It doesn’t take rocket science to figure out that we could be in our homes with no sports to watch — or to play for that matter — for a long, long time.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti told CNN on Wednesday night that Los Angeles might not open for recreational activities such as concerts and sports until 2021. That’s quite a bombshell for the sports world.
It’s difficult to imagine us getting together in the thousands anytime soon, so I think we should be prepared for that this year. I think we all have never wanted science to work so quickly. But until there’s either a vaccine, some sort of pharmaceutical intervention, or herd immunity, the science is the science. And public health officials have made very clear we have miles and miles to walk before we can be back in those environments.Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti
On a smaller scale, Los Angeles Kings star defenseman Drew Doughty said about as much — at least for the hockey world — two days earlier in a conference call to various media, including ESPN. He’s been the most prominent NHL player to speak his mind on that subject.
I don’t see how this season is going to return. I really don’t. We have no idea when this virus is going to be over. We’re all kind of just sitting at home, just hoping to return to the season or hoping to watch the playoffs return. But we’re just sitting here, waiting, working out, being ready to return at any point. I think the NHL would have to make some kind of decision on that soon, and it seems like it’s pretty tough to resume the season or the playoffs.Drew Doughty
Someone in the hockey world is taking the lead in getting fans used to what is likely to be reality.
It’s already April and there’s no reason to think that this health threat will magically disappear just in time for things like Major League Baseball being able to hold nearly a complete season after scrubbing the first few weeks; the NFL returning to the field in time for proper training camp, a full season and the Super Bowl; or the conclusion of the NHL and NBA seasons. The latter two leagues are clinging to the hope — and a slim one at that as Doughty had the foresight to see before anyone else — that competition will resume all the way to the presentation of the Stanley Cup and the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman is keeping all options open, telling Fox Business Network on Wednesday that one possibility is a conclusion to the 2019-20 NHL season that goes deep into the summer.
We’re focused on being as flexible and as agile as possible and when we get the opportunity from a health standpoint to bring our players together, to let our teams reconstitute themselves to get operations up and running, we will be in a position to do that, whenever it makes sense. And we believe we can be fairly flexible in terms of the calendar and my guess at this point is we’re probably gonna be playing into the summer, which is something we can certainly do.NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman
Bettman was clear on the video of his Fox interview that safety is still the No. 1 priority and the last thing the league wants to do is put its players, workers and fans at risk.
Garcetti and New York’s de Blasio Are in Unison
Garcetti and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio — representing America’s two largest cities — were interviewed by CNN‘s Wolf Blitzer on Wednesday, and de Blasio is on the same page as Garcetti, saying he can’t imagine sporting events happening until 2021.
Garcetti made it known that he’s just passing on realistic information on the likely status of no sports going into 2021.
“If there’s something that happens and public health officials say, ‘Green light,’ then OK. But I think people have to think about it this way: It’s not a mayor bringing bad news about these things. These are immensely difficult decisions to make psychologically. … Here in Los Angeles, we might only have 5 or 10 percent of the people come down with COVID-19 by the fall. That means that 95 or 90 percent of us still could get that and it still could spread rapidly.”Garcetti, in a TV interview to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer
Now that Doughty — followed by Garcetti and de Blasio — have said the thing that sports people all over the nation probably don’t want to hear, some NFL player is likely going follow suit with the same kind of outspoken boldness that Doughty showed. The most popular sport in America is gearing up for its annual draft starting April 23, less than one week from today. But so far, there has been no word from the NFL about the possibility of halting its season. Billions of dollars could be lost, after all, if such a decision is made. Maybe they are in denial.
President Trump told reporters from various media, including the Bleacher Report and The Athletic, that he thinks leagues will resume without fans. His thoughts came after meeting on a conference call Wednesday with many league commissioners, including Bettman, Roger Goodell of the NFL and Adam Silver of the NBA.
At least one website, TheFalcoholic.com, is daring to say there may not be any pro football in 2020.
The NFL season is in jeopardy, but there are things that we can do to make it more likely that we can still have the NFL in the fall — and I don’t think that’s out of the question at all.”Dr. Zachary Binney, epidemiologist
So, who are you going to believe? Obviously, either camp could be right. One thing, though, for discerning individuals is to consider the source. Mayors of Los Angeles and New York just don’t see it. Their top goal is to protect their constituents, with a secondary goal of economic health that playing the games would bring.
Of course, Bettman, Silver and Goodell want safety, too. But they are installed in their positions by the sports’ owners to make sure the flow of the All-American greenback is not interrupted except under the most extreme circumstances. COVID-19 is that type of severe situation right now and social distancing realities that preclude athletic competition could be in place for a lot longer than the commissioners are willing to admit at this point.
For now, the heads of the major sports get a little benefit of the doubt, since things could change and COVID-19 could go away faster than is projected.
We’re all trying to flatten the curve as far as COVID-19 goes. In smart public relations and reality, Drew Doughty and the bi-coastal, big-city mayors are ahead of it.
>> Sports journalist since 1981
>> Grew up in Marlboro, Mass., and live in Mililani, Hawaii
>> “I always play to win when it comes to skin and bones.” — Bill Lee/Warren Zevon
>> No coach ever screamed “pass the puck” at me