SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Sports in 2020 have changed as we know it. On March 11, the NBA became the first major pro sports league to shut down due to COVID-19. For the entire spring, arenas and stadiums sat quietly until sports slowly made their return in the summer.
While it's nowhere near normal, sports are back. But, the way it looks and feels for everyone involved is drastically different.
"I mean being out there with masks on is definitely different. But again, we were doing that in Arizona, so I guess I've gotten used to it a little bit," said Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford.
The normal roar of the crowd and fans packed in the stands have given way to a new normal. Masks and social distancing have been a top priority for players and coaches competing.
"There's ways to protect ourselves and everyone needs to stay in hotels at night. Not go to dinner, not go to bars. As hard as that is, you know it needs to happen. We need to make sacrifices this year," said Giants pitcher Jeff Samardzija.
"If we pretend that everybody has it and you keep your distance and take your precautions at least you know you did everything you could," added Athletics 3rd baseman Matt Chapman.
Media access has been changed to tiers, with all interviews being conducted via virtual video conferences. Fans in the stands, have been replaced by cardboard cutouts. The San Jose Earthquakes made their return to play in the MLS bubble in Orlando. Back in the Bay Area, the team hosted socially distanced free drive-in viewing parties for their fans to enjoy.
"Everyone understands the protocols and the situation we are in. Obviously, we would love to be in front of fans and have a packed stadium. That's how we would love to have it but we can't have it at that moment. But, it's nice to play a game and just be out there and even for 90 minutes just to be in that element," said Earthquakes forward Chris Wondolowski.
Chase Center has not hosted an event since March. Since then, the arena has become one of the safest in the world.
"We earned the GBAC (Global Biorisk Advisory Council) Star accreditation. It's the industries' gold standard when it comes to cleaning and disinfecting for disease mitigation. So, this is more than just using soap and water. This is making sure we are applying the highest standards and protocols to keep our guest safe," said Chase Center general manager Kim Stone. "The number one thing we do here is keep people safe at Chase Center is keep people safe and now it's about keeping people safe from the virus."
Last month, the 49ers returned to Santa Clara to prepare for an NFL season unlike any other.
"So many people have been working their tails off to equip this place. Such that our players feel comfortable and their families feel comfortable and our staff feels comfortable. Does that assure us of anything, no, but it sure allows us to mitigate any risk," said 49ers general manager John Lynch.
"I totally understand it but it's not going to be that fun. We love having the fans in there. They pump you up, you hear the noise, whether you are watching on TV or in there in person. Hopefully, it won't last. Hopefully eventually we will be able to get out fans in there," added 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan.
On Sunday September 13th, the 49ers will open the regular season against the Arizona Cardinals at Levi's Stadium. The team announced fans will not be allowed at that game, but the team will have ongoing talks with State and County officials about potentially having fans at some point later this season.
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