It goes without saying that this has been a tough week for our country as a whole, but at a time when some good news was much needed, we got it on Wednesday: The NBA is back! The league will officially return to the court on July 31st, and play eight regular season games before jumping into the playoffs.
And as it pertains strictly to the world of sports, the NBA’s return caps several weeks of positive news, where one sport after another has seemingly either returned or announced plans for return.
Yet with all the news coming so fast and furious, it’s hard to totally keep up with.
So let’s quickly recap where each sport stands, when they are set to return (if they haven’t already) and any other information you need to know around the world of sports.
PBR (April 25th): Admittedly, I wouldn’t normally include Professional Bull Riding in the list of “major sports returning” (sorry to the PBR diehards reading), but PBR gets a shout out here for two separate reasons:
- One, they were – as best I can tell – the first American sport on any level to return to action. There wasn’t a single high school, college, Little League or pro event that occured before the pbr returned all the way back on April 25th.
- They are also the first sport to announce the return of fans to their events.
For those looking to get your PBR fix in person, as of now, the tour’s event July 10th-12th in Sioux Falls, South Dakota will let a limited number of fans into the arena to attend in person.
UFC (May 9th): Whether you agree with his decisions or not, the one thing you can’t deny about Dana White is that he is aggressive. Just days after the NBA shutdown, March Madness was cancelled and most other major sports closed their doors, White still held a UFC event without fans on March 14th. He also tried to bring sports back in a mainstream when he scheduled a card for April 18th on private, tribal lands in Northern California. That card was eventually cancelled due to public pressure from California governor Gavin Newsom. But it doesn’t change the fact that White was out there trying to bring back sports to the mainstream.
Still, to his credit, White got the UFC back on air on May 19th with no fans in Jacksonville, and proceeded to put on four more cards throughout the month of May.
Their next event is scheduled for this weekend at the UFC training facility in Las Vegas.
Bundesliga (May 16th): Germany’s top soccer league, the Bundesliga, became the first major international soccer league to return to the pitch back on May 16th.
They are also the first league – as best I can tell – to experiment with fake crowd noise. And I can’t lie, I don’t hate it as much as I expected.
I think if it's done right like this, adding crowd noise can make it feel like you're watching a regular game on TV (outside of the empty seats, of course.) This Bundesliga match on FS1 sounds much better than I expected it would. pic.twitter.com/yjtcD2KdSE
— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) May 24, 2020
This is something that the NFL is considering as well, if fans aren’t allowed back in the stands by the start of its season.
NASCAR (May 17th): In what felt like a weekend of sports abundance, just a day after Bundesliga returned (with a UFC card that night to boot!) NASCAR returned to the track on May 17th. The race was a ratings boon, and was followed by seven more races over the next 11 days.
Like PBR, there have also been loose discussions about allowing letting fans in the stands for future races. As or right now there is nothing official.
Not yet back, but have announced a date:
PGA Tour (June 11th): Golf came back in a big way with the Tiger Woods/Phil Mickelson/Peyton Manning/Tom Brady made for TV event a few weeks ago, and will return in an official capacity next Thursday with the Charles Schwab Challenge, June 11th-14th in Fort Worth. From there, there is an adjusted schedule, with some tournaments being cancelled all together and others being pushed back to later dates in the calendar. That includes two weekends from now (June 15th-18th) when the US Open was supposed to take place, but instead was replaced by the RBC Heritage in Hilton Head.
And in a cool twist, with that revised schedule, many of golf’s biggest events will now take place in the fall instead of the spring. The PGA Championship will go from August 9th-12th in San Francisco, with the US Open taking place September 16th-20th and the Ryder Cup a week after that. The Masters will now be played two weeks before Thanksgiving on November 12th-15th.
Again, the schedule will look a lot different. Here is a great resource for the updated tour schedule.
La Liga (June 11th): Spain’s top league, home of some of the top players in the world (including Barcelona’s Lionel Messi) has announced that they will return to the pitch June 11th. Their season will run through July 18th.
English Premiere League (June 17th): Exactly 100 days after the postponement of the English Premiere League, the league will resume matches on June 17th.
Seire A (June 20th): And in the final major piece of news from the international soccer world, Seira A, the top professional league in Italy, will return to action on June 20th.
Italy was of course one of the hardest hit countries in Europe with the Covid-19 pandemic, so it’s great to see things returning to normal in that country.
