a lost season. CivicScience asked nearly 4,000 adults if they prefer a full slate of games when the outbreak dies down, a shortened schedule, or to cancel the season outright. Like with the Olympics, a majority of adults polled prefer some adjustment to the professional leagues, whether it be cancellation or shortening the season. Most prefer shortened seasons — 41% of adults — with a quarter of adults backing the canceled seasons. While it’s more likely for the indoor pro sports, 19% of adults support playing out the full slate of games.As millions of Americans isolate themselves to limit the spread of coronavirus, it’s natural to imagine what the other side of this looks like, or when it might emerge. Based on the survey results, it appears that most adults prefer amended schedules for the major sports leagues, and if the Olympic polling is any indication, they’re bracing to see significant changes persist into the summer.