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FROM THE CHEAP SEATS – Live sports in 2020?

The NBA and the NHL shut down in the middle of their seasons. Major League Baseball halted during Spring Training. The NFL held a virtual draft. As states begin to open and we start to get back to just a bit of normalcy, all four of the major sports are busy making plans to play this year.

It appears as though the NBA will continue their season within the next couple of months. Many are speculating that teams will descend on one city and play the playoffs, forfeiting the rest of the regular season schedule. All indications point to the playoffs being held in Orlando. About the only left to decide is the format of the playoffs and the schedule. Commissioner Adam Silver would like to combine the two conferences and reseed them. Some would like to see the Western teams play in Las Vegas and the Eastern teams play in Orlando. That’s the way I’d like to see them go but Silver has always been sort of an innovator and he’s wanted to combine the conference for the playoffs for several years, so this could be his chance. The only question I have is when will next season begin? If the playoffs run into late August or early September, will they really begin their season on time considering that training camp usually opens at the end of September?

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This past week NHL commissioner Gary Bettman announced that they would return, transitioning to a 24-team playoff format. They will have two “hub” cities, one for each conference, although those cities are undecided right now. They’re trying to decide if they’ll be using a traditional bracket or if they’ll reseed after each round. There is no start date scheduled but I think they’ll run into the same problem as the NBA with training camp. One thing about the NHL is that they rely more on attendance numbers than the other three sports. Playing without fans in the stands could have long term consequences for them.

Major League Baseball is hoping to play a shortened season, however the thing holding them up is the same thing that owners and players have always fought over, money. The players have already taken big pay cuts and the owners are asking them to take even more cuts to play this year. The owners want the players to take part in the economic downturn and the players are reluctant to do so. Of the four major sports, baseball looks like they have the highest hurdles to jump. Attendance numbers have dropped over the years, 14% since 2007.

The NFL, on the other hand, seems to be at the height of their popularity, as evidenced by their record setting virtual draft they held last month. Right now, they’re planning on beginning on time, with multiple teams exploring the option of holding training camp in different states that have lighter restrictions than the states they’re in. NFL brass is considering several different scenarios concerning the season should things not progress as expected.

It appears as though we’ll have live sports at some point this year, although not as we’re used to. But isn’t that the theme for 2020?

–Rob Mooney, Metro Voice sports writer