The Weirdest Sports Season Ever?

COVID has given us a surreal calendar.

(AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)

Yesterday was something of a surreal day in professional sports, as the novel coronavirus has upended the traditional calendar. The National Football League is in full swing, albeit with the most fluid schedule in its history. And the French Open, usually held in late May or early June, and the NBA Finals, usually held in July, both culminated with historic championships.

The day was very much marred for me by the injury of Dak Prescott, the quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys—the team I’ve rooted for by far the longest—in the midst of what promised to be a record-setting season. He suffered a compound fracture and dislocation of his ankle on a routine tackle and is out for the remainder of the season. Backup quarterback Andy Dalton managed to lead the team to victory and at least a temporary spot atop the pitiful NFC East but dreams of a return to the Super Bowl after a 25-year absence, already unlikely given a woeful defense, are all but dashed.

The college football season is also rather bizarre but slowly coming to life despite all reasonable indications being that it couldn’t possibly be played. Defending champion LSU has already lost two games in three contests. Granted that Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Joe Burrow and much of his supporting cast are now playing in the NFL, that’s a historically bad start for a defending champion and, indeed, the worst LSU has started in decades. But, of course, it’s a very unusual season in which there was no spring practice, no padding of the early schedule with patsies while working the kinks out. Topping it off, LSU had to play what was scheduled to be a home game on the road on short notice because of a hurricane. Meanwhile, Ohio State is topping some power rankings despite being two weeks away from playing a game.

During yesterday’s NFL action, they were advertising the Master’s golf tournament, arguably the biggest event on that sport’s calendar. It’ll culminate on November 15 this year. Ordinarily, it’s played the second Sunday in April. One wonders where they’ll find azaleas that bloom in cold weather.

Meanwhile, despite an incredibly late start and a very truncated season, the Major League Baseball league championship series have kicked off pretty much on time. The Atlanta Braves, who I now follow through the corner of my eye rather than every pitch as I once did, are back for the first time in nineteen years. They face an uphill climb against the LA Dodgers.

I’ll write about the NBA Finals and French Open separately, as they’re special in their own right. But, between the rest of the sports calendar and the political season, they’re almost swallowed up.

FILED UNDER: Sports
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Mikey says:

    The 2019-2020 NHL “season” started normally, stopped in mid-March, and resumed August 1 as just a beefed-up playoffs that ended with the Tampa Bay Lightning winning the championship on September 28, which would normally be a few days before the start of the next regular season.

    Rumor has it the next NHL season may begin just after the New Year.

    The NHL did an incredible job with these playoffs, putting players in two “bubble cities” (Toronto and Edmonton) that combined into a single bubble in Edmonton for the final playoff rounds. Games were played in arenas with no spectators.

    During the playoffs the NHL conducted over 33,000 COVID tests on those inside the bubbles, with zero positives.

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  2. James Joyner says:

    @Mikey: The NHL is almost completely off my radar screen, even with the Capitals having won the title just last season. But, yes, rather remarkable to pull that off.

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  3. Slugger says:

    Yes, things are messed up. There are some great moments still. Yesterday’s Seahawks victory, Iowa State beating Oklahoma two weekends ago, and Oklahoma’s victory over Texas this last weekend are a few examples of the fun sports can be.

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  4. Mikey says:

    @James Joyner: I grew up just outside Detroit, so the NHL is never off my radar screen, despite my beloved Red Wings dwelling in the basement lately. Fortunately my adopted hometown team is the Capitals so I got to root for a champion.

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  5. MarkedMan says:

    Given the large number of people involved I suspect that it’s just not practical to run a football program at any level. If an alien were to observe football I suspect their report would be: huge men crouching 3 inches apart while snarling and grunting and panting into each other’s exposed faces, then exploding into action and grabbing each other and rolling around on the ground together. If you wanted to define the perfect method of C19 transfer you couldn’t do better.

    I really feel for the players who come down with it, especially the college ones, and end up with long term low grade lung damage and no career, after sacrificing their everything to get their shot.

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  6. Kathy says:

    @MarkedMan:

    I think playing football during the Trump pandemic is irresponsible, too. I just can’t watch, knowing all those players are risking their lives and health, even if they are unlikely to die of COVID-19. This on top of the same players risking traumatic brain injuries and long term neurological damage even when there’s no virus, is just too much. It comes to close to watching blood sports.

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  7. JohnMcC says:

    Absolutely the weirdest season ever. I’d toss in the Indy 500 being run in late August and similar distortions of the auto racing calendar. I particularly missed the F-1 cars running through Monte Carlo which is always a treat.

    But being an adopted Floridian there’s been a lot of great hometeam news. The final dispatch of the reviled NYYankees is something worth waiting several decades to see (not to mention the delicious schadenfreude of watching the wretched Red Sox spend a whole — too-brief — season groveling in the cellar). And Stanley getting a tan. And the Heat taking King James to his limit even if they lost.

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  8. de stijl says:

    @Mikey:

    After the North Stars moved to Dallas I moved on. The Wild never caught my fancy – they play a brutally defensive style.

    I went with college hockey. Generally, it is more free-flowing. It is much more European and finesse.

    There is a D-league in town associated with The Wild. Some of the guys are pretty good but the coaching is utter crap – dump it in the zone and see what happens. Bah! So frustrating. The is no art or style.

    When I was at school at a party some folks were watching the Gophers vs. UMD Bulldogs. Just as I walked in the room some dude stuck one through the three hole and I was superpeaking on way too many mushrooms.

    My immediate response was “Everyone should score a goal all the time.”

    Almost 40 years later my friend quotes that back at me when I get too philosophical.

    I cannot tell you if it was a Gopher or a Bulldog who put the puck in the net, but it was fucking awesome.

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  9. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    Don’t follow golf to any great degree although I used to play Putt-Putt all summer on Dollar Monday and my uncle was a pretty serious golfer, but I don’t understand why azaleas have to be in bloom to award someone a green blazer for playing golf the best. Then again, there’s a lot about sports that I don’t understand even though I enjoyed playing a lot of them no matter how inept I was.

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