Glenn Clark: In Remaking 2020 Sports Calendar, Let’s Embrace Creativity But Accept Reality

The first thing we need to do is accept how potentially serious all of this is.

I think that for the most part, we have. There are sobering reminders constantly. Reports that deaths from the COVID-19 virus could reach well into six figures just in the United States alone remind us that not only is this national crisis far bigger than sports, it’s far bigger than anything else we’ve ever come to know about day-to-day life. The world as we know it has changed, and the impact will be something we won’t fully be able to grasp for some time.

But other than that it’s a cheery time, huh?

I’m going to attempt to continue to be light and pleasant both in columns and during the course of Glenn Clark Radio while still recognizing the overwhelming toll this outbreak has already taken. We have already experienced hurt and loss, and we’re terrified because sadly we know much more is coming.

We still do sports here. There are still sports-y things happening. The Ravens signed a different guy after they had tried to sign another guy. There will almost certainly be an NFL Draft in a few weeks. If I had to guess, it’ll probably be a little later than normal before we see an NFL schedule. From a tangible perspective, the Orioles hold the first right to all dates at the Camden Yards complex. Without us knowing what the baseball schedule will look like, it’s impossible to know which dates they’d take (should there be a season at all).

If the NFL can’t know that, I can’t fathom how they’d be able to schedule Ravens home games at this point. There are baseball-related scheduling conundrums in other cities (the Eagles and Phillies share parking lots in Philadelphia, for example), making this situation all the more untenable. I just don’t think we’re going to see a schedule any time soon.

And when we do, there are now starting to be questions about just what that schedule might look like. Bleacher Report’s Mike Freeman reported March 27 that an NFL head coach told him there’s a possibility the NFL plays just 14 games next season. That feels easy enough to dismiss because it’s such an absurdly arbitrary number (if you can fit 14 games in, couldn’t you just move the Super Bowl back three weeks and play all 16?), but it speaks to a greater point.

We’re not just losing the NCAA Tournament and spring college sports. We might well lose a lot more than that. Because as much as the presence of sports and other aspects of normalcy could help our mental health and well-being, the reality is that managing this crisis is singularly paramount from a human perspective, and everything else can be collateral damage.

With all due respect to the would-be John Waynes of the world, we absolutely should not be risking the lives of anyone at all so that we can have a live NBA game to watch next Wednesday.

A column so rosy it might as well be named “Grier,” huh?

At whatever point something even remotely close to a return to normal life continues, I’m all for having creative ways to try to enjoy sports again. There will likely be a severe economic downturn across the board that also impacts sports, but they certainly play a role in our functional society.

If Major League Baseball really wants to try to play a full season from July 1 to Christmas, I’m listening. Honestly. I don’t think Scott Boras’ idea is a bad one. Play the World Series and championship series at neutral sites. Let the wild-card and division series games be “hosted” by the higher seeded team at their spring training stadiums.

We’ve already played games without fans in the stands at all in some sports. Why not shift them into more neutral locations? It’s not ideal, but hello, we all know why it’s happening. This isn’t a suggestion that the Major League Baseball season should permanently be played this way. It’s an idea to functionally make something happen as we recover from one of the most difficult stretches in American history.

If the NBA believes it can finish a season and the playoffs by moving the entire league to a resort in the Bahamas and setting up courts there with TV cameras, let’s do it. It allows for more games in fewer days while still giving the viewer the option to watch from home. That doesn’t mean we prevent fans from going to see their favorite teams next year. It’s just a means by which to make it through the season.

And if the NFL needs to shorten training camp and extend their season to play all 16 games, let’s do it. No, it’s not ideal. But it doesn’t benefit or hurt any one team specifically. We’ve played plenty of football games in cold weather. It’s not ideal, but it can be done this one time before we revert back to the better ways of operating.

Hell, the only bad ideas I’ve heard so far are stretching the NFL Draft across seven days (which isn’t happening and would be ludicrous — I actually care about the NFL Draft and there are literally no other viewing options right now and I STILL wouldn’t watch the fifth, sixth or seventh rounds in prime time) and playing the college football season during the summer (which doesn’t just seem impossible, it’s strikingly dangerous to play a sport like that in such extreme heat).

Those are dumb ideas. But everything else should be on the table. Much like I wrote March 23 about NCAA eligibility rules, we have to reconsider absolutely everything in the entire sports realm due to the overwhelming nature of this crisis.

And to be clear, that includes the possibility that more things we love are just flat-out canceled. Let’s be creative about trying to make things happen, but let’s be willing to accept reality as things play out. We all want there to be football in the fall and I hope there will be. But much more significantly, I want there to be a fall for all of us.

That has to be our singular priority.

Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox

Glenn Clark

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