Now that this big fat zero of a sports month called April is winding down, we are left standing at May’s doorstep in a properly skeptical state of mind.
Could May be any worse?
Without pretending that we’re about to enter some kind of a sportsapalooza, the answer is a pretty clear “no.”
Thanks to COVID-19, there will be nothing normal about the May sports calendar, not with all the major pro sports still sidelined and the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, PGA Championship, and Indianapolis 500 all postponed until August at the earliest.
But pour yourself a mint julep anyway; May is shaping up to be the month when sports wakes up from its unnatural deep-sleep state.
The signs are everywhere.
As states begin to loosen or mull loosening stay-at-home advisories and orders, pro sports officials will use the month of May to intensify and possibly finalize plans to resume their seasons.
NASCAR got things rolling Thursday by announcing that it would resume its season — without fans in the stands — starting May 17 with a race in South Carolina. It plans to race three more times after that within a 10-day span.
By the end of next week, May 8, the NBA has tentative plans to reopen its practice facilities and allow players to resume practicing, with restrictions.
The NBA does not have the size and financial heft of the NFL, but it stands as the undisputed leader in sports when it comes to recognizing its role in our society and culture.
A return to the hardwood, even for layup drills, by the likes of LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Luka Doncic, and Jayson Tatum will likely have enormous appeal with the public and an influence on other leagues.
The NHL is said to be closing in on its own announcement for a return to practice in the coming weeks.
The two leagues sure sound determined to at least mount a tournament or modified playoffs this summer. The postseason is the most important portion of the season by far for each league, and we can trust that commissioners Adam Silver and Gary Bettman are as motivated by science-based health concerns as they are with not giving up their battle to play meaningful games this summer.
One day after the NBA “starts,” the NFL is expected to release its 2020 schedule.
On the heels of its ratings-smash draft, the NFL rightfully can make a big deal about the hope a schedule can offer. There are legitimate questions to be posed about the viability and timing of a full season, but the NFL has the luxury of time before having to give answers.
Major League Baseball does not have that calendar cushion. It is simply trying to get its 2020 season off the ground by the middle of the summer, and May is going to become a festival of trial balloons.
Does the three-state solution — with camps in Arizona, Texas, and Florida — sound good?
How about the Eastern/Central/Western plan?
Does a Grapefruit vs. Cactus League World Series get your juices flowing?
We are told that there are even more ideas floating around MLB’s Zoom meetings. Given the amount of chatter each idea gets, expect the drip of leaks to continue until guidance from state and federal medical and public health authorities begins to unite in a direction where MLB can settle on a single plan.
If late June or early July is the targeted start date, that means plans pretty much have to be finalized by the end of May.
Baseball in Taiwan is already being played, and on May 5, the South Korean professional baseball league is set to begin. It’s a bear to try and catch live, but for some, it will do.
The indefatigable UFC is not impressed with the coronavirus. It has scheduled three May events in Florida, on May 9, 13, and 16. Fans won’t be there, but ESPN will, with some of its first live programming in months.
NASCAR announced Thursday that it will resume its season without fans starting May 17 at Darlington Raceway in South Carolina with the premier Cup Series racing three more times in a 10-day span.
European soccer is in a state of complete flux. France and the Netherlands have shuttered their seasons, with the Premier and Belgian leagues in a state of indecision. The German Bundesliga is training and has set May 9 for a start date, although that could be pushed back. Spain and Poland could begin training by late May.
May begins, and could end, with plenty of sports question marks.
But compared with April, it’s going to look like May Madness.
Michael Silverman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.