FALCON POINTS

NFL Draft is a welcome sports respite, but we should enjoy it while we can

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The NFL Draft will be held this week, and like everything else these days, it will be done virtually. For the viewer, this won't be much of a problem. We really don't need to see Roger Goodell hug every draft pick. The reality is, all we care about is who will be going to which team. So from a fan's standpoint, nothing changes. And that's a good thing, because this is the closest we will get to sports for a long time.

The worst-case scenarios

While sports leagues are exploring every option to return as soon as possible, there are a lot of experts hinting that having any sports in 2020 might be improbable. From a practical standpoint, this would suck for all of us as fans, not to mention those of us who do sports talk and run a website called SportsMap.

But lost has been the potential impact on the leagues themselves. The NFL was counting on new TV deals for increased revenue and an ever-expanding salary cap. But will the money still be there as companies struggle? If there are no fans, no concessions, how much revenue will be lost? And even if the fans are allowed back, how many will no longer be able to afford to go to games? How many companies, crippled by the loss of revenue, will be able to afford suites?

And this will obviously trickle down to all sports, including college football, the NBA, MLB, NHL and MLS. In the worst-case scenario, could we see some teams simply no longer able to survive? Contraction could become a real possibility in the worst-case scenario. Not to mention all the jobs related to these leagues - sports bars, transportation, and yes, sports talk and sports Web sites.

More than just sports

Obviously, in the grand scheme of things, sports aren't the only things that might not come back in the form we recognize them. Concerts and event venues. Movie theaters. All forms of entertainment are going to be impacted, and not in a good way. Not to mention the jobs that have already been lost in the non-entertainment industry, and those that are going to be lost moving forward. The sports world kind of pales in comparison to that, but the impact these leagues have on the economy does not.

Some good news

Yes, horse racing is still out there fattening the curve, as is the WWE, even with no fans in attendance. So we do have a few things to watch. But the draft will give us a taste of a major sport. We can fret over what the Texans might do with their second day picks. Discuss whether or not the Cowboys should pay Dak or make a move for another QB. Where will Tua go? Is Joe Burrow a lock to go No. 1? Will the virtual draft go off without a hitch? What boneheaded move will Bill O'Brien make? Let's enjoy these few days of sports normalcy.

Because who knows when we will have them again?

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The Astros suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Yankees Thursday. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

After an impressive two-game sweep of the NL-best Mets at home earlier in the week, the Astros took to the road to begin a four-game series with the league-best Yankees on Thursday night. To little surprise, the series started with a bang (no, not a trash can bang) in more ways than one, confirming that this series should be a must-watch this weekend.

New York's comeback proves no lead will be safe

Right from the get-go, the loud Yankee Stadium faithful had their chance to rain boos down on Jose Altuve before showing some pleasure as he led off the series by being hit by a pitch. They were quickly, though only temporarily, quieted as Altuve would come in to score two batters later on a three-run blast by Alex Bregman.

Three-run homers seemed to be a theme, as New York would get one of their own to tie the game off the bat of Giancarlo Stanton to tie the game, then Yordan Alvarez continued his dominant June by pushing the Astros back in front by three with another three-run bomb in the third, making it 6-3. That lead held through to the bottom of the ninth, where instead of holding it, Ryan Pressly issued two walks to set up the fourth homer of the game to tie things again before Aaron Judge would get a walk-off single to complete the impressive comeback.

Not only will we get to sit back and watch the slug-fest between Yordan and Judge this weekend, but it looks like with Alex Bregman swinging well again to round out the top of Houston's order, the Astros may be getting closer to their full power. So far in June, these two teams sit third and fourth in on-base percentage, with the Astros at .351 and the Yankees right behind at .350. That means we should continue to see scoring opportunities on both sides that can tilt momentum one way or the other as these lineups try to battle against the opposing pitcher.

How will the aces fare

Verlander vs. Judge, and Cole vs. Alvarez, need I say more? Although we won't see Justin Verlander go up against Gerrit Cole in the same game in this series (they should go head to head next Thursday, however), they will pitch on back-to-back days, with Houston's ace going Friday night and New York's on Saturday afternoon. Verlander is coming off his worst start of the year, a three and two-thirds inning outing where the White Sox put up seven runs, four earned, against him and knocked him out early to give him his third loss and increased his ERA from 1.94 to 2.30.

The last time he faced the Yankees was in the Bronx in the 2019 playoffs, in ALCS Game 5, where he went seven frames while allowing four runs, all on two homers in the first inning, which is all New York needed to grab the 4-1 victory to make it a 3-2 Houston lead in the series, which the Astros would go on to clinch in Game 6. So, with the double dose of bad taste in his mouth, it will be interesting to see if he can use that as the fuel to get back to the phenomenal form he's had this year or if the Yankees try to jump on him early like they did nearly three years ago.

Cole, meanwhile, is fresh off of two quality starts in a row against the Rays, where he allowed just one run on six hits with nineteen strikeouts over 13.1 innings of work. He's had his share of strife this season, though, including a seven-run shelling by the Twins earlier this month, along with a start in April where he couldn't make it through two innings against the Tigers. He's had success against his former club, most notably a complete-game shutout in Houston last July with twelve K's and holding the Astros to just three hits.

If the series opener was any indication, we are in for the treat of a playoff-caliber matchup, if not a potential ALCS preview that we may see in October. The Yankees showed why they have the best record and are the hottest team in baseball on Thursday night, but the Astros were only a good outing from their closer away from having a relatively lopsided win. The rivalry is real; the competition is close, and we get to enjoy the show.

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