An unexpected loss: Confronting a world without sports amid the coronavirus pandemic

cmannphoto/iStock(NEW YORK) — As Americans cope with quarantine and a barrage of economic and health concerns amid the coronavirus pandemic, sports fans have lost an avenue for escape as sporting events on all levels have been postponed or canceled.

Throughout history Americans have turned to sports during difficult times.

A month after the 9/11 terror attacks, President George W. Bush walked to the mound at Yankee Stadium wearing a bulletproof vest under his coat before Game 3 of the 2001 World Series and threw the first pitch -- in a signal to America that the country can heal.

As a timeline for the return to normalcy remains unclear, sports journalist and ABC News commentator Christine Brennan said that during the coronavirus crisis, the sports world "has become much more a mirror of our society," as opposed to an "escape" from our daily lives.

Athletes from around the sports world have tested positive for COVID-19 and many players and leaders in the sports world have focused on raising money and securing resources for organizations and states battling the outbreak.

NBA players Kevin Love, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Zion Williamson are donating thousands of dollars to cover the salaries of workers at NBA arenas impacted by the suspension; New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft helped Massachusetts purchase 1.7 million N95 masks from China, and sent the Patriots plane to transport them to the U.S; and MLB, which partnered with Fanatics, has halted the production of MLB uniforms to produce at least 1 million masks and hospital gowns for health care workers.

"I think athletes have really risen to the challenge and really understand their place in society and right now, as much as sports would be a lovely diversion, there's no place in our world right now for sports and as it should be," Brennan said. "When you have a worldwide pandemic, sports seems to take a backseat.”

''The watershed moment'

The chain reaction began in a surreal moment on March 11 when the NBA announced the suspension of the 2019-20 season until further notice after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert became the first player to test positive for COVID-19.

"The NBA was really the watershed moment," Brennan said. "When that NBA suspended operations, I think we will all remember where we were when we saw that. I was at a dinner and looked at my phone and couldn't believe it. That was really the wakeup call.”

A day later, the NHL announced that it was pausing its 2019–20 season and MLB announced the cancelation of the remainder of its spring training games and a delay to the start of the season. The day culminated in the National Collegiate Athletic Association canceling March Madness.

"The day the sports world stopped," flashed across the screen on ESPN the evening of March 12 while visibly stunned commentators marveled at the real-time domino effect of cancellations.

Brennan told ABC News that the "sports world really led the way and showed our culture" that the coronavirus pandemic was "very serious" and is "something to sit up and pay attention to."

On the day the NBA suspended the season, there were about 1,267 cases of the coronavirus in the U.S. and 38 deaths. The White House still had not announced federal social distancing guidelines, which came five days later and have now been extended until April 30.

"In many ways, as the White House and many others were ignoring or downplaying the coronavirus, the sports world got everyone's attention," Brennan said. "The sports world became our North Star by the dominos falling so quickly."

As of Friday, the U.S. had more cases and deaths than any country in the world, with at least 706,000 diagnosed cases and at least 37,000 deaths.

'Sports are a great thing for this country'

Over the past few weeks, sports networks have been airing old games, documentaries and commentary about the developments that remain, including the NFL draft, which according to Commissioner Roger Goodell, is set to take place virtually April 23 to 25 as clubs and club facilities remain closed.

Sporting events from marathons and golf tournaments, to cricket and soccer were canceled around the world. And amid the social distancing guidelines in the U.S., college, high school and recreational sports were suspended, impacting athletes of all ages. Even the 2020 Olympics, which were set to be held in Japan this summer, have been postponed to 2021.

Dr. Joel Fish, a licensed sports psychologist who has worked with athletes on all levels -- from NBA stars and Olympians, to children -- said that a world without sports is "very disruptive" to both athletes and fans.

"I think we're all creatures of habits, we all have our routines, we all have some sense of normalcy and this has been the perfect storm for disrupting all that," Fish told ABC News, adding that cancelations have added to the "anxiety" and "uncertainty" that people are feeling during the pandemic.

