Sports Kinda Sorta Starting to Come Back
May 18, 2020

If you really really love sports, and I mean really really really love sports, and were desperate to see some live competition for the first time in eons, this was a big weekend. Major League Baseball, NBA Basketball, NHL Hockey, and soccer as we know it are still a ways off, but many are rejoicing having something to watch on TV that has never been seen before. The weekend menu? Auto racing, a celebrity golf match, and German football. At least it's something. Right?

You probably think I'm one of those people. Turns out, I'm not. Although Budesliga is the most fun word to say in all of sports (say it with me, BOON-deh-sclee-gah) , I did not get up at 6 o'clock Saturday morning to watch the return of the German soccer league matchup between Borussia Dortmund and Schalke 04 (Dortmund won 4-0). I also missed the second game of the doubleheader—Eintracht Frankfurt vs. Borussia Munchengladbach (Frankfurt lost 3-1), and who knew Borussia had two teams? No fans were allowed to attend, FS1 carried the matches in the United States, and it probably would have been worth a look to see what live competition without fans looks like, because that's what going to happen in the USA in the coming weeks.

If professional European soccer isn't your bag, you had to wait until Sunday. Fox televised NASCAR's return with the Darlington 400. Again, there were no fans in the stands, but you don't need them to watch on television—the cars are too loud to hear the cheering, and the only time they are a factor is when they are shown from a helicopter or blimp coming in or out of a commercial break. Kevin Harvick won what was officially called the Real Heroes 400, a tribute to medical workers and others during the Covid-19 pandemic, and we think there was some fundraising involved, which is never a bad thing.

Covid-19 relief was the purpose behind an exhibition golf match, shown on NBC, NBCSN, and the Golf Channel. It was a skins game in Florida, where Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson teamed up to beat Rickie Fowler and Matthew Wolff. I did see a couple of highlights of this, and it did look weird to see four men appear to be on a golf course all by themselves. Of course, there were cameras and TV people all over the place, but they were all able to social distance themselves out of the way.

Honestly, and with the sporting events chronicled above having no interest to me, I don't know if I'm ready for sports to return. I think people are clamoring for them, but I'm worried that the baseball season will be a sham (perhaps a topic for next week). What's on the horizon is an abbreviated schedule, no fans at first, and games where (pick your favorite team) won't play two thirds of the other teams in the league. Rules changes are going to be crushing, too, and something I don't even want to get into right now. And do we really care if basketball and hockey return? If they do, they should just play a couple of tune-up games instead of the rest of the regular season, and then start the playoffs (and the fewer teams, the better).

I didn't think of it this way until I started writing, but I guess this sports fan has his head in the sand. I watched the Angels win Game Three of the 2002 World Series, taped Game Seven of the 1965 World Series, and watched the Dodgers lose the 1977 World Series to the New York Yankees. Yes, I knew the outcome, but it was good to see Garvey, Lopes, Russell, and Cey back on the infield again, even if it was 43 years ago.

I will admit, however, that I did watch the return of one live sporting event. A week or so ago, the Korean Baseball Organization resumed play, and because ESPN has nothing else to do, and the games are on in the middle of the night, the Worldwide Leader is showing some games. I couldn't sleep, and had to get up at 4am anyway, so I turned on the TV, and watched what was essentially an episode of Baseball Tonight, with the network sports guys in studio, and a game on in the background.

I'm not saying that continued reruns of so-called Classic Games should be the new normal, and returning to normalcy would be great, but games without fans? Fox is reportedly going to use sound effects of fans during baseball and NFL games if there is no one there. Do we rally want that? And when fans are allowed back in, it's almost assured that it will be like what restaurants are now dealing with—either 50 or 25 percent capacity. Can you imagine turning on the TV and hearing “a sellout crowd of 15-thousand at Dodger Stadium to watch the Los Angeles Dodgers against the Seattle Mariners”? I'm not ready for this.

The Last Dance: ESPN has concluded its ten-part documentary series on Michael Jordan, and while I heard it was well done, I haven't watched any of it yet. All ten episodes are clogging up my DVR, but since I'm not a real big MJ fan (gasp!), I'm not excited about it. This “debate” about who is the GOAT (Greatest of All Time) always upsets me. Is it Jordan or LeBron James? It's Magic Johnson you dummies.

Still annoying 40+ years later: It was endearing at first, but then (if you are old enough), you remembered why he was such a polarizing figure. MLB Network's Classic Games menu this weekend featured games from the 1977 and 1979 World Series. Both were televised by ABC with announcers Keith Jackson, Don Drysdale, and Howard Cosell. Yes, even though he'll always be remembered for Monday Night Football, baseball was part of his resume. Hearing his unmistakable voice was a blast from the past, but so was his ego. He did have a lot to say about Reggie Jackson, but most of his commentary was obvious, and he also ruined several Keith Jackson home run calls by yelling over him. Ahh, memories.

Speaking of memories: It was sad today to learn of the passing of Phyllis George. The former Miuss America died over the weekend of leukemia, and is best remembered for co-hosting the NFL Today on CBS with Brent Musberger, Irv Cross, and Jimmy "The Greek" Snyder.George has been compared, and rightfully so, to Barbara Walters as being a pioneer for women in journalism. I didn't know this until today, but CNN Chief White House corespondent Pamela Brown is her daughter. George was 70.

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