Sports Adjust to the New Omicron Variant

Sports Adjust to the New Omicron Variant

Alexander Stuppel, Sports Columnist

As we all know, COVID created a new world for all of us. Sports have been a target due to the traveling done in between games. As winter 2021 approached, cases in all leagues seemed to slow down and diminish. In the past few weeks, the COVID new variant, Omicron, has hit every league harder than ever before. More players and coaches need to quarantine due to testing positive. There has also been a new change in virus policy that varies from league to league.

COVID numbers led to postponements and signings of many new players. The NBA alone had around 300 players in virus protocols. To put that number into perspective, there are only 450 in the entire league! There has been a record number of players that have had to play in the league this season, which is at 544. While it is unfortunate not to see all of your favorite players out on the court, there is a benefit to some NBA-caliber athletes. To fill in the 250 new players that have played, new players from the G-League (a minor league of the NBA), overseas players, and even retired players have now had an opportunity to showcase their skills and try to get a longer-term contract to stay in the league.
Within the last week at the NFL, there were over 230 players in the protocol, which is about 13% of all players in the league- a smaller number than seen in other leagues. Practice players and free agents have signed to fill in for usual starters and second-string players.

Luckily for the NBA and the NFL, only a handful of games were rescheduled, even as Omicron is climbing. However, this is not the case for the NHL, the league that has struggled with COVID the most over the past years. During this hockey season, a total of 103 games have been postponed, which is an astonishing number considering that this is a thirty-two-team league.

These differences in infection rates between leagues are mainly due to the contrasting COVID protocols from league to league. Currently, the NFL is the only league to require booster shots. This requirement, initiated on December 27th, could be why their cases have been lower based on their league size. On the other hand, this past December all NBA teams have been required to host booster shot events in an attempt to get the virus under control for the Road to the All-Star break.

The NHL seems to be the outlier here. They haven’t had any requirements regarding the booster so far, and that is likely the reason for all of the game postponements. If all the commissioners of sports leagues came together to create a unified, safe COVID policy, then all sports would continue on with basically no interruptions. A required booster shot has proven effective in limiting COVID issues as the NFL has seen lately. NFL playoffs start Saturday, January 15 and no playoff game can risk being postponed.
Even with all of the curveballs, COVID has thrown to all sports, shutting down leagues doesn’t seem like it will be an option. No commissioner wants to go through a loss in revenues again due to no fans or games being played. Especially during times of the pandemic, fans need sports to get away from the stresses of the virus. As long as all athletes take COVID and its variants seriously- and leagues improve their virus protocols- wiping out all sports like in 2020 will be unheard of.