Fish noted that "hardcore fans" -- those who fulfill their needs for social interactions, entertainment, stress relief and distractions through sports -- are the most emotionally impacted.

And based on what needs sports fulfill in a person's life, "what fans are scrambling for right now" is "finding a way to fill the void," he added.

President Donald Trump, an avid golfer, was asked about the Masters being postponed until November during a White House coronavirus task force briefing last week, and he reflected on the void that sports cancellations have left in the lives of fans.

"I looked the other day. I saw somebody. I saw, ‘Wow, he looks great.' I forgot. Then I said, ‘Oh, that was nine years ago.' ... You get tired of looking at 9-year-old baseball games and playoff games that took place 12 years ago," Trump told reporters. "I don't have much time to do that, frankly, but that's what people are doing and they want to see sports."

"Sports are a great thing for this country," Trump continued, adding that he hopes "football is able to start" and that "baseball can get to play a little bit."

'I wish all of this was just a dream that I could wake up from'

Although fans are missing out, for athletes themselves -- particularly rising stars who were relying on this season for a scholarship or a chance to play professionally -- the loss is much greater.

Fish, who is the director of the Center for Sport Psychology in Philadelphia, was working with an NBA team and a number of Division I teams when the cancellations were announced.

The extent of the despair was particularly palpable in the barrage of social reactions from NCAA basketball players, especially seniors.

"I wish all of this was just a dream that I could wake up from ... Wish i could play one more game with my brothers," Dayton University senior Trey Landers wrote on Twitter. His team was on pace to be a No. 1 seed in the tournament.

"I'm broken.... my college journey is really over, thank you Oregon," Oregon Ducks guard Minyon Moore tweeted.

And Kelly Graves, the head coach of the Oregon Ducks' women's basketball team, tweeted, "It appears our ‘unfinished business' will remain just that. Disappointed but I completely understand. I love & I hurt for my team."

Fish said that at the center of the struggle is a feeling of "loss" and part of his work with athletes, their parents and coaches is how to "come up with a game plan" to confront that loss and find "closure."

"A whole range of feelings get triggered by that and a lot of loss and a lot of what-ifs," Fish said. "The fact that there isn't closure to [the season] will maybe lead these folks wondering five or 10 years from now, 'What if I had an opportunity to play that game? What if I didn't miss that moment?’"

And according to Fish, this is especially difficult for parents of young stars: "Parents won't get to see their kids have a certain opportunity and tryouts and games and other chances where maybe their family has invested a lot of time, energy and money to see it play itself out."

The NCAA Division I Council granted an extra year of eligibility to all student-athletes in spring sports, who lost their entire season, including baseball, softball, tennis, golf, outdoor track and field and lacrosse. But the decision does not apply to winter sports like basketball, hockey, gymnastics or swimming.

"I'm not spending one second thinking about multi-millionaire professional athletes or billionaire owners," Brennan said. "I'm thinking about those high school kids who just lost their last chance for spring sports, those high school seniors, the college seniors who lost their opportunities for the basketball tournaments and those athletes on the rise. The college baseball player who was hoping to get drafted. The athlete who was hoping his senior year in high school would get them a scholarship, a softball player who knew she needed a really good season."

And as they cope, Fish said that athletes and coaches are turning to the skills they learned in the game.

"With sports we're always talking about controlling what you can and how can you be the calm in the midst of the storm. In many ways, athletes have a lot of coping skills," he said, adding that he has been counseling teams through virtual video meetings on Zoom during the pandemic. "We can draw on sports to help us cope. I really do believe that ... we celebrate together, we work toward a common goal, we stick together through adversity."

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Edmonton Oilers Forward Colby Cave Dies After Brain Bleed

Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images(TORONTO) -- Edmonton Oilers forward Colby Cave has died after suffering a brain bleed on Tuesday. 

