I know, I know. In a pandemic year, there can be no "long haul." Sports must settle for what, if anything, it can get. As an audience, so must we. It's entirely possible that baseball's players and owners, who can haggle over the last slice of day-old pizza, will fail to agree to anything. For a moment, MLS appeared headed for a baseball-style work stoppage, but an agreement between owners and players was reached Wednesday. The MLS is now set to resume — at Disney, sporting epicenter — with an in-season tournament next month.
Back to us, whose lot it is to pay witness: Assuming we haven’t done so already, we need to use this time to adjust our expectations. When our sports return, we mightn’t love what we see. At first blush, we’ll be happy we have something to watch again, but that figures to fade. No fans mean less fun. Rearranged playoffs after truncated seasons leave even worthy winners open to “asterisk” claims. (Say hey, Phil Jackson.) Playoffs in fan-less hubs mean no homecourt — or home-field, or home-ice — advantage, which is an immense thing in the postseason, unless you’re the Braves.
On the other hand: We might just like what we see. We’ve said for decades that regular seasons last too long. Here’s the alternative. Stuff everything into a blender and see what comes out. If that means an up-from-nowhere champ … well, the up-from-nowhere plot is 75 percent of the reason we love March Madness. What if Zion Williamson and the Pelicans, who mightn’t have qualified had the postseason begun in April, go on a July/August/September run? Would you watch? Sure you would.
We’ve been without team sports since March 12. Used to be, there were only two days of every year on which no major-league games were scheduled — the Monday before and the Wednesday after baseball’s All-Star game. (That has since changed, if only a bit.) Now we’re hoping to see something before the Fourth of July, on which there’ll be no AJC Peachtree Road Race to distract us. We’ve spent 12 weeks in a veritable desert, but think what might happen come September.
The NBA playoffs. Big-league baseball. The Kentucky Derby. The NHL playoffs. U.S. Open golf AND tennis. The MLS. Oh, and the NFL and college football. No matter how many TVs you have, you might want to budget for another two or three.