One week from today, the Houston Astros are expected to take the field for their first regular season game of the year.
The following Friday, the Houston Rockets and the NBA will restart the 2019-20 season. On Aug. 1, the National Hockey League will restart its season.
And the NFL has targeted July 28 as the start of training camps.
NASCAR and professional golf already have been playing, as have men’s and women’s pro soccer leagues, although two men’s squads — Dallas and Nashville — had to pull out of the tournament because players contracted COVID-19. Orlando pulled out of the women’s tournament for the same reason.
So, pro sports appears to be heading back, but cross your fingers. Although oddsmakers give the edge to the MLB, NBA and NHL seasons to start and finish on time, it is far from a sure lock.
Things are not so clear, though, when it comes to high school and college sports.
Earlier this week, the Fort Bend school district announced it was canceling all fall sports and extracurricular activities. Other districts, such as Houston ISD, announced plans to push back in-class instruction weeks. The district hopes to phase into in-person instruction by Oct. 19, but the date could change based on county and state health recommendations.
On Wednesday, the Texas City Independent School District announced it is considering pushing back the 2020-21 start date for its schools from Aug. 12 to Aug. 24. On top of that, the proposal would make at least the first three weeks of school online only.
Regarding extracurricular activities, Texas City ISD spokeswoman Melissa Tortorici said the district will follow guidelines from the Texas Education Agency and University Interscholastic League.
“They haven’t released all of those details, as of yet,” Tortorici said. “So, there’s still lots of moving parts, and they’re constantly moving because things are constantly changing.”
Colleges still are looking at the football season. Last week, the Big 10 and Pac 12 canceled all non-conference games. The Ivy and Patriot leagues canceled football and all fall sports. Some conference commissioners have acknowledged that spring football might be an option.
“I think we need to be prepared to do it, and I think it should be viewed as a viable option,” Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick told ESPN. “We’re going to learn so much from the NBA and NHL and Major League Baseball in the next few weeks, and if, for example, those efforts go poorly, it’s probably going to be a really critical data point for us, and we’ll argue for delay. If that occurs, I think you’ve gotta be open to the spring.”
So, pro sports returning, even without fans in the stands and a shortened or revamped season, is not a guarantee things are getting back to normal.
While we agree high school and college sports can learn from the pros, the real indicator of whether high school and colleges hit the field in the fall will rely more on the daily COVID-19 numbers.
• Dave Mathews