The “New” Ballgame
Opening day for the 2020 MLB Season is just a few days away. Albeit, it’s just 60 games, but at least we have baseball. On July 23rd, the Yankees open at the Nationals, and the Giants open at the Dodgers. It’s new territory for all of us. There will be no fans in the stadiums for this third of a regular baseball season. At least one team is offering the fans a way to participate. Dodgers fans can purchase a placard of themselves to have placed in the stadium for all home games. While I don’t see them available on the official Dodgers website, I’ve read reports that the price is between $300 and $400 per fan. MLB will be piping in crowd noise for the games. I’m just wondering if this crowd noise will include “heckling” the umpires as well? Is the crowd noise for the players, or does it just make for a better TV experience? Without question, every game will matter, and, to put this 60-game season in perspective, the college baseball season is 56 games.
However, for a nation weary of safer at home, the MLB season is a much-needed respite from the COVID-19 ravaging our public consciences. There are difficulties in watching MLB, with more and more games being televised by the subscription service MLB.TV. However, they will offer a 90-minute delay after the live feed starts for us die-hard baseball fans.
College football is frankly in doubt at the time this article is written.
Currently, the Big Ten and the PAC 12 conferences have announced a conference-only schedule, along with the Ivey League, and a number of smaller conferences. The SWAC has cancelled all sports for the 2020 season and will resume in the spring of 2021. The South Eastern Conference will wait and see until the very last possible moment. Already, Alabama has lost the opportunity to face off with the University of California in the opening games of NCAA football. My understanding is that BYU will fill that open spot in the Tides Schedule. Auburn has lost their opener against Alcorn State, a member of the SWAC. The Tigers may be hard pressed to find a replacement for its opener. Much of the uncertainties lies at the office of the SEC commissioner, Greg Sankey. The SEC is currently in “wait and see” mode, weighing options as the fate of the SEC season waits on a clearer picture of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Think for a moment about the SEC adopting a conference-only schedule. Perhaps the season opens and ends with Auburn and Alabama playing the opener and the final game of the SEC season, home and home. Worse things could happen.
Football in Alabama is big business, big in the hearts of the patrician faithful, and big in the economy. The economies of the sports programs of Auburn and Alabama, and the economy of Alabama as a whole. Football is big business in the hearts and minds of our student athletes. They work relentlessly to stay in shape and are devoted to their craft. While there are monetary considerations, first and foremost are considerations and concerns for the players. Let’s consider the impact on our seniors, kids that have worked so hard for so long, only to have the chance to compete snatched away. We’ve already lost the college baseball and basketball seasons; will football be the next domino to fall? As much as it pains me to predict this, I’m succumbing to the numbing fact that we’re going to lose college football this season. I believe the SEC will make the decision to do one of three things: cancel the football season outright, play an SEC exclusive schedule, or start the season only to have it suspended or ended abruptly. At this moment in time, it seems extraordinarily unlikely to see stadiums full of fans in the immediate future. The workable niche I see would be a SEC only season, with 20 to 30 percent of the seats occupied due to COVID restrictions. I’m sure glad I don’t have to make these decisions, and may God bless those that do.
NFL Football: What a season this one could be! Cam Newton playing for the Patriots, amazing! Two Auburn quarterbacks fighting for the starting position on the Bill Belichick’s New England Patriots. It looks like this will come to fruition. Although the NFL pre-season games have been cancelled, the NFL at this time is committed to a full seventeen game season. The Patriots and the Green Bay Packers have announced that for their respective home games, only twenty percent of the seats will be sold. Talk about a tough ticket to get your hands on. The NFL seems confident it can pull a rabbit out of their hat and actually have a season. There are so many NFL threads that are tracked back to our home state.
A healthy Cam Newton signed for a one-year deal at New England. Jarret Stidham will be working tirelessly to hang on to a job it appeared only a few weeks ago was his. First round Auburn pick Noah Igbinoghene joins Tua, who looks like the sure starter for the Miami Dolphins, not a huge surprise. One of my all-time favorite players, Jalen Hurts signed by the Eagles as the backup quarterback. My prediction is that it’s just a matter of time until Jalen moves into the starting position. Derrick Henry, the NFL’s leading rusher in 2019, has the franchise tagged to keep him just one more season, and then he becomes a free agent. The possibilities seem endless as the NFL continues its quest to have a 2020 football season.
This year, what we’re all living through is an unwanted reminder that we as Americans have it good in the USA. My hopes are that when we emerge from the incubus that has caused so much damage to our society and to us personally and socially, Americans will be more appreciative of the things we simply took for granted. I know this writer will.
Next Time …