The sports world shut down abruptly right around March 11, with the NBA suspending play after Rudy Gobert’s positive coronavirus test and other leagues soon following suit.
The return to sports, on the other hand, is coming in fits and starts — bits of information, toes dipped in the water, leagues navigating countless issues as they formulate plans. That said, these past few days felt like a shift, of sorts.
There is far more chatter about multiple leagues formulating plans for coming back. On Sunday, I watched bits and pieces of THREE live sporting events: A Bundesliga soccer match from Germany, a charity golf skins game and a NASCAR race. Then there was the final two episodes of “The Last Dance” on Sunday night.
It almost felt … normal?
Then again, on a normal Sunday this time of year, with NBA and NHL playoffs going on and baseball about 50 games into its schedule, I probably wouldn’t have watched any of that. But after two months of zero or very limited options as far as live/new sports programming, having options felt relevant. Other people clearly felt the same way: The Bundesliga did huge TV ratings relative to more crowded sports weekends — even if soccer with no fans in the stands felt quite strange at times.
Chatter coming from various leagues also feels relevant.
And MLB is the furthest down the road with its planning — though that also means, perhaps, that baseball is also providing the biggest cautionary tale for how tricky all of this will be to pull off. If it takes a 67-page manual to outline safety, is it really worth it?
We’ve gone, at least, from vague notions that sports could return — or might not return — to concrete discussions, plans and in some cases even returns to action. It also feels notable that there seems to be collective momentum from all these major sports leagues. Some might be more cautious or less firm with their planning right now, but every major U.S. league is proceeding with some form of cautious optimism about playing.
That’s a far cry from a month ago. Or even 10 days ago.