SPORTS: On Timeout, Postponed or (Gasp) Canceled?
Vanessa Joy Domingo
Even as we go to press, the situation for college and professional sports is unclear due to COVID-19. (In Hawai‘i, most high school sports for the fall including football and basketball are postponed while the Mountain West Conference of which the University of Hawai‘i is a football member announced on August 10 it was postponing the fall football season.)
The Big Ten (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue, Rutgers, and Wisconsin) announced plans on August 11 to cancel fall college football and to play in the spring. The PAC 12 (Arizona, Arizona State, California, Colorado, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, UCLA, USC, Utah, Washington, Washington State) immediately followed suit. With two Power-Five Conferences cancelling fall college football, the others (ACC, BIG12, SEC) may also cancel. The movement #WeWantToPlay started by college football players including several prominent names obviously was not enough as the college presidents heeded the medical advice.
“In a year where both of my alma maters (Yale and Cal) are expected to have banner years, I am disappointed,” said Gil Keith-Agaran. “But we are in the middle of a pandemic and safety remains key for us as a community to move forward. Until a vaccine and better understanding of the virus is understood, all activities will change especially the ability to have spectators and fans attending games in person.”
“I’m really saddened at the cancellation,” said Alfredo Evangelista. “My USC Trojans were ready to have a great season and I was hoping to go to Homecoming because one of the classes that is honored during Homecoming is the class that is celebrating its 40th reunion which would be the Class of 1980—my class. I was so looking forward to meeting my classmates at the game and bumping into Charles White, Paul McDonald, Brad Budde and Anthony Munoz.”
“I’ve been a USC fan since the Pete Carroll era. I’ve enjoyed watching Reggie Bush, Matt Leinart, and a high school classmate of mine, Kaluka Maiava,” said Donnie Dadiz. “You always have the Trojans up there competing in a bowl game in hopes of a Monday night date for the National Championship game. #FightOn. It’s tough when there’s the Big 12 Conference that has already canceled their season. On a side note I am also a fan of my Alma Mater, University of Hawai‘i. I’m kind of bummed about the Mountain West Conference cancelling the season. Better safe than sorry.”
Cancellation of the fall college football season was not totally unexpected. Already, COVID-19 caused the 2020 Summer Olympics to be postponed to 2021 making it the first time in history that an Olympiad was postponed. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) cancelled its March Madness men’s Division I basketball tournament along with other winter and spring NCAA championships—literally amongst the pandemic madness echoing throughout the world. Men’s volleyball was also canceled in the spring.
UH Rainbow Warrior Men’s Volleyball team fan Wilipaki Barbero enjoys going to the games. “Family members and I have attended and enjoyed Men’s Volleyball matches at the Stan Sheriff Center. Men’s Volleyball attendance records are the largest in the entire country. They generate larger crowds than Football, Basketball or Baseball at UH. The energy levels from the fans are incredible! The matches are a fun-filled and entertaining event for the entire family complete with Pep Band, Cheerleaders, Dancers and Jumbotron entertainment, encouraging crowd participation with live competitions, contests and giveaways during half-time and breaks in between games.” Barbero feels the energetic college atmosphere at the games. “All this energy from the fans is quite contagious and is easily transferred to the athletes who in turn are motivated to put out outstanding performances in their game.” He feels athletes should continue playing although Barbero recognizes it is not a good time for him to travel and watch the games in person.
In March, an NBA player affected by COVID-19 caused the National Basketball Association (NBA) to suspend all games. On July 30th, the NBA restarted with the NBA testing players for COVID-19. As of August 5th, there were zero positive test results since July 29th although a few players decided to opt out and not play the remainder of the season. Teams have been playing in the NBA Orlando Bubble—where players are required to undergo testing before being allowed to compete. Fans are not allowed and there are cut-outs in the stand.
