MMA Goes On, But Team Sports Must Tap Out

At first glance it seems utterly illogical that mixed martial arts goes on despite featuring the closest physical contact of all of our most popular sports, while all four team sports face dramatic shortening, if not outright cancellation, of their seasons.

But it is not illogical at all, because of that one word — seasons.

There is no "season" in MMA — and it can even be argued that its championships are a joke, with "interim" titles more the rule than the exception, as fighters frequently go idle either for frivolous reasons (e.g., Conor McGregor) or suspensions, either for dirty urine tests or "personal conduct" reasons (e.g., Jon Jones, to which both have applied). Long-time WEC and now UFC mainstay Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone put it all in perspective when he called interim belts "glorified second place."

Yet each of the team sports are going to attempt to soldier on.

Major League Baseball will go with a 60-game regular season, "spiced up" with rules changes that include beginning both the top and bottom halves of all extra innings with a runner on second base (please, don't give the NFL any ideas — they might decide to start overtime with the team that wins the coin toss getting the ball at the 50-yard line, and if they score a touchdown, they win the game) and adding a designated hitter to the National League. No increase in the number of teams that make the playoffs, however.

The NBA has decided to go all Pythagorean on us: the eight teams that are more than six games behind the eighth seed in their conference — Cleveland, Atlanta, Detroit, New York, Chicago, and Charlotte in the Eastern Conference, and Golden State and Minnesota in the Western Conference — have been sent home for the summer, with the remaining 22 teams playing a reconfigured schedule of eight games each, with all games to be played at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando. The three specific venues to be used will be the Arena, the Field House, and the Visa Athletic Center.

If, at the end of this eight-game "mini-season," the eighth-place team in either conference is five or more games ahead of the ninth-place team, the playoffs will begin right there and then, under the same format as always. But if either ninth-place team is within four games of the eighth-place team in the same conference, they will then play each other up to four times until one of them is mathematically eliminated.

The NHL is a bit behind the NBA in finalizing its plans, although it has announced that the bottom seven teams — the bottom four in the East (Detroit, Ottawa, New Jersey, and Buffalo) and the bottom three in the West (San Jose, Los Angeles, and Anaheim) — have been eliminated, while the top four teams in each conference, instead of getting first-round byes, will play each other once each to determine seeding among them for the playoffs, which instead of using fixed brackets, will observe "re-seeding," increasing the importance of the results of these round-robin games.

The remaining eight playoff-making teams in each conference (thus there will be 24 teams reaching the postseason instead of the usual 16) will play best-of-seven series to decide who joins the round-robin participants in the conference quarterfinals. Unlike the NBA, no site has yet been determined for where the games will be played, although it has been broadly hinted that there will be more than one site.

By the time the NFL season rolls around, there may have been so many new coronavirus cases (just this past weekend the death toll therefrom surpassed an eighth of a million nationally) that the league will "tap out" and scrap its entire season (the Hall of Fame Game, originally scheduled for August 6 between the Cowboys and Steelers, was canceled last Thursday).

The other three team sports should do the same. It would be too messy — and too dangerous — to do otherwise.

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