The opinions in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of NightMoves and AAN.
There is no question the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we live today as compared to three months ago. It has thrown a monkey wrench into all of our lives in many different ways and we cannot wait for the day when this will all be behind us and life returns to normal. However, the question is, when will that be and what will “normal” be like? No one has a clear cut answer to that.
Then there are the folks like me, the sports junkies who are going absolutely crazy without the NBA, NHL, MLB, PGA, NASCAR and any other big time sports events we follow to keep us entertained and happy and the withdrawal hasn’t been fun. Oh, ESPN and the other sports channels are filling the void with interactive video game like races, baseball, etc. They are showing highlighted games from the past, races and golf matches from the past as well. They are showing sports movies (how many times can the MLB Network show “The Natural”?). So they are trying, but it just doesn’t satisfy that quenching thirst for the real thing.
The NHL and NBA, who would be in their post season right now, are hopeful they can get back to the business of either finishing their seasons and getting on with the post season, or declaring the season over and going right to the post season. The problem with these two leagues is timing. As both usually conclude their seasons with the championshi9ps in early June, they literally don’t have a lot of time to work with. They cannot let it get beyond that because the players need time off before they prepare for the 2020-2021 season. So both these leagues are playing a waiting game as the clock ticks and the idea of playing again this year dwindles with each passing day.
MLB hasn’t even begun their season of 162 games which now will be impossible to play. They have bandied about some wild ideas. There have been proposals about playing all the games in Arizona, 7 inning doubleheaders, a one time realignment of the two leagues, playing 100 or so games, etc. But here again, time is of the essence and none of the leagues want to restart unless they are certain players will be protected from the virus and it will be safe to play.
On the other hand the NFL, while they have made the upcoming draft a remote event, that is about the only change they have made. Goodell still believes the NFL camps will begin on time and the season will start on time in September. Whoa Nelly, hold on here! Right now there is no guarantee this country will be back to normal in July, let alone next month. If it is not and still not safe to abandon the social distancing and stay at home orders, then starting NFL pre season camps will not happen, which automatically means the season will get pushed back to, who knows when. The NFL, I feel, has been very remiss for not having any plan in place and having the smug attitude that they will start on time and play a full season. I think Goodell is taking too much of a risk involving about 2,000 personnel and seems to be more concerned about the $$$$ the league brings in than what is best for the players, coaches, families and the fans.
As much as I miss seeing the Lightning going for the Stanley Cup, the Rays season getting underway with a club that could get to the World Series and maybe not see Tom Brady as a Buccaneer along with other sports events I will miss, I am also a realist. As much as it pains me, and looking at the big picture for now and the future the best thing the NBA and NHL could do is play the waiting game for one more month. If nothing has changed then abort the season with no champions. For the NHL it wouldn’t be the first time. There was no Stanley Cup champion in 1919 because of the Spanish Flu pandemic and 2005 because of the strike. As for MLB, their best bet from a health standpoint, which is the number one priority, just cancel out the season and ramp up for 2021. Forget the Arizona idea, empty stands, a Christmas World Series, etc. In regards to the NFL, stop being so smug and thinking your league is better, smarter and at less risk than the others. It is time for the NFL to start taking the idea of a late start or no start in 2020 serious.
While sports are a very important part of this country’s fabric and makeup it is secondary right now. Let’s get this country back on its feet, people back to work, people regaining their health, building up the economy and being stronger than ever as a nation. Sports will still be here, the professional leagues and the various sports events will return, but right now in April 2020, they are NOT a priority to the well being of a country going through a killer pandemic that has taken the lives of way too many people of all ages. I know it is a hard pill to swallow when you are a sports fan, regardless of the degree, and cannot see your favorite teams in action, your favorite players giving their all and the sounds of the crowds in the stadiums and arenas. We just have to be patient, find other avenues to occupy our time and then welcome sports back with wide open arms when the time is right.
So the choice here is getting sports back too soon and creating more risk or working on saving lives and getting through this pandemic? I think the choice is an easy one and I would hope ALL the commissioners of the various sports leagues, NASCAR, PGA and others feel the same way.
Art Koch, National Features & DVD Editor, NightMoves Magazine and AAN