Like a steak tied at the end of a rope and thrust just out of reach of a hungry dog, the reappearance of live sports is being laid before us ever so elusively.
NASCAR, men’s and women’s professional golf and soccer and mixed martial arts have made their respective returns, but those have only served to whet appetites for the main course.
By the end of this week, we should have the start of baseball, albeit in a truncated, 60-game sprint to the postseason. The NHL will restart with 24 of its 30 teams playing in two Canadian cities, starting August 1.
The NBA will resume its schedule next week with 22 of 30 teams playing within a bubble in Orlando, while the WNBA will launch its slate from a bubble in Bradenton, Fla. Saturday.
And, by the end of the month, NFL rosters will assemble for training camp on the way to beginning the 2020 season in September.
Yes, the table is surely set for a meal that many of us have been eagerly awaiting for months. But, in what has become the usual in this year of heartbreaks and disappointments, there are questions about whether the main course will actually be served.
To wit, there are many more questions than answers about whether sports leagues have done the necessary groundwork to bring games back safely.
Take baseball, for instance. The Toronto Blue Jays don’t have a home stadium to play in, as the Canadian government has banned the team and its opponents from crossing the U.S. border, given the outbreak of COVID-19 here on this side of the boundary.
The basketball leagues are dealing with the challenges of fielding rosters with numbers of players opting to pass up their seasons, mainly for health concerns.
Which leads to the NFL, where rookies and free agents hoping to land spots on the roster are expected to return as early as tomorrow with veterans coming in later in the week.
However, the players return with any number of safety issues still to be resolved between the players union and management.
Those differences have drawn the concern, bordering on ire, of some prominent players like reigning Super Bowl Most Valuable Player Patrick Mahomes, Houston defensive lineman J.J. Watt and Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson.
The players’ unease stems from unresolved questions with the league over the frequency of testing, how much, if any, of the exhibition season will exist, rules for opting out of play and concerns over the economics of the game, if, as expected, the NFL takes in less money this year.
All of the leagues have resigned themselves to the idea that whatever sports looks like the rest of this year, they will be presented with few, if any, live spectators.
That fact alone will cost the leagues millions, if not, billions of dollars. We may look back on that fact and other realities of this time and realize that all of this was a small price to pay to be able to dine at the table of sports again.
And that’s how I see it for this week. Thanks for listening and enjoy the games…whenever they return.