The Bundesliga is the top soccer league in Germany, and one of the big five leagues in Europe. It's not nearly as star-studded or popular as England's Premier League or Spain's La Liga. But as of last Saturday, it had the attention of the entire world.
And all it had to do was play games.
Germany hits the pitch
Due to COVID-19, the world of pro sports has almost completely shut down. After weeks of planning, Bundesliga became the first major sports league to continue its season. If you happened to watch, it was a strange feeling.
The players were all there. The soccer was good. But that swelling roar of the crowd was gone. The stands were empty. Instead of sitting side-by-side on the bench, substitute players were in seats in the lower rows, spaced five seats apart. When a goal was scored, we heard a smattering of applause—the players didn't hug and jump into each other's arms.
But still. It was sports. And it was back!
Here's what we know
And if you're a fan of, well, pretty much any sport, you had to be thinking: When will my favourite team be back, too?
There are way too many pro sports league in the world to cover here. So let's focus on the three big North American leagues that were in progress when the quarantine hit: MLB, the NBA, the NHL.
It always seemed kind of long anyways
Major League Baseball is famous (infamous?) for its 162-game season. (Wow, that seems like a typo when you write it out, doesn't it? I mean, they love to play. But 162 games? Hey Jimmy! Sure you can go hang with your friends... after you play 162 games of MarioKart! Anyway, sorry. Where were we?)
If baseball does come back, the season would likely be for only around 80 games. Which seems fair. Maybe even better? There would be no fans, and teams would travel from stadium to stadium under careful control and regular testing.
Bubbles and hubs
The NBA and NHL are in similar positions. Both leagues were close to end of their regular seasons when play stopped in mid-March. This means that they could probably skip right to their playoffs to crown a champ for the year. How?
It's all about bubbles (NBA) and hubs (NHL), though these are the same thing—central cities where many teams stay and play in isolation.
Somewhere between two to four cities are chosen to host games. Teams are assigned to one of these bubble or hub cities. Then the arenas in the city would host a few games a day. In between, the players and coaches stay at one of a few selected hotels under quarantine.
This idea actually works really well in the playoffs, because teams play each other over and over in a series. They don't travel as much as in the regular season.
Like with everything else, people hope that these plans are just a bridge to get things back to normal. And it's all a bit of an experiment. Who even knows if the Bundesliga will be able to keep this up?
But as odd as it is to not have fans in the stadium, there is something still great about live sports. It has drama. It's unpredictable. And it's fun to watch (anyone remember that Raptors run last year?).
And sooner or later, these sports are going to make a comeback.