TAMPA, FLORIDA – MARCH 18: A view of the New York Yankees Spring Training facility at George M. … [+]
It was three weeks ago when the sports world changed as we know it. Yes, we double checked it was not three years ago when sports took a halt and faced an uncertain future due to the coronavirus pandemic that began emerging in the United States, starting at 9:31 PM Eastern Time when the NBA announced it was stopping the season due to Rudy Gobert’s positive test.
If you thought three weeks of watching replays of classic games whose outcome everyone knows was surreal, here comes April and the first full month of sports being on hold for the foreseeable future.
Normally this time of year is a smorgasbord of live events with baseball in its first week, the NBA winding down and the NHL in its final week. With the NHL originally slated to wrap up this Saturday, each of the first four nights were guaranteed to deliver plenty of viewing choices for live games.
April 1 would have delivered fans 28 games, including a 10-game NBA slate that featured potential Eastern Conference matchups between Milwaukee and Toronto and Miami and Boston. April 2 would have featured 26 games, including the Yankee home opener against the Toronto Blue Jays, who are hoping to improve with a full season of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette.
Friday April 3 would have given fans a brief respite with “only” 19 professional games, due to baseball originally having six games to account for any potential rainouts on the previous day The NBA would have featured the back end of a home and home between Milwaukee and Toronto, which could be a conference finals preview if the league actually resumes this season. It also would feature the women’s Final Four with the title game to follow two days later.
Saturday April 4 would have featured 32 games with 15 baseball games, 15 NHL games on the final day of the regular season and two NBA games. The NBA would limit its schedule because the main event on Saturday would be the Final Four with the championship game to follow on Monday
Instead, we are left to wonder what teams would make an early impression in baseball, how the NHL playoffs would look and how the NBA playoff races would shape up with less than a week to and who the national champions would be in college basketball.
March brought us a buffet of replays. There were various NCAA simulations and hypothetical NCAA brackets. Last week game company Strat-O-Matic began a simulation of the 2020 baseball season based on current rosters and playing the schedule that existed before sports shut it down.
Then there are other ways of nostalgia with people looking at old baseball cards to get nostalgic about sports and interacting about those memories on social media.
Ever since Tim Brando signed off from the St. John’s-Creighton quarterfinal in the Big East tournament by saying: “In my years, the game that wasn’t, the half that wasn’t,” the games have been gone from our screens, leaving sports fans to rely on other avenues while mostly staying inside.
For the last 20 days, there have been the games that weren’t and for at least the next 30 days and possibly longer. In fact if the time without games reached 59 days, which is a strong possibility that will match the longest time in a season in between games since the 1981 baseball season, which wound up using a split schedule to determine playoff teams.
Instead of a combined 105 pro games over the first four days of April, sports fans are left to think back to the events of exactly one month, which yes it was merely a month ago and not a year ago (we triple-checked that).
Back then the Knicks were entering the first full week of Leon Rose as team president with home games against Houston, Utah and Oklahoma City. The Nets were three games away from “parting ways” with coach Kenny Atkinson while staying afloat in the playoff race with Kyrie Irving gone for the season due to a shoulder injury that limited him to 20 games.
The Mets were concerned with the severity of Michael Conforto’s oblique and the Yankees were concerned with Aaron Judge’s ailing shoulder. Now both standout right fielders will have plenty of time to recover from those injuries.
A month ago, the Mets thought they were covered sufficiently with six starting pitchers after the signings of Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha. Now, not so much with the news of Noah Syndergaard joining Luis Severino and Chris Sale as pitchers who underwent “Tommy John” surgery.
A month ago, the big story throughout spring training is the reaction by fans to the Houston Astros following the damaging revelations that they stole signs. Now we’re left wondering when and if those reactions will take place.
A month ago, fans of New York area college basketball wondered how far Seton Hall would go in the NCAA tournament with senior Myles Powell, pondered Rutgers’ first tournament appearance since 1991 and wondered if this time Hofstra could finally get back into the NCAAs for the first time since Jay Wright’s final season in 2001.
Now, our viewing highlights in lieu of the missing games include Game 7 of the 1991 World Series when Jack Morris outdueled John Smoltz at the Metrodome, Game 6 of the 2011 World Series when Joe Buck famously said “we’ll see you tomorrow night” in tribute to his father saying the same exact thing after Kirby Puckett won Game 6 in 1991.
These games are airing after we learned numerous interesting things about other games such as the famous “Pine Tar Game” in 1983 and Game 1 of the 1988 World Series. April 1 also happens to be the 35th anniversary of Villanova’s upset over Georgetown to win the national championship and that game was replayed on CBS this past weekend.
Eventually sports will return to a version of its normal schedule. In the meantime, fans sit and wait as the pandemic known as COVID-19 stops turning things upside down.
In the meantime, the replays will continue allowing fans to remember when while the big live sports events this month will be the premiere of ESPN’s 10-part series on the Michael Jordan era Chicago Bulls on April 19 and the NFL draft which as now is slated for April 23-25.