We’re nearly a month into this Coronavirus pandemic here in the United States. It was the night of March 11th when Utah Jazz player Rudy Gobert tested positive for Coronavirus and the sports world began to collapse. Since then, virtually all sporting events across the globe have been canceled or postponed. Even events as far out as July and August have been canceled, including the 2020 Summer Olympics, which have been moved to next year. We are still in the early stages of this pandemic but nearly a month after it all started, we are starting to get some ideas as to when major sporting events will return.
The NBA was the epicenter of the virus and its effect on the sporting world. Gobert was the first professional athlete in America to test positive for the virus and at the time it may have upset a number of people. Now, however, we learn that it may have been a blessing in disguise as it helped leagues shutdown quicker and potentially saved many lives.
When the league was suspended, teams had about 17 games left in their regular season, about 21% of the season remaining. With that much of the season remaining it is hard to guarantee anything but it seemed like all but just one playoff spot was secure. In the Western Conference, four teams were within four games of the Memphis Grizzlies and the eighth seed.
There have been talks of just hoping right into the NBA playoffs if and when the season resumes but a majority of players and fans seem to oppose that idea. The NBA has looked at every possible scenario and as we get deeper into the 2020 calendar year, it is seeming less likely that the 2020 NBA season will resume at all.
In the past few days alone, ESPN reporters Adrian Wojnarowski and Brian Windhorst have talked about the level of “pessimism” that is currently going on in the NBA about the season returning at all. A lot of this has developed in the last week alone according to Windhorst. As it stands it right now, the NBA could be the first of the four major US sports leagues to cancel its remaining 2019-2020 season. The start of the 2020-2021 season may even be in danger at this point.
Like the NBA, the NHL also has an 82 game schedule and the season timeline is also similar in terms of starting and ending months. The majority of NHL teams had about 12 games remaining in their regular-season schedule. Unlike the NBA, there are still plenty of teams still in playoff contention.
A couple of weeks ago back in mid-March, the NHL was hoping to resume its season within a month. Now it is clear that won’t be the case. Towards the end of March, the realistic goal was set for the NHL season to return sometime in July. The thought was to have the regular-season finish with the playoffs going into September. Then start the following season on time in October. The NHL has expressed its goal to finish the entire regular season as opposed to going straight into the playoffs as the NBA has discussed.
The NHL also has some key events scheduled in June, such as the NHL Scouting Combine and NHL Draft. It is unknown how those events will be effected at this time.
Earlier this week the NHL has discussed potentially continuing the regular season in North Dakota. More about that issue should surface later this week.
The MLB is the first of the four major sports to have the start of its regular season impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic. We have already missed Opening Day, which was slated for a couple of weeks ago. The MLB is also weighing all possible options on when and how they will start the regular season. There have even been talks about a shortened regular season or possibly even playing into December.
While those options are just jumping-off points so far, the MLB may have a solution to get started as soon as May. Although, it seems unlikely based on some of the requirements.
ESPN’s Jeff Passan got sports fans excited earlier this week when he mentioned the possibility of the MLB returning as soon as May. However, there are plenty of hurdles standing in the way of that possibility and even Passan himself seems a little skeptical.
Some of the requirements include:
– Implementing an electronic strike zone to allow the plate umpire to maintain sufficient distance from the catcher and batter
– No mound visits from the catcher or pitching coach
– Seven-inning doubleheaders, which with an earlier-than-expected start date could allow baseball to come closer to a full 162-game season
– Players sitting in the empty stands 6 feet apart, the recommended social-distancing space, instead of in a dugout
One of the biggest issues might be the isolation of players and coaches. Players and coaches would be required to be isolated at their hotels and travel only from the hotel to the stadium for games. Players and coaches would be away from their families for four or more consecutive months. All of the games would be played in Arizona under this scenario.
It seems like a stretch but it may be the best option for the MLB right now if they want to get baseball started soon and potentially play a full season. Whatever the MLB decides, one thing is for sure, this won’t be a typical 162-game season of nine-inning baseball.
The NFL regular season doesn’t start until September 10th. While that may seem like plenty of time for this entire situation to calm down, that may not be the case. Even the king of sports, which is slated to start for another five months, could be in jeopardy.
The NFL has already stated that the NFL Draft will still be held on the scheduled days of April 23rd-25th. However, it will be a “fully virtual” draft. All picks, trade talks and information will be communicated through phone and internet.
As far as any other offseason activities such as training camp or even preseason games, it is unknown exactly what will happen with that at this time. One bit of good news is that President Donald Trump recently held a meeting with a number of representatives for different sports leagues across the country. Trump informed them that he expects the NFL season to begin on time in September.
As of now, the expectation is that the NFL season will start on time. However, based on how things have progressed from the start of the pandemic up till now, there really is no way of knowing for sure. Nobody knows where this situation will be in a couple of days let alone five months.
Back on March 12th, most people would have assumed that Wimbledon or The Open Championship would have gone on as scheduled. Now both events, which were mostly scheduled for mid-July (Wimbledon was scheduled to start in late June), are both canceled. Both events were canceled for the first time since World War II.