NCAA spring activities: canceled. The 2020 Summer Olympics: rescheduled. Professional sports: suspended. Movie theaters, restaurants, retailers and other places of business: closed. COVID-19 has severely impacted our everyday lives in many ways these past two weeks – and that’s become the new normal. The radius of COVID-19 continues to grow and it’s left us in a standstill waiting for not only normal, but new.
Our sources of entertainment have been deduced to looking back to previously done works because there isn’t any new to behold. We’ve been forced to watch old television shows and films and to read old books – the new is being put on hold for the moment. Even sports channels have had to replay retro games, either from the 2019 season or classic games from yesteryear.
We’ve lost our so-called morning watercooler talks. Not because we’re being told to work from home (those who can) but because there’s nothing to go to the watercooler to talk about these days.
While we all wait for our favorite forms of entertainment to return, I think what we should be pondering over is not only when they will return, but how they will return. Several Warner Bros. films like Wonder Woman 1984 were delayed on Tuesday, not to mention several others that were announced weeks before. Gal Gadot won’t be able to don her Amazonian stylings until August 14 now and that’s all assuming this pandemic is cleared up by then. But what about the MLB’s return? What about the NBA’s return? Others? Yes, the biggest question is when we are going to be able to start again but the other question, the one that’s not necessarily being asked, is how we are going to start again? I’d dare say it’s the more exciting question to ask, too.
The second question can only essentially be figured out by answering the first. The longer the virus is here the more complicated it will be to restart things that have been postponed or affected in some way. For instance, the longer this goes on I believe the film industry and the companies that run them will continue to move their films that were to be released in theaters on their original date to video on demand applications like VUDU and Fandango Now. This would be, if for nothing else, to make the money they are losing from theaters being closed – and to give people the incentive to stay at home.
Let’s look at the NBA, which was in the middle of its regular season. What is the cutoff point when the season could eventually be canceled? The NBA playoffs were scheduled to take place from April 18 until June 21. If the NBA restarts the season, will the league go straight into the postseason, therefore ending the regular season, or will it have a few weeks of regular season to play? Will it modify the playoff model, adding play-in/wild-card games for teams that were on the verge of making the playoffs? I suspect, however, that leagues like the NBA won’t go directly back into play, especially if the duration of this pandemic continues for a lengthy period.
Meanwhile, MLB was in the middle of Spring Training, an invaluable time for young players to earn roster spots and for veterans to prepare for the upcoming regular season. Not that other preseason sports aren’t valuable to other leagues but baseball’s beginning months are of the utmost importance. Hitters use Spring Training to get their timing back at the plate, while pitchers use it to prepare their arms for lengthy seasons.
So, whenever post-corona season does happen, I can’t imagine leagues like the NBA or the MLB immediately restarting without some kind of warm-up. One, because you have to consider where they are going to start in the schedules and what portion has been canceled entirely or rescheduled for a different date? Two, both leagues’ athletes will need time to get back in game shape. And three, this may be the most important question of all of them: how will each league and the players’ union factor into the restart? That’s where things could get really tricky.
If the virus has subsided in a meaningful time frame, the NFL and college football, who hope to stay on their usual fall schedules, have a chance to produce massive ratings – even bigger than before. They’ll be, for the most part, the first sense of normalcy in this wild year, so far. And by then, it will be a perfect time for them to return because of all the other entertainment delays. That’s not excluding leagues like the NBA and MLB, however.
Fall season – what we’re hoping is post-corona season, if not before then – is going to be quite interesting, simply because the world is going to be playing catch-up. This goes for the entertainment industry as well. It’s not just me and you who have been sitting quarantined at home – it’s everybody, which also includes of all those film and television directors, actors, producers, showrunners, etc. Who knows what films were still in the midst of production or post-production? The return of fall television programming, I can only assume, will also be delayed due to not being able to assemble the crews to film, not to mention the time it takes to produce and edit episodic television shows. By the fall, sports could take over television because they’ll be the easiest to broadcast and produce given that they are live television and don’t need weeks or months of filming and preparation like sitcoms and dramas.
We’re living in a time that we will all remember because it’s a time when the pause button was pressed on everyday life but how we press play once this pandemic is through could be just as important to the story. It’ll be a new game then.