With Wimbledon canceling its tournament this year scheduled for July, the odds that major American sports are unable to play their seasons are becoming greater. Tennis is a non-contact sport with two to four participants separated by 78 feet from baseline to baseline. The PGA has stopped holding tournaments. Golf is another non-contact sport played outdoors where social distancing is easily accomplished. Given those examples, how do you restart the NBA or NHL seasons? The financial consequences could prove extraordinary. The NBA and its players’ association have been in negotiations for the past two weeks as to how owners would claw back 25% of this year’s salary for every player in the league.
Every sports organization seems petrified of being the first one to say that life needs to return to normal, or something like it at least. Baseball has said it wants to implement a schedule featuring a second spring training in May and Opening Day beginning in June, but the pressure to stay closed is immense.
Sports have always been a way to escape from a dark news cycle. President Franklin Roosevelt green-lit baseball during World War II, saying, “If 300 teams use 5,000 or 6,000 players [major and minor leagues], these players are a definite recreational asset to at least 20,000,000 of their fellow citizens – and that in my judgment is totally worthwhile.”
If baseball could navigate a period where every good and material was strictly rationed, where its most prominent stars were not on the diamond but instead enlisted in the war effort, then it can find a way to unite the country now. A country that has pitted people against each other for toilet paper, doctors against the elderly for protective masks, and neighbors against children down the street trying to play a game of soccer needs something to rally around. There is no better option than an institution whose image is Americana itself, like Mom’s apple pie, to provide that.