Cave, a 25-year old, was flown to a Toronto hospital and was placed in a medically induced coma after surgery to remove a colloid cyst that was putting pressure on his brain. 

His wife, Emily, confirmed the news in a statement. 

"It is with great sadness to share the news that our Colby Cave passed away early this morning," she said. "I (Emily) and both our families are in shock but know our Colby was loved dearly by us, his family and friends, the entire hockey community, and many more. We thank everyone for their prayers during this difficult time."

In an instagram post on Thursday, Cave's wife wrote that she and her family were only able to see Cave through a window on Thursday, before the hospital barred them due to Coronavirus rules. 

"The National Hockey League family mourns the heartbreaking passing of Colby Cave, whose life and hockey career, though too short, were inspiringly emblematic of the best of our game," said NHL Commissoner Gary Bettman in a statement. "Undrafted but undaunted, Colby was relentless in the pursuit of his hockey dream with both the Edmonton Oilers and Boston Bruins organizations. An earnest and hardworking player, he was admired by his teammates and coaches. More important, he was a warm and generous person who was well-liked by all those fortunate enough to know him. We send our heartfelt condolences to his wife Emily, their families and Colby's countless friends throughout the hockey world."

A number of players and teams around the league expressed their condolences on Twitter.

 

Cave was signed undrafted by the Bruins in 2015 and was assigned to their minor league affiliate Providence. He made his NHL debut on December 21, 2017 against Winnipeg. 

Edmonton claimed him off waivers on January 15th, 2019 and scored 3 goals in 44 games over the past two years. 

Cave recorded four goals and five assists in 67 career NHL games with the two franchises. 

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Lions trade cornerback Slay to Eagles

Justin Edmonds/Getty Images(DETROIT) -- The Lions have traded pro bowl cornerback Darius Slay to the Eagles for a third round and fifth round pick in this years draft, according to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter. 

Slay's agent Drew Rosenhaus told ESPN the two sides have agreed to a three year, 50 million dollar deal.

The 29 year-old will become the highest paid cornerback in the league based on the annual average of the deal, which is 16.67 million dollars. His contract just beat out Miami’s Byron Jones, who signed a five year, 82.5 million dollar deal that averages 16.50 million dollars a year. 

A star cornerback was one of the biggest needs for Philadelphia this offseason.

Last year, the Eagles allowed 15 pass plays of 40 yards of more, the second most in the NFL. 

Slay was drafted by Detroit out of Mississippi State in the second round in 2013. 

He recorded 19 interceptions and 103 passes defended during his seven years with the team and made the Pro Bowl each of the past three seasons. 

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Chicago Trade’s For Jacksonville Quarterback Nick Foles

Carmen Mandato/Getty Images(CHICAGO) -- The Chicago Bears have traded a compensatory fourth round pick to the Jacksonvile Jaguars for quarterback Nick Foles. 

Foles signed a four year, 91 million dollar contract, including just over 50 million guaranteed, with the Jaguars as a free agent last offseason. 

The money was the most guaranteed money in franchise history. 

Foles has already re-structured his contract with Chicago. It is now 3 years and 21 million dollars left on it, but he has the option to void it after this season or next, depending on the quality of his play. 

Last season did not go the way either the quarterback or the team wanted. Foles played just four games the entire season because of a broken collarbone he sustained on the 11th snap of the year. 

He missed the next eight games and returned in mid-November, but played poorly, throwing just two touchdowns in three games, before being benched for rookie Gardner Minshew.

In Chicago, Foles will battle with fourth year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky for the starting spot. 

Trubisky threw for 3,148 yards and had 17 touchdown passes with 10 interceptions last season. His stats were a step back from the previous year when he threw for just over 3,200 yards and 24 touchdowns. 

Foles was drafted by the Eagles in 2012 before being traded to the Chiefs in 2015. In 2017, he re-signed with Philadelphia and won the Super Bowl MVP after leading the team to a title over New England after starting quarterback Carson Wentz tore his ACL in week 14.

