October 12, 2020
Looking back to where we stood on March 11th of this year, I remember how disconcerting it felt to hear breaking story after breaking story of cancelled sporting events. There were first announcements of cancelled press access to locker rooms by professional hockey, baseball, and basketball organizations, followed by decisions of teams like the Golden State Warriors to play games without fans present.
By the end of the day we heard news of the cancellation of the NCAA March Madness tournament, and an indefinite suspension of the NBA season punctuated by an eerie mid-game cancellation of a meeting between the Oklahoma City Thunder & Utah Jazz as medical staff wearing gloves appeared with disinfectant spraying down everything that may have been touched by players. Lebron James was quoted just days prior responding to a question about what the rest of the season with COVID might look like by saying, “We play games without the fans? Nah, that’s impossible”.
We have certainly come a long way since then, and just last night Lebron and the Los Angeles Lakers were able to hoist the NBA championship trophy despite the frenzy of cancellations during Spring. What bridged the gap between suspension and a completion of playoffs with a crowned championship team? For the NBA the answer was the now famous “Bubble”. The NBA Bubble refers to the isolated facilities of Disney World in Orlando. The Bubble required various levels of quarantine before players could make it onto the court to compete in front of video monitors showing fans in virtual attendance. Getting the Bubble in place involved 6 phases of quarantine and cost the league $170 million. However, with players and staff inside, they were able to complete the season without a single positive test for the virus. By the end of August, the NBA even began allowing close friends and family of players or coaches to enter the arena to spectate.
Outside of the world of sports we are seeing restaurants which have struggled to pay the bills back open with limited capacity and single-use menus. Stores like Home Depot and Walmart which saw declines in foot traffic adapted by offering curbside pickup. In the entertainment business we are seeing people attend “listen from your car” concerts, and drive in movies have even made a comeback in empty theaters’ parking lots. Businesses in industries where the outlook was dire, and even where tough times remain ahead, are showing a remarkable ability to improvise and pivot to continue serving their customers.
We all experienced our own wave of cancellations this spring, whether it was a graduation, a long-awaited vacation, or a family reunion. While we may not go to extreme measures like those of the “NBA Bubble”, we will find ways to celebrate which remain rewarding despite their form being different than they might have been in the past. Whether attending backyard weddings with close friends and family, or preparing for a Zoom Thanksgiving get-together, I hope you all find ways to adapt to the new world we live in and celebrate whatever special occasions you may have in your life this fall!