Tell me something — honestly.
After three months of no live hockey, no live basketball, no live baseball on that big screen in your living room or den, how have you been spending your evening hours?
I’ve posed that question more than once to Dave Scott, my dear friend and retired school teacher in New Glasgow. He pulls no punches. He’s sick of looking at the walls.
Tired of old mystery movies, Law and Order reruns and Donald Trump babbling on CNN, I adjusted my thoughts to something new, something much more pleasing.
I began fantasizing about what the North American professional sports scene might have looked like right now.
Look first at basketball.
Something very dramatic, and very real, happened on the hard court a year ago this week. The Toronto Raptors were victorious in game seven against the Golden State Warriors, a match that has been called “a game for the ages.” And who in Canada — basketball fan or not — forgets the mammoth celebrations that occurred afterwards on the streets of Toronto?
Were it not for COVID-19, the coronavirus, the pandemic, the face masks, the stay-at-home orders, the frequent washing of hands and social distancing, the Raptors may have already wrapped up a second straight title. Yip, repeat champions right here in the greatest country in the world.
Look next at baseball.
The last meaningful game in the majors was played almost eight months ago — on the night before Hallowe’en — when the Washington Nationals won the 2019 World Series in the seventh game against the Houston Astros. Yes, it was an exciting conclusion to a season of upsets.
But think about this: The Nationals are really the Montreal Expos in disguise. Had things been done correctly in Montreal years ago, the defending champions — although not doing much defending yet — would be a Canadian team. So there. Two-for-two for Canada. Just check Dave Scott — he’s still wearing his red, white and blue Expos bonnet.
Look now at hockey.
Okay, nothing can be done about what happened on the ice 12 months ago. The St. Louis Blues, though surprising almost everyone that knows the difference between a defenceman and a centre, confirms that the team from Missouri beat the big bad Boston Bruins in the 2019 finals. Let the Blues savour their win. It took them since the first expansion to finally taste the bubbly in the biggest silverware of them all.
Think instead about what would have happened if the NHL’s playdowns had concluded on schedule, probably sometime this week. For the first time since 1967 — take it from me — the Toronto Maple Leafs were going to capture Lord Stanley’s mug. It was guaranteed to happen in six games, against some franchise — who cares which one? — from the league’s Western Conference.
While talking about Toronto’s franchise, there is something I’d like to remind everyone about — again. The Leafs, you cannot deny, are still the defending champions of the Original Six. That’s a title they’ll never surrender.
Just one more thing. Without the pandemic fouling up everything, without fate playing its ugly hand, it was quite clear, quite apparent, that the championship lineup right now would be: the Montreal Expos, the Toronto Raptors, the Toronto Maple Leafs.
We’d be standing and singing — with pride — those wonderful words, “O Canada, our home and native land, true patriot love in all of us command.”
Dammit, I just woke up.
You know how bad dreams continue all night, how the good ones always seem to end too soon. It’s happened again.
Even my two Shih Tzu companions George and Gracie have switched to Dave Scott’s activity — looking at the walls.
I’m back to reality.
Back to the question I’ve been asking for weeks: Are we about to get live sports back on our TV screens?
But, as we move into the summer months, the overall picture is still a clutter of uncertainties regardless of how many sports channels we have in our homes.
Everything’s quite a mess.
Baseball remains a struggle about money between the owners and players. Hockey still has a lot of things to settle. Basketball people seem somewhat optimistic. And, to finish off the big four, NFL football could start on time.
Everyone I talk to these days is saying the same thing. Bring back Crosby, MacKinnon and Marchand and drop the puck.
When it happens — if it happens — there won’t be huge crowds packing the stadiums. Television channels will be piping in crowd sounds. There’ll be no sign of hot dog sellers or program pedlars.
Things aren’t much different at the ballparks. The hope is for a return of Vlady, Mookie and Judge. But the Jays may have to play home games in Florida. Don’t you feel sad for the stars who might only get $10 million instead of three times that much?
Basketball? The Raptors still have their defending champion status, but will a different-looking schedule hurt their chances of a successful repeat?
The NFL? We still may get a chance to see what Brady looks like in a strange uniform — and what the New England Patriots will be like without him.
So what can we expect in the next few weeks?
There are many possible scenarios dependent on the decisions made by the NBA, NHL, MLB and NFL.
Imagine if the hockey playoffs last into August; if the NBA sticks to its hoped-for plans; if baseball spends three weeks at another spring training; and if the NFL opens on or close to its original schedule.
For stay-at-home fans — that’s pretty much everyone but families — things could get quite confusing and crowded on the networks.
Imagine if all four sports play at the same time.
I’ll be wishing I had stayed asleep with all those championships in Canada.