BULLHEAD CITY — With the 2020 calendar on the precipice of July, it appears likely that some college and professional sports will succumb to COVID-19.
Every week, we learn of more players in more sports who have tested positive and must self-isolate or be quarantined, in accordance with safety protocol.
It is becoming increasingly obvious that fans who are in quest of NBA and NHL playoffs ought to cool their jets.
Add the fact that many college football teams are taking a two-week break (at minimum), there’s no predicting the NFL’s future, given that league’s annual Hall of Fame exhibition has been axed.
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Although the “Association” has tentatively reached a deal with most of its players to restart the 2019-20 season that was halted four months ago, at least 16 participants have tested positive for COVID-19. On the other hand, the league’s revival won’t tip off until late July, by which time a pair of prime contenders with lingering injuries — Philadelphia and the L.A. Clippers — should be 100% healthy.
On July 30, those Clippers jump-start the season’s resurrection against their intra-city rival Lakers, who remain Western Conference favorites as long as LeBron James and Anthony Davis take the court.
Don’t get me wrong, in the midst of what Bananarama would call a cruel summer, I would be grateful for any college and pro sports that bounce back, as a diversion from politics and the pandemic. However, as we’ve learned all too often this year, anything could happen over the next several weeks. The NBA claims to be pursuing the smartest, safest road back to the hardwood, but taking an additional month just may backfire.
What’s more, it would be difficult to blame any athletes who choose not to return or “restart” until October.
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As if the NHL doesn’t face enough landmines due to the pandemic, now one of its best players — New York’s Artemi Panarin — has said there shouldn’t be any summertime playoffs without a labor agreement.
As the league strives to pinpoint the most viable “hub” cities (one of which is Las Vegas) for its postseason purposes, there remain whispers as to whether coronavirus will break the ice. And as is the case with the NBA’s month-long preparation, I’m concerned NHL officials are waiting too long.
Is commish Gary Bettman and company actually going to begin the previous season’s makeshift “playoffs” in August, when next season will purportedly start in October? I suppose mid-summer hockey with ghosts in the seats is better than nothing.
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It isn’t the best time to be MLB mogul Rob Manfred, who has endured backlash due to the Houston Astros’ cheating scandal, a half-season delay because of the pandemic and now the rocky negotiations to finally play ball. What transpired this month in the commissioner’s office has been a grinding lesson in ineptitude.
The time-tested saying “Follow the money” led to a dead end, given the sport’s failure to forge a deal between team owners and their players. Nevertheless, we can still try to enjoy — via TV and radio —an abbreviated 60-game schedule.
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As noted before in this corner: The biggest test for those aforementioned sports will be the paucity of fans in the stands.
It’s one thing to continue golf, tennis and NASCAR without spectators in attendance. But to have NBA, MLB and NHL perform without vocal in-person supporters is a whole other ball game.