The Miami Marlins have postponed two games in response to a locker room COVID-19 outbreak. Rob Manfred now faces his first obstacle in the shortened 2020 season. The challenges of dealing with this virus will not present exclusively to baseball. All major sports leagues should view this as a warning.
The notion that leagues like the NFL and NBA will be able to complete their seasons uninterrupted is naive. This is not, however, an excuse for pulling back on plans. Instead, it is an opportunity to get creative.
The Marlins have postponed two games. More are sure to come. This then affects the teams who were supposed to play against Miami. In turn, that affects all teams’ schedules and the league’s standings. To a pessimist like Manfred, this could be a sign to call it a season. To the innovative mind, this is time go get to work.
Outbreaks like the one the Marlins are experiencing will happen elsewhere. Whether it is the confined spaces of the NBA’s bubble or the crowded piles of humans on top of a running back in the NFL – people will interact and the novel corona virus will spread.
How can all sports learn from this?
So, what to do? Linear thinking needs to go out the window. We cannot rely on traditional seasons in which there is one calendared path to a trophy. The major sports leagues need to get creative in their institution of smaller tournaments.
The NBA has attempted to do this with their bubble experiment. It would be wise for Roger Goodell to have a backup plan as well instead of proceeding as if everything will be fine.
Leagues like the NFL need to focus on establishing smaller tournaments in which fewer teams compete against fewer opponents. From these tournaments can emerge tiered playoff systems that connect more teams. Having a system like this prevents the large blows that shutting down an entire team could have to the integrity of a league.
The Marlins’ COVID-19 outbreak is a warning. As a country, we have not been good at listening to warnings in 2020. To all major sports, let’s change that.