Grading Every Leagues Return to Play


Alex Clough, Online Editor-In-Chief

   The Sports world halted in mid-March, the largest stoppage in play to date, leaving every sports league to handle the fall and eventually put the pieces back together. Having to weave between the wishes of the president and the directions of the CDC, each league had its own set of obstacles. Some were more successful than others, whether the league enacted a bubble or a regional restriction style of play, lets grade how all five of the major sports leagues achieved the goal of returning to play in the safest and most efficient way. 

   Major League Baseball (MLB): C: Any MLB fan asked about Rob Manfred’s job over the past few months would give overwhelming critical responses. The commissioner has been the root of a bumpy road regarding the league’s return. Starting in May, negotiations between the league’s commissioners and the MLB Players Association gained national news for the stalemate between both sides. 

   The question of playing a full season or even close to the normal 162 games was immediately shut down, leaving a shorter season that would contain a mere 60 games. The player’s contracts were a battleground, eventually leaving the owners to decide whether the MLBPA’s offer would be accepted, gladly though, all 30-team voted unanimously. When play started, a flurry of new issues arose as the league decided to not attempt the bubble, rather just restrict games between the east, central and west. 

   Some teams such as the Marlins got shut down for a week, along with the Phillies after two Marlins players broke protocols. This has been a common occurrence throughout the league, leaving sometimes with 10 fewer games played than others. Throughout the season though, the league has continued to play, giving hope to the players and the viewers at home, hopefully, this will continue deep into October.

  National Basketball League (NBA): A: The National Basketball League has been immaculate in its return to the national spotlight. The Leagues’ success has shown the brilliance of the bubble, giving the fans and the players all the atmosphere needed. All 22 teams (excluding the Magic) that qualified for the restart packed up and moved down to Orlando where three hotels housed the teams, coaches, and personnel. 

   The food might be a downgrade from what the players are used to, but with each team withing a chance of playoff basketball, the league jumped on the opportunity to make this a playoff atmosphere from the start. The games have been held at Disney’s Wide World of Sports where three arenas’ have been converted into courts with a LED screen spanning the baselines, making a very modern look to the games. 

   Crowd noise makes it feel a bit more normal, with the same suspense still intact. Overall, the NBA has made a spectacular experience for all and with the Finals just around the corner, let’s see if the league and its players stick the landing. 

  National Hockey League (NHL): A: Like the NBA and other leagues, the NHL decided on the bubble as the safest and most efficient way to get games going, as the season went on hold right before the Playoffs. While the NBA only has one location in Orlando, the NHL had its sights up north, way north. Both Toronto and Edmonton were chosen as the Canadian government gave the league go-ahead to continue operations in the country. Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, home of the Maple Leafs, held the eastern conference restart, while the Rogers Place in Edmonton, home of the Oilers, housed the Western Conference. 

   The coverage has been great, especially with the goosebumps that the Stanley Cup Play Playoffs tend to produce, the pumped in crowd noise makes it hard to believe 20,000 crazy fans aren’t screaming and shouting. 

   It seems that the league has also provided many activities for the players outside of the normal practices. In Toronto for example, BMO Field, home of the MLS’s Toronto FC, was converted into an activity area with food and games for the teams. The goal for each league should be to provide safe and fun opportunities for the players and an exciting at-home atmosphere for the fans, all of which the NHL has done very well. 

  Major League Soccer (MLS): B: The MLS had a very similar idea to that of the NBA, that being Disney. The ESPN Wide World of Sports facilitated all 26 MLS teams, well maybe not exactly. Like the MLB, MLS got off to a very rough start as both FC Dallas and Nashville SC experienced COVID outbreaks within the squad and staff which prevented either from participating in the tournament. 

   Being the first major league in America to resume, the MLS had no real precedent on how to deal with cases, especially in the bubble format. Also unique was the tournament that MLS created, the MLS is back tournament, which consisted of all teams playing a World Cup-style format with group stages followed by a knockout round. The field itself was equipped with an LED screen on the touchline, similar to the NHL and NBA. 

   The league was able to contain other cases, ending up with all teams playing the correct amount of games and the tournament finishing as the Portland Timbers defeated Orlando City SC in the finals. The games were entertaining and with the threat of COVID rooted out, fans and players enjoyed a good month of getting back to normal. 

   Other leagues such as the NWSL and WNBA had a great return, adding on to the generally positive response from the players and fans on sports coming back into the lives of so many. The National Football league kicked off this past weekend, looking to stick the landing on a great few months of normality returning, in the form of America’s beloved sports.