In a surreal world defined by social distancing, the dynamics of professional sports have been upended in dramatic fashion. When COVID-19 made its mark on the U.S. in March, players and fans alike witnessed the widespread cancellation or suspension of professional sports seasons. The sheer speed with which sports leagues canceled their seasons was striking, a trend that began with the NBA’s abrupt suspension of their season after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert became the first NBA player to test positive for the coronavirus.
In late July, after a previously unthinkable five-month hiatus, professional sports returned, but without the vigor and energy of fans. Fans may be able to cheer for their favorite teams at home through the TV or tune into the game through a virtual fan experience, but those alternatives do not equate to the invigorating excitement of a normal game setting.