It is always a fun debate among sports fans and bettors – what is the best time of the sports calendar?
Is it October – with football is in full swing, the MLB Playoffs happening every day and the NBA season set to begin? Or how about March – March Madness, duh – but paired with the start of the MLB season and NBA action to boot? There’s an argument to be made for May, too – you have the NBA Playoffs and MLB games with the Kentucky Derby, Indy 500 and PGA Championship sprinkled in.
The bad news – it’s April, and normally, we’d have the NCAA Tournament national championship game and The Masters this week. Instead, we’ve mostly resigned ourselves to betting on video games and watching reruns of old sporting events. Nothing against betting on video games (or watching Dennis Rodman tear up the Knicks in the 1996 Playoffs), but woof.
Hopeful for a busy summer
The good news – there’s a decent chance we could have a few sports watching and sports betting mega-months starting in July if leagues are able to resume by then. And it would be better than anything we see in October, March or May in a typical sports year.
Let’s start with what a typical July looks like –we’d have the MLB and The Open Championship (NBA Summer League, too, if you’re into that). It’s usually a relative dead period on the sports calendar. But it has a chance to be absolutely bonkers in 2020.
Yes, the picture we’re about to lay out is on the optimistic side, but it’s not unrealistic. If sports can return with or without fans by July, we could have the opening week of the MLB season, the NBA Playoffs and the NHL Playoffs all happening at the same time. And context matters – in this case, we’d be dealing with a bunch of betting-depraved sports fans eager to gamble on, like, anything. There could be an abundance of options with rabid interest, and though we’re in the midst of a brutal time for the industry, it should surge once sports return.
And if those sports can return by July, then football would be able to run as scheduled starting in September. So think about everything we can watch (and bet on) between July and October: the full NBA Playoffs and Finals; the full NHL Playoffs and Stanley Cup; the MLB regular season, Playoffs and World Series; two months of the NFL season; and two months of college football. Throw in a few golf major tournaments, the Kentucky Derby and the Indy 500, and you have what could be an unprecedented amount of sports happening in a condensed period of time.
Is this realistic?
Yes, we all agree that would be awesome. But how realistic is it?
The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reported that the MLB is examining all possibilities, including all 30 teams playing the season in the same state – likely at spring training complexes in Arizona or Florida.
MLB is prioritizing public health as it examines all possibilities, sources say. The season, at least initially, could be played in Florida or more likely Arizona, where spring training parks are more concentrated. But the logistics of quarantining 30 teams in one area would be extremely complex and potentially controversial, sources say, requiring local, state and federal government cooperation and resources that might be necessary to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
Fans in the stands?
President Donald Trump held a conference call with commissioners of major sports leagues and reportedly said that he believes the NFL season should start on time.
“I want fans back in the arenas,” Trump said later in a briefing at the White House. “I think it’s … whenever we’re ready. As soon as we can, obviously. And the fans want to be back, too. They want to see basketball and baseball and football and hockey. They want to see their sports. They want to go out onto the golf courses and breathe nice, clean, beautiful fresh air.”
NBA commissioner Adam Silver reportedly told Trump on the call that he ‘hopes the NBA can lead the way back’ as it was the first league to shut down.
The situation is evolving by the day, but it’s not crazy to envision a sports bettor’s heaven take place over a four-month stretch. We’ll be covering the pandemic’s impact on the industry as it unfolds.