The Centers for Disease Control said Sunday that it was recommending that no one gather in groups of larger than 50 people for the next eight weeks, and that smaller gatherings practice “social distancing” of six-foot gaps between people, making it unlikely that American sports return in the next eight weeks.

There are plenty of loopholes here. It was just a recommendation, not a federal ban on large gatherings while the coronavirus spreads. Gentle recommendations have largely not been working, as anyone who lives near a New York City bar knows.

And while the CDC said that its recommendation included “large events and mass gatherings include conferences, festivals, parades, concerts, sporting events, weddings, and other types of assemblies,” it also said that it “does not apply to the day to day operation of organizations such as schools, institutes of higher learning, or businesses.”

Still, though, it’s hard to imagine professional sports leagues operating, even without fans, while the government has recommended that no groups of 50 people congregate. ESPN reported Sunday night that NBA owners believe that the best-case scenario is a “mid-June” return with no fans, putting the NBA Finals into August. ESPN also reported that most teams think the G-League season will be canceled.

The math from here is staggering. Any baseball game is a gathering of more than 50 people, which means that teams won’t even be able to resume spring training until mid-May, which could push the start of the regular season into June. Does that mean a 100-game MLB season? Does it mean a World Series during Thanksgiving? USA Today reported that some MLB executives believe the season won’t start until Memorial Day (May 25) or later. The Yankees were scheduled to have played 53 games by then.

NBA players are being paid right now while games are suspended because of coronavirus. If the regular season comes back in June and the playoffs go deep into the summer, would that mean that players are playing without getting paid?

It’s hard to envision what this country will look like for the next two months. But it very likely won’t include sports.


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