Ask someone to name their favorite sport and you will find a variety of answers.  The question so subjective that a crack of a bat, smell of fresh cut grass, or even taste of cheese dip may elicit contrasting responses.

Ask someone to name the toughest sport and you will find arguments defending the size and speed of the everyday linebacker, the blood and bruises of the MMA fighter, and the toothless grin of the second-line hockey player.  Again subjective.

But ask which sport has done the best job returning to play during a pandemic and there looks to be plenty of evidence to judge them objectively.  Even if the number of players, the schedule, the sport, and other factors suggest that we grade them on a curve (no COVID-19 pun intended).

So, in the spirit of school starting up again soon, however that is defined, here are my grades on the sports world and their handling of operating during a pandemic.

  • GOLF– The golf world was the first to excite us during the pandemic with the Tiger vs Phil matchup, and few are upset that John Deere Classics have been replaced by PGA Championships due to time constraints. But golf is an outside sport, naturally socially distant, in which the golfer is in a group of no more than four, wearing a glove, and is most likely not ethnically or socioeconomically considered to be at high-risk.  Unless the martini glasses in the clubhouse are tainted, these guys are pretty safe.

Grade B –

  • THE NBA – While the seeding games often looked like Summer League Basketball, commissioner Adam Silver, the players, and the league crushed it with first-class accommodations, safety protocol, top-notch testing and a phenomenal visual experience. Trying to exploit Zion Williamson and the Pelicans may have backfired, but an 8-0 Phoenix Suns and a red-hot Portland Trailblazers looked as if the play in experiment was a success.  The league, without question, led all sports in promoting social justice, with a tremendous amount of help from the WNBA.  But explain to me one thing.  Adam Silver is looking for the safest place for all players and staff, and he ends up picking an Amusement Park in Orlando?

Grade A

  • The MLS – Major League Soccer did a nice job of getting back to work as the teams wore some Black Lives Matter shirts, played hard, and battled to 1-0 victories like we are used to. Portland ended up defeating the underdog Orlando City SC to win the MLS Championships but two teams, FC Dallas and Nashville, dropped out of the tournament due to COVID-19.  Which is like someone asking how your rafting trip went, and you reply, “Great! Except for Bob and Larry.  May they rest in peace.”

Grade C+

  • The NHL – Having the season continue with an immediate playoff race, in which every team in the league’s invited, was a unique decision. And the visuals from the arenas look terrific.  In general, commissioner Gary Bettman rarely makes the right call, but choosing a neutral location in Canada versus the United States was pure genius.  I wonder if it had anything to do with the fact that the United States has 5.71 million confirmed COVID-19 cases to date, while Canada has less than 125,000.

Grade A

  • The NFL – It’s a little early to grade the National Football League as the season doesn’t begin until September. The announcement that the league canceled all four exhibition games this season is probably a win for everyone, even if we weren’t in a pandemic. COVID-19 could shutdown the season early, but I highly doubt it.  The NFL seems to turn a blind eye when it comes to steroid tests, drug tests, paternity tests, and concussion protocol tests.  I’m assuming positive COVID-19 tests may get buried too.

Grade N/A

  • The MLB – Let’s see. Spring Training was held in Florida and Arizona, the two biggest hotspots in the country, before being canceled.  The league fought among themselves until they were forced to turn a 162-game season into a laughable 60-game one.  The entire Miami Marlins got COVID-19, the St. Louis Cardinals have played only six games, the Reds/Pirates series was just delayed for positive tests, the Indians want two of their pitchers suspended for sneaking out during a pandemic, there are 7-inning doubleheaders, stars getting injured, and the entire country of Canada refusing to let any of the teams play ball up north.  Besides that, commissioner Rob Manfred nailed it.                                                                                                                                      Grade D

  • NCAA Football – This will be controversial, but I actually believe most conferences did the right thing by canceling fall sports with the potential of replaying them in the spring. I know that Ohio State quarterback, Justin Fields, has an online petition and a few hundred thousand signatures that say otherwise, but the lack of consistent testing and the player’s health take priority.  Besides, if college students were good decision makers…Jägermeister would be out of business.

Grade C+


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Alan Tapley is an educator, author, and blogger who has lived just outside of Boulder for the last twenty years.  His published work includes two novels, two children’s books, a series of cartoons in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, and multiple sports related articles. His love for family and the state of Colorado is only matched by one thing, his passion for sports.  The first baseball game he ever attended was at Wrigley Field, before there were lights.  At the final Bronco game at the old Mile High, he allegedly cut out a piece of his seat in the South stands.  But regardless of being here for the Avalanche’s last Stanley Cup, the Rockies only World Series appearance, and all the Broncos’ Super Bowl Victories, his wife never fails to remind him that he wasn’t at the University of Colorado in 1990, like she was.  The year the Buffs football team won the National Championship