By Bruce Penton
There is a rhythm to the world of sports that has been irretrievably shattered in 2020, the year of COVID-19.
Hockey and basketball start in October, as football season is in mid-bash. Spring brings warm weather and the beauty of baseball, and hockey and basketball fans hunker down in front of their TV sets to watch the long roads to the Stanley Cup and the NBA finals. Golf — Thursday through Sunday weekly, like clockwork — never ends. We feign interest in the Boston Marathon on a Monday in April. Sports fans eagerly await Wimbledon and the CFL in July, hockey camps and the NFL opening in September. And the perpetual circle of sports begins anew.
Until now. Pro golf is talking about a restart in mid-June, with no fans. Don’t bet on it. The NHL and NBA bravely talk about concluding their 2019-20 regular seasons and playoffs in the summer, even if they butt up against what would normally be the start of next season. Don’t bet on it. Baseball’s talking about a wacky plan to have all of its 30 teams hunker down in Arizona and start playing its 2020 regular season with no travel required. Wimbledon’s been cancelled. The CFL has postponed its training camps and a delayed start to the regular season, if it’s lucky, is almost guaranteed. The NFL, the one pro sports entity that could financially thrive without fans, thanks to ultra-lucrative television contracts, hasn’t even whispered that its 2020 season could be delayed, or cancelled. But it likely will be.
And we wait. We go for longer walks now that the weather has warmed up. Many golf courses are shuttered, on government order. We watch replays of old sports events when we’re bored. We surf the net. We eat. We Zoom. We wear masks, even into banks on occasion.
Hundreds of thousands of people have died around the world. The sports fan’s woes are immaterial. We can hope for a return to sports action, but if it doesn’t happen for another 12 months, well, at least we’re alive to wait those 12 months. The economy can eventually recover. Dead people can’t. Smart minds will help develop a vaccine and life will return to (almost) normal. Customs like the Stanley Cup end-of-series handshakes are probably gone forever, but the Stanley Cup will be presented again. Trying to establish a definite timeline for the full return of our rhythmic sports circle is a fool’s game. But ‘eventually’ works. Bet on it.
• Jack Finarelli, found at theSportsCurmudgeon.com: “Any baseball player who allows walk-up music to be played for him should also expect to hear Chopin’s Funeral March played for them every time they make an out.”
• Janice Hough of leftcoastsportsbabe.com: “A Tiger Woods/Peyton Manning vs Phil Mickelson/Tom Brady charity golf match is planned for May, without spectators. Well, good to see in these tough times without sports that poor Brady is getting some attention.”
• Bob Molinaro of pilotonline.com (Hampton, Va.): “I would think that MLB has enough problems at the moment without Alex Rodriguez and Jennifer Lopez taking ownership of the Mets.”
• Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle, on NFL commissioner Roger Goodell conducting the draft from his basement: “This might be the first draft at which the commissioner’s podium will feature drying laundry.”
• Omaha comedy writer Brad Dickson, on the NFL draft: “Traditionally Roger Goodell runs out of inspirational tragic stories in round four and resorts to stuff like telling us about a player from Western Kentucky who had to overcome getting his foot stuck in a toilet.”
• Dickson again: “The first sports to return will probably be televised golf and televised baseball. Oh great, now we have to worry about being bored to death.”
• From fark.com: “The 2020 Western Hockey League draft reveals positives and negatives. The positive: The virus of Brayden has passed its peak. The negative: It has mutated into variations of Hayden, Aiden, Kaden, Jayden, Grayden and (deep breath) Teydon.”
• Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Baseball 101. New fundamentals to work on if baseball ever resumes spring training: Maintaining six-foot spacing during bench-clearing brawls.”
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