The NBA and the NHL determined that it was in their best interests in order to complete their already in-progress seasons by moving to a ‘hub’ format, in which all teams would play in one or two centralized locations in an environment that they would exercise as much control over as possible in the hopes of preventing the spread of Covid-19. So far, both leagues have been wildly successful.
The MLB determined that it would be impractical and unnecessary for them to adopt a similar approach. Their success has been more qualified. They have so far experienced two distinctly separate but significant outbreaks within weeks of their season starting up, first with the Miami Marlins and then with the St. Louis Cardinals.
At the time the league commissioner warned that if things did not improve, it would put the fate of the season in jeopardy. They have since turned to the possibility of adopting a bubble approach by the time that teams get down to the postseason.
Having not yet begun to play—but at least having started to hit in practice—the league is now open to the consideration of adopting a ‘bubble’ for the postseason in the NFL. On Wednesday, vice president of football operations Troy Vincent was asked about this possibility, and he said that “all things are on the table”, including a bubble approach.
One should only expect to see this under dire circumstances, of course. If they NFL gets to a point beyond where the MLB found themselves, for example, where they are beginning to consider the possibility of canceling the rest of the season, you can bet that they would exhaust every other alternative first before pulling the plug.
Through the first few weeks of training camp so far, the league has been very successful in managing the coronavirus. They had a lower-than-expected infection rate among players when they first reported, and by now, the league-wide reserve/Covid-19 list is down to single digits.
One must caution, however, the teams around the league have only just recently begun high-contact activities that would be more conducive to transmitting the virus. Teams have only been back to work for a few weeks, as well. At some point, some players are going to be tempted to break protocol and ‘have some fun’.
For now, the league is continuing with daily Covid-19 testing for all Tier 1 and Tier 2 personnel, which of course encompasses the players. Teams are also empowered to discipline players (as well as coaches and executives) for violating protocols.
They are hoping that they have done enough to keep their league safe to the point where they can complete the 2020 season uninterrupted. So far, the indications have been good, but we should wait a least a few weeks into the season before celebrating an unqualified victory.