Finding the silver linings in a sports world without sports
Welcome to the Silver Linings Playbook, where even a pandemic has its bright spots:
1. The Tokyo Olympics have been postponed, which means Ricky Rubio won’t be adding unnecessary mileage this summer in pursuit of Spanish glory. This will certainly benefit the Suns in the short term, whenever next season begins.
2. An extended season in Major League Baseball would necessitate postseason games played at neutral sites in warm-weather cities. Arizona has a domed stadium with massive seating capacity. We have a long resume of successfully hosting huge sporting events. In this scenario, we are odds-on favorites to stage our first World Series since the Diamondbacks ascended from the rubble of 9-11.
3. We have a handful of beautiful, intimate, boutique Cactus League venues that would be great options for other neutral site playoff games.
4. Steve Keim will be remembered as the general manager who pulled off one of the most lopsided trades in history during a global crisis. He provided content for the nation and much-needed bliss in Arizona, where we emerged as the happiest sports town on Earth for a few days.
5. Innovation and progressivism fuels the NBA, where a disrupted season could mean a permanent change on the calendar. The NBA could launch future seasons on Black Friday, right after Thanksgiving. They could raise the curtain on Christmas Day. Future champions could be crowned in the heat of summer, where the market is wide open for riveting sports content.
6. The NBA is thinking outside the box, and that’s always good for the sport. They might play a percentage of games without fans in the stands. Imagine what that would sound like. They could even stage a 1-on-1 tournament with individual stars posting victories for their respective teams. Devin Booker vs. Damian Lillard? LeBron vs. Giannis? Sign me up.
7. If the current NBA season is cancelled, the Suns will not be forfeiting their first playoff berth in 10 years.
8. The Coyotes will have a convenient excuse for missing the playoffs, overshadowing their late-season collapse. And with all these financial losses, maybe NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman declines to fine the Coyotes for recruiting violations, which prompts the new owner to retain Taylor Hall.
9. The Houston Astros might’ve received the greatest sporting reprieve in history.
10. The signing of Tom Brady has made Bruce Arians relevant once again, which is great news for the NFL.
11. The world of sports needs less information. NFL executives need to break the chains of routine and habit. If the 2020 NFL draft proceeds as planned, 32 general managers will have less data and less comfort zone than ever before. And that might be the best thing that ever happened to their collective batting average.
12. Billionaire owners won’t swoon over their favorite draft candidates during in-person interviews that normally precede the NFL drafty. They meddle less, not looking to sway opinion of their GMs.
13. The NFL excels at creating great television. It’s what they do. They will find a way to make the 2020 NFL draft the best in history, given the circumstances.
14. When their doors are unlocked, we will truly appreciate lifting weights, the sight of open treadmills and the unexpected entertainment that comes with going to the gym.
15. Judging by the weekend crowds in Arizona, thousands are discovering a new love for hiking and the great outdoors.
16. NASCAR attempted to fill the void with a virtual race featuring real drivers at the helm of a video game. Maybe next time they’ll allow their stars to race for real, while practicing social distancing, without any other personnel on the track. Where they have to change their own tires and pump their own gas.
17. After all the missed opportunities, aging athletes will make one last push for championship rings and trophies. There will be a heightened sense of urgency, from Tom Brady to LeBron James to Roger Federer. Their energy will be palpable.
18. The rising vitriol between fans and athletes will get a much-needed infusion of perspective. Grateful fans will troll less and admire more often. Athletes will look forward to signing autographs, aware that we really are in this together.
19. Cancelling the NCAA Tournament closed the book on the worst college basketball season in my lifetime. The sport has never seemed so puny or pointless. Let’s hope this setback produces real change and a real leader who can resuscitate the entire industry.
20. We will cross the bridge from dystopia to utopia as soon as this pandemic relents. The Masters could be scheduled with fall colors at Augusta National. We could have weeknights full of baseball, playoff basketball and NHL playoffs. We could have weekends full of professional and college football, along with major tournaments in niche sports, from Paris to Kentucky.
It could be the greatest time of our lives. We will be happier than we’ve been in over a decade, since we crawled out of the Great Recession. We will appreciate sports, athletes, sold-out crowds and normalcy than ever before. Even the $12 beers.
Reach Bickley at email@example.com. Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.
Reach Bickley at firstname.lastname@example.org. Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.