Well here we are, one month after Major League Baseball returned eventually leading to the NBA and NHL restarting their “2019-20 season” respectively a week later. I know Major League Soccer returned much earlier and as much as I have always been a supporter for the NHL and MLS to shine bright alongside the NHL, MLB, and NBA, I’ll just call that a work in progress.
Let’s go back to mid-March as painful as it is to go back to the beginning of this pandemic, sports fans including myself were just in shock those first few weekends when there were no sports on. Turning on SportsCenter in the evening and seeing Scott Van Pelt give those senior spotlight shoutouts was uplifting but the whole mood was somber as reports daily said sports were not coming back until late summer, even that seemed questionable. I think most of us were hoping this would all go away by late April to see Khabib-Ferguson in UFC 209 and ultimately Khabib was restricted from traveling. The circumstances are completely understandable, and nothing could be done to move forward but I have to imagine Dana White is still wondering what if? Ratings and anticipation for that fight would have been the second-biggest story during the sports shutdown behind The Last Dance.
Now in late-August, Major League Baseball is 30+ games in, and the NBA and Stanley Cup playoffs are in the first round. Labor Day is around the corner, so college football is upon us, right? Well Stephen F. Austin-UTEP is now the prime time game the first Saturday night but we all said it or at least thought it once, let’s not take sports for granted again. Do I need to bring up mid and late-March weekends again? 2020 is far from normal and in 30 years, just show young sports fans this sports schedule to make their heads spin. Yes, the NHL played in the middle of the summer. Yes, the SEC, ACC, and Big 12 were the only major conferences who played football in the fall.
As much as I want to get into the NBA playoffs like it’s late April, the empty seats and the Zoom crowd are just not cutting it, but I don’t think any of us thought it would. There is something about watching the playoffs and seeing the whole crowd wear the same colored shirt, a packed arena waving towels, and the loud cheers making you feel like you’re sitting at mid-court. Maybe if these games were being played at the usual time of year, I’d feel differently but sometimes all I can think is when will those seats be filled again? When can we watch a big game in a crowded sports bar? When can we pay outrageous ticket fees to Ticketmaster? By the way, just call up the front office ticket sales department, you will save so much more time and money.
Another reason to be pessimistic is the possibility of the virus entering the bubble or simply the MLB throwing in the white flag with too many teams having to postpone games due to an outbreak on a team. Could all this progress and this buildup to crown champions in 2020 be torn away? With the way this year has gone, it is near impossible to dream two or three months down the road.
However to end on a bright note, it seems everything is still going in the right direction and we are on track to see an NBA Champion be crowned in October. We are also on track to the see the on-field celebration after the final out of the World Series with no spectators in attendance. Let’s sit back and enjoy what we have because sports could’ve gone away for the rest of the year. It isn’t the same and there will barely be a difference between regular season, postseason, home and away games, but this is what we have, maybe for a while. Who knows, some of this could be for the best for the future after this pandemic. Maybe let’s shorten the MLB season for good to have everyday competitiveness and have the summer be the NBA playoffs and also Opening Day. The fall would solely be focused on football other than the World Series and Major League Baseball could have near sold-out stadiums every night. Sorry NHL, it may be that I don’t have a dog in the fight this year but watching a hockey game when it is 110 degrees outside will never feel normal to me. MLS, just please get a better TV contract.