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Ron Cook: CDC guidelines present new hurdle for future of sports

Ron Cook: CDC guidelines present new hurdle for future of sports

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Everything changed Sunday evening.

That's when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended canceling or postponing all events nationwide with more than 50 people for the next eight weeks. That recommendation touched virtually every aspect of life in America. That includes, perhaps most prominently, professional sports.

The NHL, following the NBA's lead last week, put its season on pause because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It instructed its players to remain in their team's city with the hope of being able to reopen training facilities within a week or two. That hope was dashed after the CDC's recommendation. Monday, the NHL agreed to shut down for 60 days and told its players to head to their homes - nationally and internationally - and self-isolate until at least March 27. The league's new hope is to start a training camp 45 days into the 60-day period. That means no hockey until at least mid-May.

It doesn't take a genius to see the NHL season is very much in jeopardy.

The NHL Network reported Monday the American Hockey League already has decided to cancel its season.

Would you really be surprised if the NHL did the same thing?

Do you really want hockey in August?

The same is true of the NBA season. Teams are preparing for a mid-June resumption of their schedule. Even that might be wishful thinking.

MLB has a little more time on its side and has a chance to finish its season by playing a large percentage of its games without the interruptions that the NHL and NBA are enduring. Last week, MLB announced it was delaying the start of its season by at least two weeks. As it turns out, "at least" were the key words. MLB said Monday it will follow the CDC's recommendation, which takes the game to mid-May. After that, players - certainly pitchers - would need a second spring training of two or three weeks. Now, we're talking June, at best. Good luck with that.

The NFL, at least for now, is proceeding mostly with business as usual with free agency scheduled to start Wednesday. It has taken severe criticism from some people, including internally, for not joining the other leagues in shutting down. One NFL general manager told Peter King of NBC Sports, "It's arrogant. It looks gross. We need to chill out for a while. The optics of it are going to be awful."

That GM was referring to the obscene money that already has been thrown at free agents at a time when there is a worldwide health crisis, people are losing their jobs and ability to feed their family and the economy is beaten almost beyond recognition. I get that to a degree, but I thought we were long past the days when people were upset about the salaries of star athletes. It is not as if the NFL is putting anyone at risk for the new coronavirus by proceeding. It is not as if it is playing games with packed stadiums. It is conducting its business remotely. Who is hurt by that?

That isn't to say the NFL hasn't felt the first sting from the CBC's recommendation. The league announced Monday it will hold its annual draft April 23-25 but do it without the usual hoopla that surrounds it. There will be no party in Las Vegas. Expect Roger Goodell to announce each first-round selection in front of nothing more than a television camera.

The NFL could face more difficult decisions in the weeks ahead. Organized Team Activities in May could be - maybe even likely will be - canceled. So could minicamps in June.

The way things are going, the NFL should be happy if its training camps open in July and its season starts on time in September.

You know as well as I do that there are no guarantees with the COVID-19 virus.

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