When do sports face the point of no return?

by Gary Shelton on April 14, 2020

in general

How long until seasons are called off?/STEVEN MUNCIE

Tuesday, 4 a.m.

Deep down, in the places they do not let cameras in, in voices they do not allow to be loud enough for others to hear, there is an ominous date.

It is the crucial date for all sports.

Adam Silver knows it. Gary Bettman thinks about it. Rob Manfred has considered it. Even Roger Goodell knows it's out there.

How long does this delay have to occur before the current and upcoming seasons of all sports are in danger?

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How long can hockey be interrupted? How about basketball? How much further can baseball be pushed back before a mini-season is a farce? How long before Tom Brady's Bucs' career reads like Bo Jackson's?

Golf? Tennis? Soccer? What is their line-in-the-dirt date?

When do we reach the point of no return?

It was ominous the other day when the Chinese Basketball Association delayed its decision to reboot the season. It always seemed premature to start up sports again until a vaccine can be developed, and even then, it could take weeks -- even months -- before a vaccine could be widely available.

Doubtless, this disease will peak at some point. But at what point do you risk the odds of infection? In whose minds would it be a grand idea for athletes to breathe on each other during competition? We all long to have normalcy back in our lives, but you cannot rush a pandemic.

The answer, of course, is a vaccine, something that would allow us all to think we are safe. Otherwise, games are simply not worth it.

The sports:

Hockey: When the target for returning was Easter, it seemed that the season could be saved. But that appears to be more and more in doubt. If hockey came back now, it could play a few regular season games (that would be almost like exhibitions) then jump into the playoffs. It wouldn't be fair, of course, because shortened seasons rarely are. But it would be something.

Still, as the calendar moves toward May, there will come a time when trying to preserve the post-season will make no sense. I wouldn't want to abandon hope if I ran the NHL. But it's a consideration.

Basketball: Again, at some point, the consideration will no longer be about this season but the next one. The league can shorten playoff series, and it can play in empty arenas. But a better way of dealing with this virus has to come first.

Baseball: There have been several shortened seasons in baseball, so that isn't the problem. You can debate how many games the leagues could lop off of the season: Would 150 games be a true test? 125? 100? Personally, I think if the season could start by the all-star game, it would be worth playing.

Football: Hey, the NFL will do just fine with its draft. That's an inconvenience. But OTAs and training camps are bigger issues. Coaches would grumble, but I think if the league could resume by mid-July or early August, it would be fine.

College football: I love college football, even the pushover games that are glorified exhibitions. But sports aren't the reason that colleges exist. Again, schools would be just fine if they could be back by August.

The rest of it: It's a good time for all of us to reconsider our love of sports. Right now, a restaurant sounds good. Maybe a movie. But the feeling is that this isn't getting better fast enough.

I passed a youth football field the other day. The grass was overgrown, and there was a desolate feeling. Baseball fields are empty.

Frankly, it feels as if the isolation has a way to go.

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