Counting down the top 10 NY sports stories of 2020: No. 1 - COVID-19's impact on sports

Alex Smith
·4 min read
Cardboard fans treated image
Cardboard fans treated image

We're counting down the Top 10 New York sports stories of 2020, and we round out the story with No. 1...

The year 2020 will forever be remembered for the COVID-19 pandemic affecting almost every aspect of everyday life around the globe.

The world of sports, of course, was not immune to the virus’ impact. It started in March, with conference tournaments and the NCAA tournament being canceled, the NBA putting its 2019-20 season on hold after Utah’s Rudy Gobert tested positive, and MLB shutting down spring training. Every pro league then quickly followed suit. 

Within the span of just a few days in mid-March, the entire world of sports stopped completely.

Pro and college leagues would go on to put extensive health and safety protocols in place in order to bring the games back, though in a way they never really felt the same.

MLB shortened its 2020 season to 60 games, less than 40 percent of a normal year’s schedule, after a heated and public negotiation between the owners and the Players Association. The NBA set up a bubble environment at Walt Disney World in Orlando to house the playoffs. The NHL followed suit with a pair of bubble environments of their own.

And almost all of it was done entirely without fans. And while there were cardboard cutouts at Citi Field when the Mets took the field and teams used artificial crowd noise to try to imitate a normal gameday, the eerie site of pro games being played in empty stadiums will be the lasting sports image of the year 2020.

The Mets finished the shortened 2020 season 26-34, missing out on the expanded MLB playoffs, as Jacob deGrom came up just short of his third straight NL Cy Young, finishing third behind Trevor Bauer and Yu Darvish.

The Yankees began the Gerrit Cole era without fans in attendance, and while they finished 33-27 and made the playoffs thanks to strong seasons from DJ LeMahieu and Luke Voit, they came up short against the Tampa Bay Rays, both in the final season standings and then again in ALDS.

The Knicks saw their disappointing season end with a record of 21-45, and while they showed improvement under interim head coach Mike Miller, it wasn’t enough to qualify for the Disney bubble. The Nets, playing without Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, were quickly swept in the first found by the Toronto Raptors.

As for the local hockey teams, the Rangers -- who had been building momentum for a possible playoff run before the season was stopped -- were quickly swept out of the Eastern Conference bubble in the Qualifying Round by the Carolina Hurricanes. The Islanders advanced all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals, thanks to a thrilling seven-game series win over Philadelphia, but they were upended by the Tampa Bay Lightning, who went on to win the Stanley Cup. The Devils, meanwhile, failed to qualify for the NHL bubble.

The NFL season, though it’s had its issues with games being postponed and rescheduled, has managed to have a somewhat normal season, albeit without all the fans (excluding a handful of teams allowing a limited capacity).

But seeing the NFL Draft, which is typically one of the biggest yearly spectacles that the league puts together, being conducted out of commissioner Roger Goodell’s basement with picks watching from home on the biggest moment day of their lives, was something completely out of the ordinary.

Whenever it is that stadiums and arenas are safely packed with fans again, hopefully sooner rather than later, you can bet that New York sports fans will be cheering as loud as ever, doing what Pete Alonso implored in a Tweet back in April: 

“Shake the damn stadium!” 

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Counting Down the Top 10 NY Sports Stories of 2020

No. 10 - Giants hire Joe Judge

No. 9 - Jets move on from Jamal Adams, Le'Veon Bell

No. 8 - Derek Jeter voted into the Hall of Fame

No. 7 - Carlos Beltran out, Luis Rojas in

No. 6 - Henrik Lundqvist's Rangers career is over

No. 5 - Tom Seaver's death

No. 4 - Eli Manning retires

No. 3 - The Steve Cohen Era

No. 2 - Social justice causes

No. 1 - COVID-19's impact on sports

Honorable Mention

Saquon Barkley's injury, Yoenis Cespedes opting-out, Rangers drafting Alexis Lafreniere, Mets' unusual walk-off home run at Yankee Stadium, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant playing together, Knicks hiring Tom Thibodeau, Nets firing Kenny Atkinson and hiring Steve Nash, Liberty drafting Sabrina Ionescu, Yankees playoff run (or lack thereof), and sign-stealing aftermath

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