Sports Highlights Since They’ve Been Back

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University of Hawaii Athletics

The Covid-19 pandemic shut sports down around the United States in March. Sports slowly started to return in June, and shockingly, has been able to continue (for the most part) since then in different settings (sometimes with no fans, sometimes with pumped-in crowd noise, sometimes with a player taken off the field during a game because of Covid). But, it’s still nice to have sports back at all.

And as we get closer toward the end of the year, it’s worth looking back at the unique sports that we’ve been treated to in recent months.

NBA Bubble
This NBA season lasted for a total of 355 days. It nearly reached a full calendar year due to shutting down for three months due to Covid. On March 11, the NBA to postponed its season after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert and shooting guard Donovan Mitchell tested positive for coronavirus. The sports world was in a frenzy when NBA Commissioner Adam Silver announced on May 29 that the NBA would return to action in July. His plans were to resume the season in a bubble — hotels and gyms set aside only for the NBA players, coaches, staff, media and select family members — at Walt Disney World in Orlando. With the bubble being enforced throughout the entire playoffs, this proved to be effective as there were no cases of positive tests from players or coaching staffs. The Los Angeles Lakers were eventually crowned NBA Finals champions for the 17th time in franchise history, and Lebron James took home his fourth career title.

MLB 60-game regular season
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred announced on June 23 that a season would happen, starting July 23. After a number of Covid cases early in the season led to players unable to compete and games cancelled, the Miami Marlins organization reported 17 cases of coronavirus after a series against the Philadelphia Phillies, Milwaukee centerfielder Lorenzo Cain and few more all-star players also elected to opted out of season due to Covid concerns,  and yet the league somehow was able to make it through its 60-game schedule. The expanded playoff for each league (eight teams were allowed and each first-round series was a best-of-three) sure ramped up the excitement. Los Angeles faced the unlikely Tampa Bay Rays in the Fall Classic, and the Dodgers finally ended a 32-year drought by winning the World Series in six games.

Virtual NFL Draft
On April 23, the 2020 NFL Draft started its first round. It was held completely virtually, with even the first-round players (who usually are at the draft to hug Commissioner Roger Goodell) waiting at home for their names to be called. Cincinnati surprised no one by taking LSU quarterback Joe Burrow with the top pick, and Ewa Beach native Tua Tagovailoa was selected 5th overall in the first-round to Miami Dolphins. The three-day virtual draft showed us that it was possible for some sporting events to be accomplished without fans, and then we could start to talk about teams that had the best draft or the worst, which was a little return to normalcy.

U.S. Open: PGA Tour
On Sept. 17, this was a huge moment in the PGA Tour, as the 96th annual U.S. Open was the first major held with no fans in attendance. As golf is an individual sport, it also adds extra adrenaline when you have thousands of roaring fans after every shot you pursue on the course. Eventually, Bryson DeChambeau would pull a 6-under par victory at Mamaroneck, New York. The 27-year-old would win his first major in his PGA career. The feel of a major tournament this time around just wasn’t the same without fans. But for the fans of golf, it was exciting to see that it was finally back.

First day of the NFL
What would America be without NFL football? The NFL skipped its preseason and started with the regular season on Sept. 9, a week after it had originally been scheduled. Defending Super Bowl champs Kansas City kicked off the season with shootout win over Houston, Tom Brady started his tenure at Tampa Bay with a loss to New Orleans, and reigning MVP Lamar Jackson looked sharp in a 38-6 win over Cleveland. Though most stadiums were empty during the games, the return of the NFL was a welcome diversion for avid fantasy football players.  

First game of college football
Sept. 3 marked the first official day of the college football season with the Central Arkansas vs. UAB barnburner. This was only a week late. The following week is when the full season started with the powerhouses rejoining the action. Eventually, the Big Ten and Mountain West Conference also voted to play, and Hawaii started debuted with a win against Fresno State on Oct. 24. As weird as this college football season has been so far, as of the beginning of November, it’s starting to look like a normal season as Clemson and Alabama are again atop the rankings.