AN UN­CER­TAIN DIS­TANCE

USA TODAY US Edition - - NATION’S HEALTH -

March 12, 2020, is the day that sports stopped in Amer­ica. It was days be­fore the start of March Madness. Ma­jor League Base­ball teams were get­ting their ros­ters ready for open­ing day. NBA and NHL teams jock­eyed for play­off spots. High schools were begin­ning their spring sports sched­ule. But as the coronaviru­s rav­aged the world, our lives changed, and sports did as well.

From pee­wee leagues to the pros, it was in­escapable. Sports and com­pe­ti­tion are in­grained into Amer­i­can cul­ture. Many peo­ple plan their lives around sports. When that is taken away there is a huge hole to fill. The rush to restart sports was filled with suc­cesses and fail­ures. Rules had to be changed. There is so­cial dis­tanc­ing, masks are re­quired and spit­ting is out. But there is no big­ger state­ment of the pan­demic’s ef­fects on sports than empty sta­di­ums and are­nas. Lo­gis­tics for fans and sup­port staff changed. For pro ath­letes, postgame in­ter­views hap­pen from a dis­tance, re­quir­ing more equip­ment and thought. At high school and col­lege lev­els, cheer­lead­ers and march­ing bands spread out in the bleach­ers. There have been in­con­sis­ten­cies and con­tro­versy, es­pe­cially at the high school level. Calls for – and protests against – the restart of sports popped up through­out the coun­try. Still, the NBA Fi­nals and World Se­ries are just around the cor­ner. The NFL kicked off, to mostly empty sta­di­ums. In sev­eral states on Fri­day nights, the lights are on at prep football games. Sports, ath­letes and fans adapt and en­dure.

USA TODAY Net­work pho­tog­ra­phers across nearly ev­ery state are doc­u­ment­ing this ex­tra­or­di­nary story. An Un­cer­tain Dis­tance is a pe­ri­odic se­ries that show­cases mo­ments that il­lus­trate our uni­ver­sal ex­pe­ri­ence.

ANNIE RICE/COR­PUS CHRISTI CALLER-TIMES

USA TODAY Net­work pho­tog­ra­phers across nearly ev­ery state are doc­u­ment­ing this ex­tra­or­di­nary story. An Un­cer­tain Dis­tance is a pe­ri­odic se­ries that show­cases mo­ments that il­lus­trate our uni­ver­sal ex­pe­ri­ence In­gle­side High School football play­ers reach for a pass at prac­tice Aug. 12 in In­gle­side, Texas. Some ath­letes de­cided to wear a mask dur­ing prac­tice.

SETH HAR­RI­SON/ROCKLAND/WESTCH­ESTER JOUR­NAL NEWS

Base­ball play­ers wear masks and stay sev­eral feet apart from each other in the dugout dur­ing a try­out at Pal­isades Credit Union Park in Pomona, N.Y., on July 20.

SCOTT WACHTER/USA TODAY SPORTS

Texas Longhorns fans wear masks while watch­ing the Sept. 12 game against the UT-El Paso Min­ers at Dar­rell K Royal-Texas Me­mo­rial Sta­dium in Austin, Texas.

SAM UP­SHAW JR./LOUISVILLE COURIER JOUR­NAL

As­sump­tion High School’s Emily Ready, right, gets a ball past Mercy High School’s Al­li­son Hol­loway dur­ing their match in Louisville, Ky., on Sept. 8.

BRYAN TERRY/OK­LA­HOMA CITY OK­LA­HOMAN

A con­tes­tant is in­tro­duced be­fore Bull­nanza, a Pro­fes­sional Bull Rid­ers event, at the Lazy E Arena on Aug. 15 in Guthrie, Okla.

KIM KLEMENT/USA TODAY SPORTS

Los Angeles Lak­ers for­ward LeBron James talks with ESPN re­porter Cas­sidy Hub­barth, left, af­ter his team de­feated the Hous­ton Rock­ets on Sept. 12.

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