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Sports League’s Planning For Coronavirus

primeimages/iStock(NEW YORK) – Novel coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19, is sweeping around the world with new cases popping up daily in the US and not even sports are immune with league's across the country and world taking steps to stem the outbreak.

While no player or coach in the US is known to have Coronavirus, the MLB, NBA and NHL have announced or have internal plans to mitigate the spread of the virus with the NHL going the farthest with options to postpone, cancel, or play games in empty arenas, deputy NHL commissioner Bill Daly told ESPN.

No NHL players have attracted the virus, but they did feel the effects last month. Most players' sticks are made in China and those factories closed, but Daly told ESPN that issue has now been solved.

The NBA hasn't announced any plans for games, but in a memo obtained by ESPN, the league said players should fist bump instead of high five fans and avoid taking pens to sign balls and jersey's in the short term.

The league is also planning on limiting the size or even possibly cancelling international scouting, pre-draft combines and individual workouts depending on how big the outbreak becomes.

Should a player contract the virus, he would expect to miss at least two weeks, according to a team medical official who spoke with ESPN.

Both of those leagues are nearing the end of their respective seasons, the MLB is in the opposite camp with Spring Training underway and Opening Day on the 26th. The league has no plans to cancel or postpone any Spring Training or regular season games as of now, according to a memo obtained by ESPN, but the league has set up a task force to deal with any complications that may arise.

The league also recommends that players avoid taking balls and pens from fans and getting a flu shot, while having team's speak with their local health authorities and consult with an infectious disease specialist to be a channel to those officials.

Some teams have limited access to people who have traveled to coronavirus hotspots in Iran, Italy and South Korea. The league also recommends that team officials avoid travel to those countries along with China and Japan, based on Center for Disease Control travel advisories.

Major League Soccer's season also just began and the league has created a task force, according to ESPN. In a statement, the league said they are in contact with the CDC and the Public Health Agency of Canada.

King County, Washington, which includes Seattle, has declared a state of emergency after a spike in cases and deaths.

The Seattle Sounders opened their season in front of 40,000 fans on the 1st and also hosted a team from Honduras three days before that game. According to ESPN, the team and their stadium partner released a statement before their first game saying they are "monitoring public health developments" and they have a "real-time communication with regional health authorities."

The NFL has the longest time till their season begins, but teams are deep into the draft process with pro-day's and individual workouts coming up before the draft at the end of April. A spokesperson told the NFL Network's Ian Rapoport they are closely monitoring developments.

Overseas, Italy is taking the biggest precautions. The country is banning fans from attending games for at least the next month, the Italian government announced Wednesday.

It includes the top soccer league in the country, Serie A, which postponed last weekend's matches and a Six Nations rugby match against England in mid-March. More than 3,000 people have been sickened and over 100 have died from the virus in the country, the most in Europe.

France and England’s top soccer leagues have also banned handshakes between players and officials at upcoming matches.

This summer is also the European Soccer Championship. At a recent meeting, top executives only briefly discussed the virus, according to ESPN. No decision has been made about the tournament that begins on June 12th and is held in countries across the continent.

Events in Asia are also feeling the heat.

At the Tokyo Marathon on March 1st, organizers limited participation to elite men and women runners and wheelchair racers. During a typical year around 30,000 people run.

Organizer’s for this year’s summer Olympics in the city say the games are still on despite the virus. The International Olympic Committee said in a statement that they will continue to follow the advice of the World Health Organization.

The Olympics kick off on July 24th.

The World Athletics Indoor Championships in Nanjing, China scheduled for mid-March were postponed until March 2021. Nanjing is a little over 300 miles from the Coronavirus epicenter in Wuhan.

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Red Sox Ace Sale To Open Season On Injured List

Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images(BOSTON) -- Red Sox ace Chris Sale will miss the start of the season as he recovers from the flu and pneumonia, according to interim manager Ron Roenicke.

