• Peter Burtnett

Has the sports world overreacted to the COVID-19 pandemic? Iowa didn't

Updated: Aug 5, 2020

Iowa's high school baseball tournament saw fans in the stands once again with very little cases reported. This begs the question, has the sports world overreacted to the COVID-19 pandemic? Photo courtesy of MaxPreps.

Peter Burtnett

Co-founder, ISM

I'd like to start this exploratory article with a disclaimer: this is by no means a minimization of the damage caused by coronavirus, it is simply meant to evaluate whether the sports world has overreacted to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Let's begin by taking a look at Iowa high school baseball, which resumed and finished their season WITH fans in attendance and a very low case count.

Now, it is important to note that Iowa has generally been less-impacted than states like California, Florida or New York. (~46,000 compared to 522,816, 497,322 and 422,296)

According to MaxPreps, 94 percent of all Iowa high school baseball teams were "unaffected" by COVID-19, 96 percent completed the season and all infections were reportedly "mild." Nearly 29,000 fans attended the tournament, which took place last week.

Now, before getting into what some overreactions have been, it's important to note that I'm neither condemning nor minimizing these decisions. The decisions made have been in the best interests of the health and safety of athletes, but as evidenced by the situation in Iowa, just how at risk are they?

On thing that mainstream media does better than anything is heightening fear, intentional or otherwise. Just by shedding light on the minimal percentage of cases that have been serious, the perception around the virus changes immediately.

As implied before, this article is not meant to ignore the large loss of life that has occurred or minimize what has affected millions in the United States.

The point being made is this: athletes who have been affected by COVID-19 have been mildly ill if they have symptoms at all.

As an baseball player from four years old through my senior year of high school, I can say with confidence you would have had to drag me off the field this past spring.

I know that athletes were dying to get back on the field, court or pitch, and as a sportswriter for Flyer News at the University of Dayton, missing out on a potential No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament was tough to swallow for UD basketball players.

As sports return, it is vital that the right steps are taken to ensure the health and safety of the athletes. The gold standard for sports leagues has been the NBA and NHL, which have both had ZERO cases since their resumptions in their respective bubbles.

At the end of the day, professional sports leagues are back (though MLB is in danger of falling victim to a cancellation), but colleges seem to be less likely to return in any capacity this fall.

Is it all an overreaction? Maybe. Is keeping the athletes healthy the main priority? It should be. If conferences and leagues can handle this curveball the world has been thrown as Iowa high school baseball and the NBA and NHL handled it by prioritizing health and safety while allowing competitive action to take place, then sports will go forward this fall.

But if the reaction continues to be inflated and commissioners cave, or if the leagues botch the safety protocols, it will be a while before sports return and stay for good.

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