MLS (July-ish): The MLS actually also announced it’s return on Wednesday, but was quickly overshadowed once the NBA made their announcement just a few hours later. And in an ironic twist, just like the NBA, the MLS will also resume at Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando.
As or right now there is no official restart date, but the league is expected to resume its season with a tournament sometime in late July.
NBA (July 31st): As mentioned up top, NBA basketball is back, and set for July 31st! You can argue that the NBA should get things ramped up before that, but credit obviously goes to the players and owners for getting the league back up and running.
The league will resume with 22 teams at Disney in Orlando on July 31st, with each team playing eight regular season games before 16 advance to the playoffs. As mentioned above, there will be a play-in tournament between the No. 8 and No. 9 finishers in each conference (East and West) for the final two playoff spots.
Not yet back and no where close:
Major League Baseball: While, to its credit, the NBA announced its return on Wednesday, Major League Baseball only seems to be getting further from a return, not closer.
For those who haven’t followed the nitty gritty, here is a quick version of what has happened in baseball the past few months: When the pandemic shut down the league, the players agreed to take what is essentially a “pay cut” by pro-rating their salaries for games played. So, if for example, there was a 100-game season, they would get paid for 100 games, not 162 games.
Seems simple enough, right? Well, not exactly.
That’s because, that agreement came under the assumption that when regular season games resumed, there would be fans in the stands. And when it became obvious that fans wouldn’t be in the stands, the owners asked the players to take another pay-cut, since 40 percent of all baseball revenue comes from fans at the ballpark (tickets, concessions, parking etc.). Unfortunately, the players refused to do so, believing that they’ve already taken enough of a pay-cut.
And now, the players and owners are now at a standstill. After an original proposal of an 82-game schedule, the players countered with one that featured 114 games. The owners rejected it, discussing the possibility of playing as few as 50.
News at @espn: If Major League Baseball and the players can't come to an agreement on a return-to-play deal, the league has discussed implementing a season in the 50-game range and paying players full prorated salaries. On the latest twist in negotiations: https://t.co/qFNgat86hh
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) June 1, 2020
I’ll keep my opinons on the subject of who is “right” and who is “wrong” to myself since both sides really do look awful in this mess.
And it seemingly only gets worse by the day.
ATP/WTA Tours: Like Major League Baseball, both the major men’s and women’s tennis tours (the ATP and WTA respectively) have yet to announce any major plans to return.
Yet unlike Major League Baseball, they have a legitimate reason: With events played all over the world, and the players also hailing from all over the world, it really will be impossible to get things going until things are much calmer around the globe.
As of right now, the only real news from the tennis world is the possibility of playing back-to-back tournaments in a “bubble” setting in New York in late August.
But even that talk is in its very preliminary stages.
Plan to go on as scheduled:
College Football (opening night: August 29th): As of right now, college football is scheduled to go on as planned, with “Week Zero” officially kicking things off on August 29th, and most team’s openers a week later on Labor Day weekend.
At this point, it’s way too early to discuss what the game day experience will look like (no fans, limited capacity, full capacity) and the reality exists that the gameday experience could look different depending on which school and state we’re talking about.
Again, that’s all to be determined in the future though. And the important thing is, that barring something surprising between now and Labor Day, the games will go on.
NFL (opening night: September 10th): Basically, take what I just said about college football, add 10 days to the calendar, and you’ve got the start of the NFL season.
At this point it is way too early to speculate whether fans will be allowed into stadiums, or if it will vary state-to-state.
All I know is that the Texans play the Chiefs on Thursday, September 10th. And I plan to be in front of a TV to watch it.
College basketball (opening night: November 10th): The only major sport to cancel its championship event (insert crying face emoji here) is set to return to the court November 10th.
It is by far the longest we’ll wait for any major sport to return, and it will come with some unique twists in 2020-2021.
That’s because with the NBA not set to return until Christmas Day next season, college basketball will largely have mid-week stage to itself next November and early December. Of course we still don’t know if there will be fans in the stands, and college hoops – like the NBA – will have to deal head-on with the possibility of a second wave of coronavirus hitting in the winter.
So there are plusses and minuses to what the college hoops season could look like.
That’s a long way away from today though, and right now we can simply focus on the fact that the NBA is coming back, and many other sports with it.
And not a moment too soon.