"With the sickness it cost him two weeks’ time and that two weeks is what we'd like to give him to make sure he's right," said Roenicke at spring training. "He's worked hard on getting his arm right and we didn't think four starts in spring training was fair to him.

Sale will begin the season on the 15-day injured list.

Last season, he missed the final six weeks of the season with a left elbow injury, but the two are unrelated.

"I think they just want me to get fully stretched out and get where I need to be," Sale told the media at spring training. "I started two weeks late, so I got to stay two weeks late. Simple math will tell you that kind of makes sense. Do I like it? Absolutely not. Do I respect it? 100%."

Sale finished 6-11 with a 4.40 ERA last season.

Boston ended the year third in the American League East with a 84-78 record.

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Life inside the American coronavirus quarantine for a professional football player

Robert Wei/iStock(RIVERSIDE, Calif.) --  It's day five for 195 Americans inside the quarantine zone at March Air Reserve Base in Riverside, California. Jarred Evans may be stuck, but he's hardly taking it easy.

"No days off," says Evans, 27.

The professional football player has good reason to stay in shape: after playing quarterback for the Wuhan Berserkers for two years, Evans is due to report to another pro team in Switzerland by Feb. 17.

Evans told ABC News he measured the distance around the courtyard at the base hotel where the group is staying so he could calculate how far he needs to run every day.

"I run around that multiple times until I reach, three, four miles," Evans says.

Evans says every morning and evening, he and his fellow Americans that evacuated from Wuhan last week head to a special room where medical staff checks them for symptoms of novel coronavirus and takes their temperature.

"My temperature has been at a perfect 98.1 [degrees] or 97.9," he chuckles. "I'm completely fine. I feel healthy. I feel great. I'm just taking my time and waiting to get out of here."

Then it's breakfast time. The food, he says, is decent.

"Today we got eggs, bacon and sausage," he said.

Evans says he's been told that test results from nasal and bowel swabs taken when the evacuees arrived in California should be known Sunday or Monday, but blood tests may take longer. Regardless of the results, however, everyone will have to stay in quarantine for a full two weeks.

"Everyone is very accepting toward what is going on," Evans tells ABC News. "The CDC and State Department are doing a wonderful job of feeding us, keeping us busy, keeping the kids having fun with their parents. And you can't go wrong with this beautiful California weather."

A few guards are posted at the gate to the compound keep anyone from leaving, Evans says. On Wednesday night, authorities said one man was stopped when he tried to leave the quarantine area.

"I don't think anyone is going to leave. I think we just had one situation where we had a guy who was like, 'You all said I don't have to stay, so I'm leaving,'" Evans said. "I think he just did it the wrong way."

 Evans says there are approximately 14 kids in the quarantine group, ranging in age from about 11 months to about 13 years.

The shared, forced confinement means that people are beginning to forge new friendships, Evans says.

"We're all getting to know each other," he said. "There's so many different types of people from all over America."

Some people have stopped wearing protective gear, but not Evans.

"I'm still wearing my mask and gloves, because I want to make sure that I'm 100% clear of any kind of infection," he said. "But people are really relaxed. I haven't seen any kind of coughing, any people sick, or looking tired. Everyone is full of joy and energy."

Evans says he speaks to his mother and father three to four times a day. He says he asked authorities to ship two things to the base: his laptop, so he can help his father with the family's New York car service company, and some weight gain supplements.

On Sunday, he says he's looking forward to a Super Bowl party and barbecue.

"They have four 86-inch televisions in the courtyard outside. A couple of us guys have a bet going on," he laughs.

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Three horses euthanized in three days at Santa Anita Park

oska25/iStock(LOS ANGELES) -- Three horses were euthanized this weekend at Santa Anita Park, the famed Southern California horse racing track that gained notoriety last year for the deaths of dozens of horses.

