What Lies Ahead?
To quote a famous Guns N' Roses Sweet Child O' Mine lyric, "Where do we go now?". Fantastic song from an iconic band.
Massive questions still surround the fate of all professional sports leagues around the globe as to whether or not to continue, start or delete the season. I am in awe of the staggering numbers broadcast on numerous media outlets confirming the breadth and depth of this pandemic. My heart goes out to Italy, Spain, Switzerland, France, China, and the 180+ countries that are fighting battles to save lives under the most dire conditions. At this point, there are a ton of theories, conspiracy or otherwise, and to be honest, who really gives a toss about how it started and where. That is something that can be debated, researched, investigated and beaten to death (sorry...may be a sensitive word for some) at a later date. Let's cut the BS now and show our support for the women and men whom are on the front lines of this battle. For the ones that are stuck in the vicious cycle of blaming certain countries or certain leaders or groups of people, get over yourselves. You have lost the plot. People are dying...let's worry about saving the ill rather than focusing energy on trying to lay blame.
Ok...on to much less important matters. Here are my thoughts on how are major sports should start/resume if and when the pandemic is under control:
NBA - set a date for May 1st to start training again. Continue with the regular season having each team play 15 games. It would be great to play in front of fans, but if that is not possible, have all teams play games tournament-style in one or two venues where they play a set of five games over 10 days and then shuffle the teams and play the second round of five games in 10 days. Same goes for the last five games. You would effectively limit the amount of screening needed while at the same time maintaining a certain level of "quarantine" for the players, coaches, team staff and media. That would bring us to mid-June where playoffs could start. Again, the same methodology could be used for playoffs, but it would be even more contained as less travel and thus less opportunity for a breach for the virus to take hold.
This could carry right through to mid-August with minimal impact to players and teams alike. They finish their season, operate and play in their own micro-dome, and complete the season. It's a crazy, maybe outlandish approach however something to think about. Should there be signs of easing with the pandemic during this time, then maybe teams can make arrangements to play in their home arenas...however that may be a pipe dream at this point.
The same can be done with the NHL, so no need to rehash. Some players, like Sydney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin, are fine jumping right in to the playoffs. I am not a huge fan of this approach as the teams should have the option to get acclimated to the game again with a few "regular season" games so rather than jump right into a pressure-cooker series.
European Football - I can't fathom the thought of the EPL cancelling and ultimately striking the entire season from the record books, leaving all opportunities for promotion and relegation teams to have to reset and do it all over again next year under the same circumstances of the 2019-20 season. I completely understand the timelines that football works with, so delaying any pro season for a length of time that would have one season bleed into the next is simply not feasible. I said I can't fathom it, but I guess I have to respect it if it does happen. I feel for teams like Liverpool, whom easily would be EPL champs this season, only to have their near-immaculate league run banished from history. Solution - Simply put, it sucks. I think if things can't get rolling by May 1st, footie is done until the new season starts. It really is the only option and the reset button must be hit.
MLB - I can't see baseball playing a full 162 game schedule. It just isn't realistic. I know there are players, naturalists, etc. that are saying that "it's not a true season if you do not play 162 games". That is absurd. You are telling me that if each team plays 120 games in a season that you couldn't count that as a real season? If you ask me, MLB needs a short season where games are worth more. There is nothing worse than your team being out of a playoff shot by mid-June and having to suffer through the last 90 games of the season with them. Baseball is a dinosaur...Brockmire has it right I tell ya. Solution - play as many games as possible. You never know...the sport might actually have a pulse with a condensed year.
ATP/WTA and PGA - All three tours have had major tournament shuffles to their schedules. As a fan of all three, I am totally on board with shifting the schedule to retain as many major/grand slam tournaments on the 2020 schedule as possible. Unfortunately, this will spell doom for a number of smaller tournaments on the tours once things start up again but it isn't a normal year by any stretch of the imagination. Choices have to be made, and some hosts will have to grin and bear it. Solution - keep shifting major and grand slam dates to accommodate the fluidity of the schedule. Trim some of the lesser tournaments and let's make sure that the big ticket events get priority. Fans will get it and be delighted to have tennis and golf back in their lives.
UFC/Boxing - I am a casual fan of both, and watch the major events when they come around. I am on board with having the fights run as scheduled with no fans if that is what they want to do. I am also in favour of peeps like Joe Rogan stating that if the events run, he will not be there as a commentator. I respect his stance, and would not hold it against anyone whom took this stance as well. Solution - Do what you have to do, but be compassionate with those whom would rather take a wait and see approach.
We all know what has happened with the Olympics and the World Cup. Done. Those decisions were the right decisions and I commend the powers that be for making the tough call do delay the events by a year. We will get through this, we will move on, and we will heal. Hopefully the entire summer of sports isn't lost, but if it is, I trust that the decision makers for each sports entity pulled the right trigger.
With all of that said, I hope Jim Jefferies doesn't cancel his tour dates in May. I won't hold my breath, but every body part that can be crossed at the moment is crossed.