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Apr 2020

Almost There?

Anyone that is even a moderately casual sports fan is most likely itching for live sports to be back in action.  If the overwhelming success of the "The Last Dance" on ESPN, chronicling the final Championship run of Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls in 1998, is any indication, we are clamouring for any hint of "new" within the sports world.  Don't get me wrong - the 10-part documentary is some of the best entertainment we have seen in the last few years.  I have enjoyed every single minute of the series so far and look forward to the remaining six instalments.  It, however, is not live sports.  Period.

News about a restart to the economy is ever-changing, a moving target.  Thus, news about sports starting up again is just as elusive in nature.  We were looking at soft openings of training facilities opening up in some NBA cities based on the loosening restrictions of each given State.  The goal was let players in facilities possibly as early as Friday May 1st, but that has since been shifted back a week with May 8th (or May 15th in some areas) being the soft re-launch.  Of course, this re-opening is not a complete relaxation of the rules - only personal, private sessions can be held during this first phase, which on the surface makes sense.

The problem I have is this - not every team will have the same authority to start holding these sessions.  When you look at this from a macro-perspective, this is not an even playing field for all teams should the season or post-season eventually start in July of this year.  So why the big rush to get things back up and running?  There is not a chance in hell that Adam Silver will resume any part of the season without every team having the same amount of time for a mini training camp before games are played.  It just won't happen.  He is too logical and has way too much to lose by offering a staggered approach to training again.  I could be wrong, but I just don't see it.

Same goes with other sports.  The NHL is batting around the idea of opening up five or six host cities to hold games either to complete the season or start their playoffs (which may or may not include a new format to allow more teams to compete in lieu of playing out the remainder of the regular season schedule).  Again, whatever the case may be, the only way that this should even remotely be a thought is if all teams have the same opportunity to train at the same frequency as every other team that is competing.

Now, call me an optimist, but I think there is a better than average chance that we get the NBA and NHL playoffs in before September.  I am not willing to put money on it yet, but I just feel that there are ways in which both leagues can operate under a "new reality" where teams and their extended staffs, along with officials, media crews, etc. can be sequestered in a couple of hotels close by to venues where the games will be played.  No fans or fanfare, but the games can be played out.  Is it ideal?  Of course not.  Does everyone want sports back, including the players?  Of course.  So when you hear a player belly-aching that he or she does not want to play without fans, please unfollow them on social media.  They are either lying through their teeth or they are not in touch with reality.  They want to be paid, and playing under any adjusted circumstances will be accepted over time.

So, bring on the NBA and NHL in July along with the EPL, MLS and UEFA CL.  MLB can start whenever (don't really care for the sport much) and start preparing the kids for the NCAA to kick back in to gear in the fall...but only if it is truly safe to do so.  But I beg of all the commissioners out there, please do not piece meal a re-start to a season or the launch of a new season.  As the world mantra goes, "we are all in this together", so let's actually practice what we preach and be sensible in bringing back the world of sports for all of us to re-enjoy.

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