Sometimes knowing certain things makes us feel more secure in our role as humans. Many of us are sports fans and have been in a holding pattern since March 11th when the country was told about the social distancing suggestions, we should all follow. Since then, the suggestions have become mandates and many states are shutdown from being in groups of 10 or
people. For us sports fans, I think we would all feel better and have something to look forward to if we just knew when things would either start or resume.
We are headed in the direction of knowing more as the President spoke with all the major sports leagues the past week. He wanted fans in the stands by late summer or early fall. Summer starts June 1st and ends August 31st and Fall starts September 1st. Using these dates as our guideline, the current NBA and NHL seasons have a problem of how to close out their seasons. MLB has an issue with trying to get their 162 games season played. College football starts on 08/29 and the NFL regular season starts 9/10.
I am no doctor or scientist, so I am not trying to say I know things I don’t. I do have a particular set of skills that allow me to be educated, logical, and common sense oriented so I believe we can speculate with some certainty what will happen and when it will happen. Before I get to my thoughts, let me say one more thing that I believe and should influence these outcomes greatly. Today, the Surgeon General said that in an optimistic view, opening the country where possible and keeping it shut down where necessary was likely to be the moving forward stance of the government. That statement means to me, that troublesome zones or hot zones will stay shuttered and other areas will start to open, then over a shorter time frame, create a new normal. Hence, we should know the hot spots and understand those areas that may not have large gatherings or normal work environments (whatever those will be) beyond the Fall of 2020. The rest of the country should be able to realistically make the time frame in which was spoken above.
Lets 1st tackle the NBA and the NHL. Both seasons are almost over. NBA teams have played roughly 64 games of their 82, and NHL has played 70 of their 82. Either league could just name a winner and end their seasons now. There is talk of the NBA looking to play playoff games once they can. The NBA 2021 season starts 10/21, so there would be very little time assuming they are not playing without fans in the arenas. If they decide to play in empty arenas, they could possibly be back on the court in the areas where opened which could look like June or July. It doesn’t seem logical to go through that unless June works because as a business, they will need to have a draft, free agency period, and so forth as a regular business. I am going to guess we likely have seen the last of NBA and NHL for 2020.
Now for MLB. There is no way to work a 162-game schedule when starting games in July or later. They are going to have to work out a new schedule and with a reduced number of games. Sure, they throw in the doubleheaders to get more games in one day, but maybe a 100 game seasons is more likely. There will also be the issue of the hot spots. It is very likely teams like the Mets and Yankees will have to play a game outside of their state or at least outside of New York City. There is ongoing deliberation of them playing the start of the season in Florida and Arizona Spring Training sites. These sites are close and allow for easy travel, plus these ballparks are small so social distancing might be better than it would in the big stadiums. Those thoughts seem desperate to me. I think MLB is the most tradition-rich sport there is. I have always thought July 4th was a target date, but that would mean less than 100 games unless they move the playoffs back. I still believe we will have some sort of MLB in July.
The football leagues are at a bit of advantage because they start their games in the early Fall. The main issue will be the spring practice for college kids and preseason games from NFL players. I think most all of that can be worked out in some way or another. If anything, I could see their seasons have a week or 2 weeks start date moved back. The teams could use off days weeks to reschedule the moved games if necessary.
My belief is that will have no NBA or NHL until the 2021 season. I think MLB will have some sort of a shortened season that starts sometime in mid-July. I also believe that football will most likely not have been impacted tremendously thus their seasons will carry out with only small exceptions. A Vegas perspective shows that July 1st is +115, and August 1st is -170 for both NBA and NHL for the 1st game to be played after the shutdown. The cancellation of the season is +120 (these odds were posted on 3/19. MLB is listed as Aug 1st -140. There is an update that I saw for NFL the start of the season after Sept 13th is -275 and plus +185. That one looks like a good wager if you believe the games will start on time