The sports week that wasn’t

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Normally, we would be in the throes of one of the best sports weeks of the year. For some of you, it is THE best week.

Monday, the NCAA was going to crown its basketball champion. Was Gonzaga going to finally grab the brass ring? Or was Kansas going to prevail as the favorite going into the Big Dance?

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Today, the Masters was to tee off at Augusta National Golf Club while the NHL’s Stanley Cup Playoffs were to get underway. T-Mobile Arena would have been busting at the seams as the Golden Knights began their run to the Cup.

The NBA season was going to wrap up and its playoffs were going to begin in a few days. Major League Baseball would be well underway and the Miami Marlins and Detroit Tigers would already be eliminated from the postseason.

But there’s no golf, no hockey, no hoops, no baseball. The coronavirus took care of that long ago. And the way things are going, who knows when we’ll see any sports this year?

Contingency plans have been discussed among the leagues for weeks. The Masters rescheduled this year’s tournament for November. They moved the Kentucky Derby to September. Other events, such as the British Open and Wimbledon, fell by the wayside and simply canceled.

Will the NFL start on time? Will there be a college football season? Nobody has the answers because no one can safely say when the worst will be over.

The NBA has floated the idea of playing its postseason are in Las Vegas. The NHL is contemplating a Stanley Cup Playoffs in “neutral” sites such as Grand Forks, North Dakota and Manchester, New Hampshire and maybe somewhere in Saskatchewan. MLB is thinking of annexing Arizona as its new home for its 30 teams. Nothing says Yankees-Red Sox like Chandler, AZ.

Of course, each of these plans have their own unique sets of concerns. There are labor issues to overcome. There are competition issues to deal with. Most of all, there are safety issues.

What happens when a player, coach, equipment person, referee or umpire tests positive for COVID-19? Everything would grind to a halt. At best, we’d be looking at a two-week delay while everyone involved has to be isolated. At worst, you would have a cancellation and we’d be back to square one.

Like all baseball fans, I want to see games. If it means made-for-television events with no fans, I’m fine with that. Same for the Stanley Cup Playoffs and the NBA postseason. If the Golden Knights have to play in North Dakota, that’s O.K.

But as we see the death toll mount daily from the coronavirus and the reality that we’re a long way from getting control of our lives back, I question whether sports will be able to return.

Even horse racing, which has been the lone lifeline for bettors looking for something live to wager on in the U.S., is living on borrowed time. Oaklawn’s meet ends May 2. Tampa Bay’s season wraps up May 3. Fonner Park in Nebraska, which many fans have discovered lately, ends April 29. Will Rogers Downs in Oklahoma concludes its meet May 23.   

Maybe other tracks will open by then and there will still be wagering opportunities and content for TVG to offer its viewers and account-holders. But the point is there’s not a lot of options for sports fans when it comes to live events. I guess you can bet on soccer in Belarus if you have to. Me? I’ll pass.

And if you want to actively participate, you can’t do that in a lot of states. Wednesday, Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak closed the golf courses, tennis courts and playgrounds for the duration of the state of emergency he declared a few weeks ago. So even if you want to stage you own individual imaginary Masters, you can’t do it here. 

Maybe you’ll go to Utah or Arizona or somewhere that will allow you to get in nine or 18 holes. For some of you, a trip to the golf course was the last link to a normal life, a place where for a few hours you could try to escape the fears that consume you and your family’s lives.

Now, that’s gone. Just like the Masters. Instead, you can watch Caddyshack and curse COVID-19 while enjoying a laugh or two as Bill Murray tries to kill a pesky gopher and Rodney Dangerfield takes Ted Knight’s money.

So in the words of the obnoxious Judge Smails, sports fans everywhere say to the coronavirus: “Well, we’re waiting.”

About the Author

Steve Carp

Steve Carp is a six-time Nevada Sportswriter of the Year. A 30-year veteran of the Las Vegas sports journalism scene, he covered the Vegas Golden Knights for the Las Vegas Review-Journal from 2015-2018.

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