To Bubble Or Not To Bubble, That Is The Question

When you think of the word “bubbles”, what comes to mind? Chewing gum possibly? A really bad Jake Gyllenhaal romantic comedy perhaps? Another pointless but hilarious Seinfeld episode, or that foul-mouthed Coke bottle glasses wearing Canadian who loves kitties and grocery carts? Well if this was 2019, I’m sure all would apply. Unfortunately, it’s 2020 and we all know what that means, our normalcy has changed.

If you’re an avid sports fan like I am, when it was announced this summer that sports were coming back, I was ecstatic! Finally, I can finish watching the MLB season, the PGA tour, and the NFL won’t be held up by this pandemic now. Well, we all know now that was just wishful thinking. Soon after this announcement, we were introduced to a term that isn’t usually sports-related unless we are talking teams trying to make the playoffs.

Bubble. The MLS will play a World Cup-style tournament in a bubble. The NBA will finish their season in a bubble. The NHL will finish their season in 2 bubbles. I’m sure when you heard this news, numerous questions came to mind because I know I had plenty. Do you mean to tell me all these teams will be in one location for the rest of the year with no fans? Finals and all? I don’t know about all this, doesn’t sound very entertaining if you ask me.

I can remember this thought vividly when I heard the news. But I will give the leagues credit, fan video boards, cardboard cutouts, pumping in crowd noise, watching these events on TV has become more enjoyable than originally anticipated.

Regarding player safety, I think this was an excellent decision for the leagues who implemented the idea because if you look at just the NHL stats alone, it’s a testament that it works. If you don’t follow hockey, the NHL split the bubble duties between 2 Canadian cities, Edmonton for the Western Conference and Toronto for the Eastern Conference with the Stanley Cup being played in Edmonton due to fewer coronavirus cases than Toronto. Canada was chosen at that time to host the bubble because the number of coronavirus cases was surging in the U.S. either coming close or hitting new daily record numbers.

From July 26th, which was the first day teams reported to the bubble, to Sept. 28th, the night Tampa Bay lifted Lord Stanley’s Cup, there were 1,452 players and officials tested, 33,394 tests given. Do the math and that’s 23 tests per person over a 2 month period in the bubble with ZERO positive tests.

From a fan perspective, that’s encouraging news because we all want to see our scheduled games played at their scheduled times. We set up watch parties, meet up at our favorite sports bars, or, if you are so lucky, end up with a ticket to go watch them live; granted not all sports are allowing fans, but (fingers crossed) we are headed in that direction.

The MLB has even implemented bubble cities for their playoffs. This wasn’t the case when the season opened but then breakouts within the Marlins and Cardinals organizations happened. Games postponed, canceled, and in mid-Sept, they changed their tune and announced Dallas, Houston, LA, and San Diego would host each league divisional and championship rounds with the entire World Series being played at Globe Life Field in Arlington, TX.

Now to the NFL, no bubbles, home to their families at night, who have no restrictions but are “forbidden” to be involved in activities such as:

– Public gatherings of 10 or more people without a mask

– Private gatherings of 15 more people without a mask

– Attending another sporting event (not their own) without a mask and sitting in a protected area (e.g. suite, owner’s box)

These are restrictions detailed by the NFL which could result in a fine, but what about close friends and family to the players, staff, etc. I think we can all agree some of these teams are taking things more seriously than others. Right, Tennessee?? How about just follow protocols, do things the right way, think about your team, fans, you and your family’s own health first and foremost. As we all still hold our breath in hopes that Patrick Mahomes comes out of this unscathed and keeps testing negative, I think we can all agree that the bubble concept is a proven way to keep our players safe and healthy and leagues can stick to a schedule without interruption.