The Corner

Sports

The Grim Outlook for the Sports World’s Returning Anytime Soon

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) throws in the pocket against the San Francisco 49ers during Super Bowl LIV at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla., February 2, 2020. (Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports)

The Wimbledon tennis championships, scheduled to run from June 29 to July 12, are canceled — not postponed to a later date, but simply not happening this year, for the first time since 1945.

The country will be in a crisis state for April, May isn’t looking too good either, and clearly, the All England Club does not think the coronavirus outbreak will have sufficiently subsided to hold their signature event in early July.

If you’re a fan of professional basketball, hockey, or baseball, this is really ominous news. The hopes for the NBA or NHL seasons restarting are dimming, and God only knows when circumstances will allow baseball to be played safely again. The major sport that might be able to return the fastest would be the PGA Tour, as golfers probably could compete while remaining six feet away from each other. As of now, the earliest golf event that is not yet canceled is the Charles Schwab Challenge, scheduled to start May 21 in Fort Worth, Texas.

The National Football League says it intends to begin the 2020 season on time in September. One of the more outlandish proposals being tossed around “takes all teams to a location free from coronavirus, tests everyone on the way in, and then sequesters the entire league for the full duration of the season.” On today’s Three Martini Lunch podcast, Greg and I tried to think through the enormous logistical hurdles of this proposal.

First, you would have to find a location free from coronavirus. (In case you’re wondering, as of this writing, the state of South Dakota has the fewest cases of any state, with 108.) Then you would need to have every player, coach, and figure associated with the team test free from coronavirus. That is 1,696 players, roughly 512 coaches, plus trainers, medical staff, referees, etc. Once everyone is certified coronavirus-free, all of those men would need housing and transportation for the duration of the playing season — and for health reasons, the league wouldn’t want them going back away from the newly-designated “Football City.” Then you would need to keep every team in that location — say, Brookings, S.D., where the teams can play in Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium, the home stadium of South Dakota State University. Presumably the games would have no fans in attendance, to maintain social distancing.

Each week that there is no bye week, the 32 teams of the NFL play 16 games. Each game is roughly three hours, so that means each week, that one stadium would have to host roughly 48 hours of football. (Some weeks four teams have a break or bye week; for those weeks, it’s 14 games, so 42 hours of games.)

There just aren’t enough waking hours in a weekend. They could schedule a noon game, a 3 p.m. game, a 6 p.m. game, and a 9 p.m. game for both Saturday and Sunday, and they would still have eight more teams that still need games. Adding the traditional Thursday night game and Monday night game still leaves six more games. A conceivable schedule would be something like two games Thursday night (7 p.m. and 10 p.m.), four games Friday, four games Saturday, four games Sunday, and two games on Monday night.

Hopefully by autumn, the world will have made so much progress in the fight against the coronavirus that these sorts of extreme measures won’t need to be considered. But this cockamamie idea does have one angle that the league would love: With only one game being played at a time . . . every game could reach a national television audience.

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