AN UNCERTAIN DISTANCE
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A contestant is introduced before Bullnanza, a Professional Bull Riders event, at the Lazy E Arena on Aug. 15 in Guthrie, Okla.
Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James talks with ESPN reporter Cassidy Hubbarth, left, after his team defeated the Houston Rockets on Sept. 12.