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Dan Bickley

Everyone loses in a pandemic, but some in sports lose less than others

Houston Astros outfielder Chas McCormick gets into an Uber car picking him up at the team's spring training baseball facility, Monday, March 16, 2020, in West Palm Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Filter through the crush of hard news. Past the graphs, ventilators and refrigerated trucks storing dead bodies because morgues are full and funeral homes can’t handle the business. Notice how different the world looks in Arizona.

Rush-hour traffic is way down but midday roads are clogged, a sign of low panic and high unemployment. Hiking and walking trails are bustling with people, making outdoor space feel uncomfortably crowded. Golf courses are operating at peak efficiency and appreciated like never before, where bag-handlers wear gloves and sanitize single-person carts, where all human contact has been eliminated.

We are proof that nobody benefits from a pandemic. But some lose less than others. Hopefully, we’ll remain among the fortunate.

The same is true in the world of sports. Distilled to their own context, with no insensitivity meant for those who are truly suffering, here are some unintended winners and losers:

1. Tiger Woods in the PGA Tour

The PGA Tour has plenty of open calendar space in the fall, and three of their four major championships have been officially rescheduled. The PGA Championship will take place in August, while the U.S. Open will begin on Sept. 17, just four days after the U.S. Open tennis tournament is scheduled to conclude.

Meanwhile, The Masters has announced a mid-November return, with fall foliage in bloom at Augusta National.

This is a big deal. Tiger Woods is the defending Masters champion, which gives the 2020 tournament a special vibe of its own. It is a championship that needs to be defended. Woods also has 15 majors now, three shy of Jack Nicklaus. He is also 44, and it’s a huge blessing for Woods that the PGA Tour is packing three major tournaments into the schedule before the end of the year.

A well-rested Woods could close in on Nicklaus with a well-timed hot streak this fall. He could conceivably win all three and tie Nicklaus in the span of four months.

2. Roger Federer

Poor Roger Federer. No other transcendent athlete has risen to G.O.A.T. status in his sport and had so little time to enjoy the view. He is the greatest ambassador the sport has ever know with a fire that has never diminished. He rarely has a bad day, where tennis doesn’t come first.

Federer has 20 majors, but Rafael Nadal (19) and Novak Djokovic (17) are relentless and tormenting. Wimbledon has been cancelled for the first time since 1945, a tournament that represents Federer’s best (only) chance at more major victories. The French Open has rescheduled to late September, which is practically a layup for Nadal.

Just like that, we’re tied.

Nadal is almost 34 with bad knees and high mileage. Djokovic is nearly 33 and prone to moodiness and career swings. But Federer will turn 39 in August, and this pandemic might cost him dearly, putting out the fire for good.

3. The Houston Astros

The Houston Astros are Silver Lining Champions. If any professional sports team should feel more fortunate than others, it’s the filthy thieves in Houston. Less than two decades after the Steroid Era ruined the record book, the Astros made a mockery of competitive sportsmanship.

They received a small taste in the Grapefruit League, where those in the dugout and on-deck circle were victims of verbal wrath. The vitriol they encountered in big league parks across America would’ve been the No. 1 story of Major League Baseball. Instead, none of players have paid a real price, and the two banned executives will finish their suspensions the moment the 2020 season ends.

They are the one team that might take a moment and appreciate the silence and social distancing. And maybe find a little humility and remorse along the way.

Reach Bickley at Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

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Dan Bickley bio
Dan Bickley is the most influential sports media member in Arizona sports history, having spent over 20 years as the award-winning lead sports columnist for The Arizona Republic and and almost two decades as a Valley sports radio talk show host. In spring 2018, Bickley made the decision to leave the newspaper to join the Arizona Sports team as host of the entertaining and informative midday show Bickley and Marotta, as well as bring his opinionated and provocative column exclusively to
Bickley’s journalism career began in his hometown of Chicago, where he was part of a star-studded staff at the Chicago Sun-Times. He chronicled Michael Jordan’s six NBA championships; covered the Olympics in eight different countries and attended 14 Super Bowls; spent three weeks in an Indianapolis courthouse writing about Mike Tyson’s rape trial; and once left his laptop in an Edmonton bar after the Blackhawks reached the Stanley Cup Finals.
He has won multiple awards, written two books, formed a rock band, fathered three children, and once turned down an offer to work at the New York Times.  His passions include sports, music, the alphabet, good beer and great radio. After joining Arizona Sports 98.7 FM, he couldn’t be happier