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The return of sporting events isn’t a sprint

© Michael Probst/AP  Reserve players on a German soccer team sit apart in the stands to reduce the chance of spreading the novel coronavirus. U.S. professional sports leagues have not returned to play, but are planning to do so.

By Fred Bowen, The Washington Post

The signs are everywhere.

The owners and players’ union in Major League Baseball (MLB) are trying to figure out how to get a shortened baseball season started by the Fourth of July. The National Basketball Association (NBA) is discussing restarting its season in July with games played in one location: Orlando, Florida. The National Hockey League (NHL) is planning for a 24-team playoff.

Golf events and car races are popping up on television. Soccer games have started again in Germany.

There are a lot of details to be worked out, but slowly and carefully sports are trying to come back in these strange and scary days of the coronavirus pandemic. Here are some things to remember as games begin:

© Pool/Reuters  Bayern Munich soccer players wear face masks before a match Wednesday. The stadium was empty of fans.

First, no one is talking about having fans at the games or other events right now. For example, the soccer stadiums for the German Bundesliga matches are empty. The reserve players did not even sit together on their team’s bench. They sit safely away from one another in the stadium seats.

It may be a while before crowds — sitting packed together where the novel coronavirus could easily spread — are allowed.

Second, these are professional leagues. We often think of leagues such as MLB, the NBA or the NHL as sports, but they are also big businesses worth billions of dollars. Like any business, such as a restaurant or theater, the professional sports leagues want to open so they can make money.

In addition, the players in these leagues are often paid a lot. The leagues and the players are trying to make the games as safe as possible. Still, the players may be willing to take some risks with their health to go back to work.

There has been some talk that college football games should be played even if there are no fans or the campuses are partly closed. But college players, unlike the pros, are not paid. So schools should be careful before they ask their student athletes to take health risks so coaches, administrators and TV networks can make money.

Finally, some sports may be better suited to be played during the coronavirus pandemic. Golf, baseball and soccer are played outdoors, and the players can often stay a safe distance apart from one another.

Basketball and hockey, however, are indoor sports with lots of contact and close play. It may be harder in those kinds of sports for players to avoid catching or spreading the novel coronavirus.

There are a lot of questions to be answered before sports can return and be played safely. But after months without sports, it is wonderful to hear sports may be coming back.

Read more at The Washington Post

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