MLB, NBA, OTHER LEAGUES ARE ABOUT TO ANSWER SOME LINGERING QUESTIONS

A little bit of normalcy occurred this week as Major League Baseball concluded their “Summer Camp” by playing each other in an empty stadium. Camp ends in a couple of days and MLB will get things going for real on Friday in what could be the weirdest season yet.

It’ll be a grand experiment to see if sports can really go on during this pandemic. The MLS and NWSL have both began their seasons with tournaments, but for mainstream sports, everyone is looking to see how baseball can avoid an outbreak of the coronavirus.

The NBA and WNBA will begin their seasons in the Orlando bubble next week. So far, so good for pro basketball as no one has tested positive.

With no fans in the stands, sports will be a made-for-TV spectacle and the best reality show ever. Keeping college sports financially afloat could hinge on TV revenue and ratings would be through the roof. An exhibition game between the Mets and Yankees drew a 4.4 rating in the New York area, which would be a big number for any regular-season game. This was a glorified practice.

So of course fans will be watching these leagues, but so will university presidents, conference commissioners and college football coaches just to see if playing sports will be a smart and safe thing to do in September or October. Will the coronavirus strike and what will the television ratings look like?

The players are surely watching to see how all of this is going to play out. They’ll be looking to the NFL to see how they conduct their season if they have a season. Right now, NFL players are concerned there’s no protocol on how to keep everyone on the sideline safe.

As of now, most school districts are starting their academic years with online-only classes and several states have postponed high school fall sports. California, Washington, and most likely Oregon have already announced fall sports, including football, won’t be playing until the spring. It’s a distinct possibility that for one season only, NCAA football might also be moved to spring, beginning in late February and ending in May.

The drastic move to the spring would be just that, drastic. But these are drastic times. Of course, if at all possible, the NCAA would like to do anything it can do in order to keep things as normal as possible. Playing in front of fans will most likely be out of the question, no what the SEC and other teams in the South think.

As for the Pac-12, the five state governors won’t allow fans in stadiums and if they do, it won’t be in great numbers. Masks and social distancing will be a must, two things that aren’t exactly associated with the college football experience inside or outside the stadium.

Masks for on-field personnel would be easy, but social distancing on the sideline would be near impossible in most stadiums. If there are no fans in the stands, then players and coaches can utilize that space and it should be fine.

Unfortunately, there are so many scenarios where the virus can invade a team that it’s too difficult to account for every single one of them. One player could test positive and expose everyone on his team and on the other team. One case could affect 300-350 people easily since football is a contact sport.

Football players are going to have to find out quickly if they can play with a mask (face covering) on. A yes to this one question could solve a lot of problems.

Right now, there are a lot of questions lingering. But baseball and basketball are about to answer at least some of those questions to see where we go from here.

~ Don Smalley

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