Pro sports leagues devising ways to get back to work


The Miami Heat’s American Airlines Arena is still sitting empty as the NBA works to develop a format in order to finish the 2019-20 season once play resumes.

With some states starting to allow businesses that had been ordered closed in order to limit the spread of the coronavirus, sports fans are starting to wonder how long it will be before the major sports will be able to swing back in action. With the businesses that are being allowed to be opened having to set limitations to ensure social distancing at their establishments, it is still too early to expect a return of any of the major professional sports leagues where spectators will be allowed to attend. There is no doubt that the pandemic is going to have a long-reaching effect on the sports world for years to come. 

Still, the major professional sports have each been exploring ways to stay connected with their fan bases. The National Basketball Association (NBA) has made attempts to keep their fans engaged by hosting a H.O.R.S.E tournament with current and former players, as well as a video game tournament with 32 current players. This has helped keep the fans connected to the players, without seeing them play. Many players have even been going live on Instagram with each other, and with fans in order to keep themselves in the spotlight. 

The various plans being considered for the NBA to return to actual games are intriguing. At this point we don’t know what is going to happen, but there have been many rumors that make the return very interesting. One of the most interesting options has every team entered in to a single elimination tournament, seeded one through 32, with the winner being crowned the 2020 NBA Champion. The not only allows the NBA to finish its season and crown a champion, but it also gives the NBA a March Madness vibe that college basketball fans missed out on. 

A potential realignment of the major league baseball teams for the start of the shortened 2020 season.

Perhaps Major League Baseball (MLB) has taken the hardest hit from having to postpone the start of its season. Because baseball is losing fans season-after-season, if MLB fails to come up with a concept to save its 2020 season it could be disastrous for the league. However, the MLB has one very interesting concept it is considering once they are given the all-clear to resume, with or without fans in attendance.

MLB’s Spring Training season is basically divided into two leagues that don’t even come close to resembling the American and National Leagues of the regular season. Half of MLB’s 30 teams play their Spring Training games in the Grapefruit League here in Florida while the other half play in the Cactus League in Arizona. The proposed plan would have all teams report back to their Spring Training sites and play a shortened season in their respective Spring Training leagues. 

Each league would be divided into the usual three divisions based on the geographical proximity of teams to one another in order to limit travel. For instance, the Miami Marlins and the St. Louis Cardinals share the same Spring Training facility in Jupiter, Fla. So, while they normally don’t play in the same division of the National League during the regular season, they would for the shortened 2020 season. 

Similarly, the Houston Astros of the American League and the Washington Nationals of the National League share the same Spring Training facility in West Palm Beach. Those two teams, along with the New York Mets, whose Spring Training home is in Port St. Lucie, would join the Marlins and Cardinals in the Grapefruit League’s East Division for the shortened 2020 season. 

The National Hockey League (NHL) which has always been the little brother to the other three major sports in America, but other than possibly the NFL, it may come out the least affected because of its very loyal fan base. Not much is known of the NHL’s contingency plans, but whatever the league decides, it will always have its fan base’s support. Like the NBA, the NHL will have to figure out a way to construct their schedule to complete its season and incorporate some sort of playoff. The most likely option for them is to start the playoffs right away, and seed the teams based on the standings when the 2019-2020 season was put on ice.

The least affected of the major sports leagues so far is the National Football League (NFL) because its regular season starts in September. While contingency plans are being formulated, the NFL is hoping that they can start their season as scheduled, albeit with some modifications to pre-season conditioning, practices, and games. America will always favor football over every other sport, so the fact that it might be unaffected by the virus, while every other sport will be majorly affected, doesn’t hurt its case. Still, at this point, there are no plans for the start of the season as it is still up in the air whether the NFL can start its season on time.

Finally, there is the matter of the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics. Those games have already been rescheduled to begin in late July of 2021, the first time the Olympic Games have been postponed since World War II.

The sports world has never seen anything quite like this, so it is hard to predict how things will eventually turn out. But one thing is for certain, the fans of the various sports are getting tired of watching replays of past sporting events on television and are eager to see their favorite teams get back into live action as soon as possible.