A 5-year-old gelding named Uncontainable was euthanized after fracturing its front right ankle on Saturday, and a 6-year-old gelding named Harliss was euthanized Friday for the same reason, ABC Los Angeles station KABC-TV reported. Tikkun Olam, a 4-year-old gelding, was euthanized for undisclosed reasons after a training accident Sunday.

A fourth horse, a 3-year-old gelding named Truest Reward, died after suffering an injury during training last month.

A spokesman for the racetrack did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment.

The most recent euthanizations bring the total number of horse deaths at the park to 42 since December 2018.

In a statement prior to Sunday's death, PETA Senior Vice President Kathy Guillermo said, "Two horses dead in two days means horses are being forced to race when they shouldn't be."

"Uncontainable had two very long periods last year when he wasn't raced, which likely indicates injury and the need for special attention by veterinarians," Guillermo said. "If we at PETA can see that by looking at his racing record, surely the state veterinarians can too. The only acceptable fatality rate is zero, and if racing can't be done without horses dying, it shouldn't be done at all."

Santa Anita Park has been under intense scrutiny since the number of horse deaths began to rise last year.

In June, after the death toll had climbed to 29, California Gov. Gavin Newsom called for the park to be shut down after it did not heed the California Horse Racing Board's recommendation to suspend racing.

Santa Anita decided to continue racing because it believed that the reforms enacted earlier in the year were working, a spokesman for The Stronach Group, a company that owns the park, told ABC News in June.

The park announced a series of changes surrounding horse safety last March, including a "zero-tolerance" policy for the use of almost all medication on racing day. The California Horse Racing Board further voted to limit whips on racing day.

Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey announced in April that a task force would investigate whether unlawful conduct or conditions affected the welfare and safety of the horses.

Mike Marten, spokesman for the California Horse Racing Board, said in a statement to ABC News Sunday that the board "is committed to reducing the number of racing and training fatalities."

"We already have introduced many safety measures and still others are going through the regulatory process," Marten said.

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New Orleans police toss the arrest warrant for Odell Beckham Jr.

Chris Graythen/Getty Images(NEW ORLEANS) --  A New Orleans security officer who filed a complaint against Cleveland Brown's wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. for allegedly slapping him on the buttocks has decided not to pursue the charges.

The officer, who works at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, was seen in a viral video with Beckham, who appears to slap him on his behind in a stadium locker room Monday night.

The officer filed a complaint with the New Orleans Police Department on Thursday and an arrest warrant was obtained for a "simple battery" charge.

At some point, the officer had a change of heart, telling police on Saturday he didn't want to pursue the charges, a law enforcement source confirmed to ABC News. Officials then rescinded the arrest warrant.

"Absent a complaining witness, this is not a case our office intends to pursue," said Ken Daley, a spokesman for Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro.

The allegations stemmed from the aftermath of the College Football Playoff National Championship in which Beckham's alma mater, Louisiana State, was celebrating after defeating Clemson 42-25.

Beckham was seen in a video apparently slapping the officer's behind, at which point he turned around and looked at Beckham, who continued joking around with LSU players and officials.

The "simple battery" charge would have been a misdemeanor.

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Scoreboard roundup — 1/17/20

iStock(NEW YORK) --  Here are the scores from Friday's games:

 

 NATIONAL BASKETBALL ASSOCIATION
 Final  Philadelphia  100  Chicago        89
 Final  Indiana       116  Minnesota      114
 Final  Toronto       140  Washington     111
 Final  Memphis       113  Cleveland      109
 Final  Miami         115  Oklahoma City  108
 Final  Atlanta       121  San Antonio    120
 Final  Dallas        120  Portland       112
   ------
  NATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE
  Final OT  Anaheim      2  Carolina   1
  Final OT  Pittsburgh   2  Detroit    1
  Final  Tampa Bay    7  Winnipeg   1
   ------
  TOP-25 COLLEGE BASKETBALL
  (13)Dayton        78  Saint Louis   76
  (15)Michigan St.  67  Wisconsin     55
  Iowa              90  (19)Michigan  83

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