“As some or many of you know, I’m a die-hard Los Angeles Lakers fan which dated back from the Showtime era. One of my favorite basketball players of all time was Kobe Bryant,” said Dadiz. “It’s so amazing to be able to watch my Lakers play inside the bubble in Disney World. Got to give it up to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and his team to have the season resume following the hiatus. This year would have been the second consecutive season my family and I would watch a live Laker game at the Staples Center. The virtual fans are a bright idea especially because there are no fans in attendance. Let’s go Lakers! If the NBA had to shut down due to COVID-19, I would feel bummed because there wouldn’t be any basketball to watch on TV. We would be stuck watching reruns of sporting events.”
Michelle Santos, a Lakers fan, hopes the NBA will keep playing. “I love watching sports rather than TV shows and movies. I miss the competition and the thrill of the win.”
Jason Arrocena of Kīhei says his all-time favorite sports team is the Los Angeles Lakers and met his closest friends through basketball. “We always talk about the memories we made through it. Also, it’s a good reason to gather lots of family and friends to watch and be competitive with each other.” Arrocena is hoping the basketball season continues and feels athletes should continue to play. After attending several NBA games on the mainland, Arrocena knows he will miss the intensity of being there in person.
Aldrin Calilao, also a Lakers fan, shares his hope the NBA will continue playing. “Growing up on Maui, I’ve always been around the basketball environment—playing in South Maui Youth Basketball League to late night pick-up games at Kalama Beach Park. This sport has allowed me to be active, create relationships with friends and challenge myself physically and mentally for a lifetime.”
“If the NBA suddenly cancels, I would be devastated,” said Jeanice “Jan” Paa. “My family and I are big Laker fans and it would be like losing Kobe again! We watched a game in November 2019 and we hope to go to many more NBA games in the future.”
Major League Baseball (MLB) re-opened training camps on July 1st and began their 60-game schedule on July 23rd. In less than two weeks—the league’s season was hit with schedule changes due to COVID-19 cases. According to CBS Sports, there were 20 members of the Miami Marlins that tested positive for the COVID-19, including 18 players. The St Louis Cardinals are the second team to be dealing with an outbreak with over a dozen members that have tested positive. MLB commissioner Rob Manfred insisted there was “no reason to quit” the 2020 season and aims to push the league forward.
“The San Francisco Giants are doing better than expected but then this is an Even Year. I hope they can finish this sixty-game schedule,” said Keith-Agaran. “My wife and mom have certainly enjoyed going to San Francisco for games when we visit the Bay Area. The atmosphere and energy of a live game is just different from watching a game at home or at an adult beverage outlet.”
Evangelista, a Los Angeles Dodgers fan, says MLB was unfair to the Dodgers with hardly any punishment against the Houston Astros who cheated their way to win the World Series against the Dodgers in 2017. “I’m hoping the season continues so the Dodgers and other teams can keep beating the Astros.”
“As a fan I would be disappointed if the MLB canceled the remaining season, especially since the Los Angeles Dodgers are in first place,” said Cherry Respicio Urias. “Watching the Dodgers play is a family tradition and we look forward to our annual summer vacation to watch them play at Dodger Stadium. This year we were supposed to attend the All Star Games which was to be hosted at Dodger Stadium for the first time since 1980!”
Meanwhile, the multi-billion dollar National Football League (NFL) hopes to start their regular season on September 10th. In April, the NFL Draft was held remotely for the very first time. Since the start of training camp, 56 players tested positive according to the NFLPA website. So, who knows what will happen to the NFL season?
“IT SUCKS,” said Pat Sensano, who is a Chicago Bears fan. “Before all of this happened, I loved watching sports. I’m a huge sports fan. And it’s just not the same anymore. Sports is a form of entertainment. When you have a personal connection to a team, you have a loyalty to them and want that team to win. When you have friends that root for other teams, that’s when you can have fun. You talk smack to each other and just have fun. People want to have a release from all the bad news going on in the world. I don’t want to see bad news every day. I’ve gone to about 20 football games—college and pro sports in the past 15 years.”
