What to do, what to do if you’re a sports team owner in the midst of a pandemic that is preventing there from being any sports? Sure, you could cut all your employees’ salaries and then when that isn’t popular get Bloomberg News to write an article about how great you are for donating leftover hand soap to hospitals, but to really kill a lot of time, you’re going to want to get together on Zoom with your fellow owners and do what every eight-year-old does during any sports offseason: Draw up imaginary plans of what sports might look like when it returns. And right now, team owners have imagination to burn:
- ESPN’s Jeff Passan, who first reported last week that MLB was looking at playing whatever it can salvage of a season entirely in front of empty stadiums in Arizona starting as early as May, now says “it seems like it’s going to be Arizona or bust for major league baseball,” at least to begin the season. Added Passan: “And they have to get to the point with themselves where they say ‘this is what we’re going to try to do, even if we can’t ultimately pull it off.'” Given that USA Today has calculated this would require quarantining nearly 10,000 people (counting players, support staff, food and hotel workers, etc.) for four months, and testing them constantly with tests that don’t currently exist in quantity and aren’t likely to anytime soon in part because of a medical Q-tip shortage, that’s an important “if.”
- Another guy from ESPN went on an ESPN show to say that the NBA is “looking at” a 25-day practice period before starting games, which has to be the biggest piece of non-news ever — does it even matter how long an exhibition season might last if no one knows when the actual season would begin? — but it still got picked up in the sports media, because what else are they gonna do with their time? Actual virus reporting?
- MLS commissioner Don Garber says he’s “focused at getting in as many games as possible,” starting sometime, “mostly” with no fans, maybe as a tournament, and anyway let’s see what Europe is doing first.
- In Europe, the Champions League and Europa League are drawing up plans to finish out their tournaments with a flurry of games at empty stadiums in a two-week window in August, mostly on the assumption that leagues’ regular seasons will be completed by then, maybe.
- The XFL laid off all its employees and filed for bankruptcy. Some people have no imagination!
If there’s a commonality here, it’s that all of the above — okay, save the XFL thing — is about plans, not decisions. Which is fine: Right now not even infectious disease experts know whether we could have a somewhat normal summer if social distancing is successful or if large gatherings for sports and concerts won’t return until fall 2021 at the earliest, and we won’t until we see the results of nations starting to ease restrictions, which could take three months or so to know for sure. But none of this is actual news about when sports will return; it’s just spitballing, albeit spitballing by a bunch of rich people with PR staffs and an entire industry of journalists following them around to report on every rumor that passes their lips.
If you want real news, and real sports, you’ll have to turn to South Korea, where the Korean Baseball Organization is tentatively set to start its season in early May. And ESPN wants to broadcast it, because ESPN sure has nothing else to show you right now. One hopes it will include a ticker across the bottom of the screen showing daily new coronavirus infections and hospitalizations in South Korea, because unless you’re really invested in Dan Straily’s comeback attempt, those are going to be the most important sports stats you’re likely to see for a while.