Athletes, sports fans and behind the scenes workers alike come to terms with a pandemic

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K-State fans cheer on their men’s basketball team during the second of two 2020 Sunflower Showdowns against Kansas. The Jayhawks narrowly beat the Wildcats 62-58. (Logan Wassall | Collegian Media Group)

On the morning of Tuesday, March 10, American sports fans woke up and life was normal.

The NBA season was in full swing, the MLB was preparing for their season with spring training in Arizona and Florida and college basketball was just days away from March Madness.

But an announcement from the Ivy League would set a trend for the country’s sporting events.

The league said that their conference basketball tournaments had been canceled due to coronavirus, and that the Yale men’s team and the Princeton women’s team were named champions.

No other notable leagues, conferences, teams or venues announced any cancellations on March 10. But when turning the page to March 11, the United States saw the beginning of something it had never seen before.

In an early matchup in the Big 12 Conference men’s tournament, Kansas State entertained thousands of fans at the Sprint Center as redshirt junior Cartier Diarra led the Wildcats with 13 points to a 53-49 victory over TCU.

Before the clock struck midnight, the national landscape for sports drastically changed as the NBA had suspended its season and the NCAA announced March Madness would be played without fans. It wasn’t long before college conferences followed suit, announcing their respective tournaments would be played without fans.

It didn’t stop there.

On March 12, the Utah Jazz announced guard Donovan Mitchell tested positive for the novel coronavirus, explaining the suspension of the NBA season. The MLS announced its season had also been suspended. K-State, who was set to play Baylor, learned its season was over after not only the Big 12 Tournament, but all NCAA winter and spring sports were canceled, including March Madness. The MLB announced spring training was canceled.

Casinos in Las Vegas have been forced to shut down. There are virtually no sports to gamble on, and even if there was, it would have to be online.

“Last year $500 million was wagered on sports in the state of Nevada, with March Madness comprising 70 percent of that handle,” said Vinny Magliulo, the head oddsmaker at the South Point Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

Magliulo thinks that once the country is opened again, it will be a slow process for the industry to pick up again.

But for the time being, employers who rely on a paycheck from sporting events are out of luck.

From event staff to media production, there are hundreds of sporting events every day. Whether it be directing parking, making popcorn, scanning tickets, filming the game, controlling the video board in the stadium or running replays, dozens of bodies are working before, during and after every game.

In Manhattan, dozens of people found their employment with K-State Athletics uncertain due to the cancelation of all sporting events. Everything fans see on the video board in Bramlage Coliseum, Bill Snyder Family Stadium, Tointon Family Stadium and in some cases, on TV, is produced by people at K-State HD.TV.

“I would say this has impacted us a lot so far,” Johnny Douglas, a student video editor for K-State Athletics, said. “With no sports, we have no new content to make, so recently we’ve been having Zoom meetings to discuss what we’re going to be able to make going forward.”

During normal times, Douglas would work dozens of hours every week creating content for the athletic department. A majority of employees with K-State HD.TV just work the live game broadcasts, but a number of students, including Douglas, have now seen a dramatic decrease in their number of hours creating content.

The Kansas City Comets, a professional soccer team in the Major Arena Soccer League, had their season canceled due to the coronavirus. Midfielder Lucas Rodriguez said he’s has taken this time to be closer to his family.

“I have been doing a lot of housework, both maintenance and projects,” Rodriguez said. “I am also trying to help my kids do their school package and make sure they continue to learn.”

Rodriguez, being considered a “veteran” player, knows his playing time will come to an end soon.

“Not sure how much longer I will be able to play, so I am trying to enjoy my last seasons in my professional career,” Rodriguez said.

Along with his playing career, Rodriguez also coaches youth soccer. He said he enjoys making a great impact on young athletes.

“Trying to get better to be able to teach younger athletes through my experiences in the sport,” Rodriguez said.

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