“Raaaai—–derrrrrs!” yells Ed Evangelista. “If there wasn’t an NFL season this year, it would be another thing lost in 2020. As a Raiders fan, I was looking forward to traveling to the new Allegiant Stadium and watching a game. I was curious to compare the old and new. I wanted to feel the brotherhood and energy of the fan-filled stadium. It would have given me a chance to reconnect with friends I made while tailgating before a game at the Oakland Stadium in 2015. Raiders tailgating was Wild! I’m wondering what the new tailgating environment will be. Much like many NFL fans, this season was loaded with optimism. The Raiders’ season was no different. With all the new talent of draft picks and free agents coupled with the current roster, Raiders fans can hardly contain their excitement for this season. RN4L!”
“As a football fan, it will just be a major disappointment if they decide to cancel the season,” said Philadelphia Eagles fan Jovy Magbual whose favorite Eagles players are Randall Cunningham and Reggie White. “I know that’s selfish but 2020 has already been an awful year. Give us something to cheer and look forward to whether it’s at a bar or your home. Also, there will be no Fantasy Football.”
“Sports is something that bonds my family together, especially football,” said Urias. “We look forward to the games, largely because we all support different teams—the Seattle Seahawks, the newly relocated Las Vegas Raiders and the Chicago Bears! As a long-time Patriots fan, I am looking forward to seeing how the team play would this season, post Tom Brady. We respect and support the league and players in the decision, whatever that will be.”
“The L.A. Rams was—and remains—my favorite NFL team since I was just a kid,” said Lawrence Pascua. “I was bummed when they went to St. Louis in 1994-95 because for me, it disrupted the whole West Coast tradition and pride that went with my being from the wild-wild west, here in Hawai’i. However, they took the Super Bowl XXXIV against the Tennessee Titans in 2000. That’s when my “Sauron’s” eye went back to the team. I went crazy—in my own mind—when the Rams came home to roost in L.A. in 2016. They fought hard and had a great season in 2018 when they were in Super Bowl LIII but history repeated itself as they lost to the NE Patriots just like they did during Super Bowl XXXVI (2001). I hope the NFL finds its way through this COVID-19 pandemic now in 2020 and beyond. God bless us all! While I love the Rams and watching Pro-Football and following my team, I would be disappointed if the NFL couldn’t return for a season due to COVID-19 but would be more relieved, knowing that lives are being saved by having to sacrifice my love for watching the sport.”
“I’ve always looked forward to football season, for all levels, pop warner, high school, college and the NFL. But aren’t we all getting used to the closures by now? Sigh! For the NFL, I’m a Niners fan, stuck with me since I was a kid. I would root for them because my brothers would root for them. And when you follow a team over time you tend to get attached, like they can hear you from the other side of your TV, LOL. Watching the last Super Bowl was quite unpleasant. Justin is from Kansas so it was the first time he was cheering against my Niners in a big game. Ooh it made me so nuha,” said Stacy Woodson. “If the NFL season gets canceled, it would be a downer but not a surprise. I think we’re all prepared for that to possibly happen. I do not think I would be sad, or mad about it … maybe more concerned. Another closure to stall our economy. We’re stuck between a rock and a hard place, so yeah, I’d be bummed if the NFL season didn’t happen but I’d be more bothered about community spread and a slaughtered economy.”
Keith-Agaran was realistic for his team “As for the NFL, I’m a Cincinnati Bengals fan so I can wait on pro ball.” Rod Antone was more emphatic: “All hail the Raider Nation!”
Vanessa Joy Domingo is a graduate of Maui High School and is employed by the County of Maui and Coldwell Banker Island Properties. When she attended the University of Miami in 2009, she attended several football games even though the Hurricanes were not very good at that time. She did however, at least dress up for the occasion. Now, when she has free time, she loves to go fishing, go to the gym and practice aerial silks.