As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, sports games have been canceled all over the world. According to a Feb. 2020 CDC article, gathering in large crowds to attend sporting events increases the spread of the virus. Several sporting associations like the NBA and the MLB have continued to play without live spectators. The athletes and coaching staff are required to follow COVID-19 restrictions. At the end of the 2019-2020 season, NBA players were placed in a “bubble” and weren't allowed to see anyone outside of the isolation zone, including their own families. Even though you can't go and physically see your favorite players in a game, you can still watch sports on television. However, is watching sports during a pandemic a good or a bad thing?

In an Aug. 2018 Symmetry Counseling article, child psychologist and cognitive behavioral therapy counselor Meenal Patel claimed that there are mental health benefits of being a sports fan. She believes that people who watch sports create an emotional connection with the player, which boosts a person’s energy. In the article, Patel cites studies that have shown that watching sports allows a person to feel less lonely. When talking about sports with others, individuals gain self-confidence and feel like they are a part of a larger community. She also states that when people are screaming at the TV, or getting angry over bad plays, it is a way to relieve stress and emotions. Therefore, watching sports during a pandemic that requires isolation seems like a good thing, because it can be a way to feel less alone, serve as a stress reliever and provide a moment of distraction from all the things that are happening in the world.

Not everyone agrees with Patel’s conclusions. Amanda MacMillan, a sports and wellness writer for TIME Magazine, stated in an Oct. 2017 TIME article that watching sports can actually put stress on your heart. MacMillan states that researchers found that the pulses of people who watched hockey on television increased by 75%, compared to 110% when they watched a hockey game in person. This increase in heart rate can lead to various health issues down the road. Additionally, when you watch a game and your favored team loses, it can have negative effects on your mental health. This is because people connect with the teams that they root for, and when their team fails, fans feel like they are failing themselves. According to MacMillan, watching sports during a stressful and isolating time might not be the best idea. 

This article explores the pros and cons of watching sports during the pandemic and the results have shown that there are both benefits and downfalls. According to researchers, it may help you relieve stress and make you feel like you are a part of a larger community, but it may also negatively impact your mental health. The only conclusion I can make from this is that you should weigh both options, watch sports if it helps you find a sense of community but proceed with caution if it is causing you mental distress.