Column: No fans at tournament is good step, but not enough

Adam Tumino, Reporter

As COVID-19 spreads more and more across the country and the nation, it is beginning to affect nearly every aspect of life.

The world of sports has had to make adjustments as a result of the virus, mostly in other countries. But now American sports are having to deal with it as well.

The NCAA announced Wednesday that fans will not be allowed to attend NCAA Tournament games, making March Madness decidedly less mad. Essential personnel, family members and media members will still be allowed, but the number that will be allowed, and what counts as essential personnel is not yet clear.

Banning fans is a good first step, as it drastically reduces the risk of people spreading the virus to others who may be at a higher risk. But at this point, it would make a lot of sense to simply cancel sporting events for the near future.

Banning fans from arenas does not completely solve the problem. The virus can still be spread by players, coaches, team personnel, family members and media members. Obviously the players are at a lower risk of danger from the virus, being young and healthy, but others may be in a higher-risk group because of their age or health conditions.

If the NCAA truly cared about the safety of its players and others who will be in attendance, it should postpone the tournament.

It is unnecessary to put anyone at risk. Teams that participate in the tournament will be traveling from all over the country, and teams that win will sometimes travel to multiple other venues. Even without fans, the teams will come into contact with many people during their travel and at the venues themselves.

Frankly, the risk of spreading the virus is not worth it just to hold some basketball games. Sports are great, and few events can match the excitement of March Madness. But the excitement will be mostly absent from the arenas if the seats are empty.

One of the best parts of a buzzer beater is the fan reaction, and zero fans will not generate much of a reaction.

Canceling the games is the solution that makes the most sense. It would almost completely reduce the risk of spreading the virus. Fans will likely be upset, and the NCAA would lose a lot of money.

But avoiding the spread of a global pandemic is better than watching basketball, even though it is an extremely exciting time of year. Sometimes things happen and priorities need to be changed. This is one of these times.

Adam Tumino can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]