Sports’ Return Will Be a Bumpy Ride

As the late, great radio broadcaster of the New York Mets Bob Murphy used to say in the ninth inning of a close game, “Put on your seatbelts!”

Sports are ready to start up and in some places are already under way.  The Colonial Golf Tournament was held this past weekend, for instance.  But we must expect that things will just not be normal. Watching any event without fans or crowd noise is really kind of strange. It is good to have sports back in the fray even if an event’s ending seems anti-climactic without the fan reaction.

However, there will be sports…and there will be issues with sports.

Let’s start with Major League Baseball and what must be the most self-centered, selfish, ignorant, arrogant, foolish (sorry if I missed an adjective, I’m trying to keep it clean) and tone deaf labor dispute in the history of the world. The owners and players have failed to understand that their dying sport is indeed dying (look at the levels of activity on any baseball field and the growing popularity of youth Lacrosse which shares its season with baseball). This could have been a landmark moment to engage young fans, to embrace their current fans and to have an impact on helping people get through this dire time.

But what did we get?

Billionaires fighting with millionaires over money pies and concessions on something that eventually nobody is going to pay attention to—who gets what in their sport. Forrest Gump said, “stupid is as stupid does” and you can’t get much more stupid than Major League Baseball—every one of its owners, its so called “leadership” and its players association. We knew this battle was coming in 2021 with a negotiation on a new collective bargaining agreement, we did not know that both sides would be so callous as to engage in this fight at a time when so many are suffering.

They have taken a sport that so many love and held it hostage at a moment when people are literally dying, fighting, and sacrificing—in the name of money. The baseball situation can only be described as one of infinite shame and greed.

Let us move on from that idiocy:

We have already seen the University of Houston return to some football activity.  Then, they had six players test positive for COVID-19 and had to shut down its pre-season activity. This is going to be the problem, How will teams and leagues face the inevitable situation of players, administrators and coaches being infected with the coronavirus and being able to keep their schedule and games moving forward?

I don’t have an answer to that, but at the end of the day they will try to get games in–they will try to get back to some sense of normalcy and, hopefully, as the pandemic dies down we will see more and more activity, more fans and more “normalcy.” However, it may take a good year to a year and a half before we get to the point where we feel things look and feel the same.

Pac-12 football teams now have clearance to get back to work, albeit on a voluntary basis.

League presidents and chancellors voted on Tuesday to allow in-person athletic workouts for all sports beginning June 15. The move lends optimism to the notion that an on-time start to the college football season is possible.

And youth sports are starting to come back, with some modifications in order to keep social distancing within the activity—which may be a very difficult thing to do!

Major League Soccer is Back! All 26 teams are set to resume the season at ESPN Wide World of Sports starting July 8th.

The MLS medical department and the league’s infectious disease experts have developed a comprehensive COVID-19 testing plan which will be implemented for the entire MLS Is Back Tournament.

The NBA surpassed its longest in-season stoppage months ago. So many are eager for the league to return from its coronavirus hiatus, but with the ongoing pandemic and widespread social unrest many athletes are loath to return to games in the self-isolating “bubble” that the NBA is planning at Disney World.

The league wants to rush through the offseason for the continuing 22 teams, rush through next season and have NBA players available for the Tokyo Olympics. Moving up the resumption of this season buys more time for all that.  This could help satisfy players who are apprehensive about staying so long in the bubble.

Ultimately, this is only a minor change. But it shows just how flexible the schedule is with this restart.

There is much talk of the 2020-21 season, that would start in December or January so that the league could play as much of the year as possible with fans in the stands, on a conference-only schedule

The NHL is planning to re-start with a 24-team playoff at various sites around the country. NHL parameters for training camp eligibility have not yet been established, so it is unknown whether the 24 teams included in the tournament would be able to invite players whose contracts begin next season and are thus ineligible to compete this summer.

So, as Bob Murphy would say, “Ladies and gentlemen, put on your seatbelts!”


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Dave Torromeo
Dave Torromeo has served as the head of the Sport Business Management Program at Manhattanville College since its inception in July 2006. He has over 30 years of experience in sports business, including serving as VP of the National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame, (NFF), 15 years in collegiate athletics and as an industry consultant. He has worked in nearly every capacity of the sports world, from a minor league team, to a D-I athletic program and the Football Foundation. He is also a consultant to the sports industry and founder of Future Sports Business Executives, Sports Business Advocates, LLC which operates the Sports Business Institute.