Sunday, May 17, 2020


I've never been a big auto racing fan, which means I guess it's kind of ironic that I spent an entire career in sports journalism  – more than 40 years, if you're counting – just an hour away from the Charlotte Motor Speedway and the beating heart of NASCAR.

There could be any number of reasons why auto racing has never appealed to me: To begin with, I'm not a motorhead. I open the hood of a car and I don't know what I'm looking at; I wasn't born into the NASCAR culture, so it's kind of foreign to me anyway; I never saw the point in driving in circles; and auto racing is loud. Very loud. And sometimes, people get killed.

And it's not just NASCAR. I never got into the Indianapolis 500. Or Grand Prix racing. Or go-karts. Or whatever. It's just me, I guess.

So how come I can't wait to watch today's Darlington 400 (at 3:30 p.m on FOX)?

I know why. Because it's sports. Live sports. On television. I think the last live sporting event I watched on TV was the ACC Tournament, which was halted in mid-stream in early March because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since then, our televised sports has been a vast wasteland of recycled championships in nearly every sport. I can't watch something where I already know the outcome. That's why I never record a sporting event. If I know who wins, what's the point?

And it's not only auto racing. Golf, of sorts, also returns today with the TaylorMade Driving Relief event (2 p.m on NBC), featuring Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler and Matthew Wolff in a charity skins game to raise funds for the American Nurses Foundation.

So today, there will be real-time sports with outcomes in doubt. I suspect genuine, in-the-moment competition could feed my empty, aching sports soul with sheer joy. We'll see.

The PGA Tour plans to return in full on June 11-14 with the Charles Schwab Foundation in Fort Worth, TX. Stay tuned.

All of this will be interesting not only for the competition and live action, but also to see how golf and auto racing will play out in a pandemic world. No fans will be allowed at either event, which will be strange. Nobody yelling "In the hole!" or "Yudda man!" the precise moment a putt is launched.

And I'll be curious to see how social distancing will be accomplished on the golf course and on the race track. No hand shaking after dropping 35-foot putts. Remote interviews only. During pit stops, will drivers get a dose of sanitizer along with their Gatorade? What happens with pit crews? Are they all considered essential workers? What about the guy who cleans the radiator intake? Is he expendable?

And then there's major league baseball.

MLB is hoping to begin play in July with a schedule cut in half and in empty stadiums. No spitting allowed. And can you really argue with an umpire from six feet away while wearing a face mask?

Baseball already is making some innovations, like combining the American and National leagues into three 10-team divisions: the West will see the Dodgers, Angels, Giants, Athletics, Padres, Diamondbacks, Rockies, Rangers, Astros and Mariners, while the Central will include the Cubs, White Sox, Brewers, Cardinals, Royals, Reds, Indians, Twins, Braves ad Tigers, and the East will feature, the Phillies, Pirates, Mets, Yankees, Red Sox, Orioles, Nationals, Blue Jays, Rays and Marlins.

I already like this setup. It could be a keeper. Look at all the natural rivalries. Travel distances will be cut significantly. And as much as I love baseball, the shorter season has some appeal. This also would be a good time to experiment with speed-up rules, too.

We might be getting a glimpse of the new normal today and in the coming weeks as well. There's still a lot of tweaking to be done.

We're already in the early stages of reopening the country, but if numbers spike in the next couple of weeks, it could all go back to full quarantine again. You never know. We better enjoy today while we have it.

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