I don’t want to take credit and say it was my sports column last week that sped up the process, but you can thank me later for NASCAR’s announcement Thursday.
That’s right, readers — we will finally have a live sporting event that doesn’t involve a draft. NASCAR announced it will return to action May 17 at Darlington Raceway. In a span of 10 days, NASCAR will have four Cup races, three Xfinity races and one truck race at Darlington Raceway and Charlotte Motor Speedway.
The caveat? No fans will be there to watch the events in person.
NASCAR is also working with local and state officials to hold the events, which is good because public health is important, but NASCAR holding races is also another small chance to have some normalcy in sports fans' lives.
Texas and Florida could host future NASCAR events without spectators as they invited NASCAR to compete in their respective state. NASCAR ultimately decided to hold off on scheduling events at tracks in those states because it will require air travel and hotel accommodations.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said the league is considering starting the 2020-21 season as late as December on Thursday as the league tries to finish its current season and start the next season.
What is nice about hockey compared to, say, baseball is the starting date isn’t important. Yes, hockey does begin in October, but it’s not the same as baseball where everyone gets super excited about opening day.
Because of this, the NHL can start later than it typically does, especially if the league finishes its current season. Teams will require some type of offseason, even if it’s shortened, which will help out if the NHL starts its new season a month or two later.
The NBA will continue to take its sweet time before finalizing everything on how the league wants to finish its season.
During a regular Thursday meeting among NBA team presidents, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban expressed optimism the league will finish its season — but without fans.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said the NBA is open to any ideas about when, where and how to resume.
After my sports column was published April 27, later in the day, AP reported the NBA pushed back its reopening date to Friday to give extra time to make sure player training options were safe.
As expected, even when the facilities reopen, the rules will be strict. The NBA has even told teams they may push back its reopening date again if “developments warrant.” Of course, this doesn’t mean much because every NBA team will need local government approval.
Let’s say the facilities do open Friday and most teams receive local government approval. NBA fans still shouldn't get too excited just yet.
Silver has repeatedly stated they won’t make a decision soon, which definitely means fans won’t hear about a possible decision on the current season until late-May at the earliest.
That’s even a stretch because the NBA has too many variables at the moment. Plus, Silver even said, “There’s too much unknown to set a timeline.” Based off Thursday’s meeting as well, I predict NBA fans won’t know what the NBA plans to do to finish its season until mid-June at the earliest.
The NBA and NHL still have to think about their upcoming seasons. Sources told ESPN Friday that Silver and the NBA board of governors continued discussions of delaying the start of the 2020-2021 season until December. Ownership is also increasing its support for this idea.
The NBA board of governors already postponed the draft lottery and the draft combine, which were set to happen in May in Chicago. The NBA draft is still scheduled for June 25, but ESPN sources said it’s a matter of time before the draft is delayed as well.
The NFL is still insisting the league will play a full season but has now said what it will look like is uncertain. As I previously mentioned, NFL teams need to hold offseason workouts and training camps and maybe, and I mean maybe, one or two preseason games.
The NFL’s main problem is its regular season kickoff date, which is Sept. 10. What I mean is the NFL has a huge timeline between May 4 and Sept. 10. Much can change during that time frame for better or for worse. The NFL could host fans like normal, or it could cancel its season. The spectrum is so wide open, and it will probably be dictated somewhat based off what other sports do.
Some alternatives being discussed is empty stadiums, neutral sites and no bye weeks.
If the regular season needed to be pushed back or adjusted, the NFL players’ union will have to approve it first thanks to the league and the players’ association reaching a new labor agreement in March.
The NFL has the most time to decide on how it wants to hold its upcoming season vs. trying to finish its current season. The NFL may not have a 100 percent solid plan until a month or two out because much can, and will, change by kickoff.
The MLS made a new announcement Friday stating players will be permitted to conduct individual workouts on outdoor team training fields starting Wednesday. Of course, health and safety protocols and government guidelines will be in place. All individual workouts are voluntary.
A league-wide moratorium on small and full team training still remains in place through May 15. While this isn’t teams getting to play against each other, it is a step forward, albeit a small step.
The next step will be to allow teams to hold full team practices. This will get the league one step closer to playing games. My prediction is that the MLS won’t play games until mid-July at the earliest.
Tennis is still set on the WTA and ATP tours resuming June 8. There are no new updates to examine except for British tennis star Andy Murray cursing, muttering and grunting during a virtual version of the Madrid Open where pro players streamed and faced off against one another. The game was also convoluted with glitches.