Falcon Points

What are the odds your favorite sport will be back in 2020? We handicap the possibilities

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It's pretty clear the RonaVerse will not end any time soon, so the sports world is going to have to take on a different look. Some sports have managed to muddle on; horse racing never left, the UFC, NASCAR and golf have been successfully staging events fan-free. But the bigger sports are still waiting it out.

The Europeans appear to have figured it out with their soccer leagues, and most games have gone off without a hitch. So plenty of models exist for the big U.S. sports. But some NBA players are balking at a restart, some NFL owners want the start of the season pushed back so the possibility exists for the return of fans, college football is in a full-on panic due to positive tests and baseball is led by a joke commissioner, greedy owners and pouty players and has simply made itself look stupid in the public's eye.

So what are the odds these sports return? Let's take a look at each one (and a couple others).

Major League Soccer

No, they are not as popular as the other leagues on this list, but they appear to have the best plan for a comeback. The league has come up with a setup that should make its return possible, albeit in a tournament format. They will have all the teams in one place in Orlando, and should have learned a lot from the European soccer teams. Of all the leagues, this one seems the most likely to return, so it makes the list.

Percent chance to return to play in 2020: 90. Fans in the stands? No. Our "we would miss you" factor on a scale of 1-10: 2.

NBA

The NBA, too, has an Orlando lockdown plan for a short finish to the regular season and expanded playoffs. However, some players are concerned about a spike in cases in Florida, and there has been some grumblings on other issues. But LeBron James wants to play, so barring something surprising, the league will be back.

Percent chance to return to play: 85. Fans in the stands? No. We would miss you factor: 4.5.

NHL

The league is looking at "hub cities" and a return to play in late July with an expanded playoff tournament. Gary Bettman has vowed that one positive test won't cause another shutdown, and it seems likely we will have some kind of Stanley Cup tournament this year.

Percent chance to return to play: 85. Fans in the stands? No. We would miss you factor: 3.5.

NFL

Let's face it, this is the one we all care about. If the others can't play, oh well. But take football out of our lives? THAT'S the apocalypse. Where the big problem is going to come for the NFL is weight rooms, and if one team has several cases. Do you shut that team down? The teams they played? The whole thing? Some owners want to push the season back in hopes of getting fans back at some point due to the revenue that will be lost. That might be prudent. Still, odds are pretty good the league at least starts up.

Percent chance to return to play: 75. Fans in the stands: Unlikely at first but possible later in the year. We would miss you factor: 10.

MLB

If a trash can gets banged in an empty stadium, will anyone hear it? Leave it to greedy owners, a poor commissioner and a bunch of entitled players to not only have a massive labor fight in the middle of a pandemic when many of their fans are out of work, but to leak each and every bit to the media in hopes of currying fan support. Of all the tone deaf things to happen over the past two months, this is the worst. Who's to blame? Who cares? The union and owners were doing their business as usual back and forth while the world fell apart around them. Not having a season would suck for Astros fans, because this year was probably the end of their title window. But good news; Rob Manfred plans to implement a 60-game season and it looks like it will happen, but the mess they made getting there will be hard to overcome. And there is still a chance the Rona keeps it from happening. A week ago we would have said 5 percent. Now it looks like it will happen. We remain skeptical.

Percent chance to return to play: 70. Fans in the stands: Possible near the end of the season. We would miss you factor: 4.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL

While most conferences are hoping to play, the immediate spike in cases that came with athletes returning to campus has slowed the momentum. Barring a breakthrough, it will be tough to put together a traditional college football season. Still, expect them to try. Without football, many schools will be unable to support other sports. Without fans, even some of the biggest schools will struggle. They will have to deal with the problems the NFL will face times 10. It would suck if something can't come together, but as of today it really looks iffy.

Percent chance to return to play: 50. Fans in the stands: Unlikely at first but possible later in the year. We would miss you factor: 9.

Yes, there are some other niche sports - the WNBA, NWSL, other college sports that aren't football or basketball. But none of those really move the needle. The MLS really doesn't either, but maybe a tourney type thing will generate interest. The good news is odds are solid we will have more sports soon.

Just maybe not all of them.

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This week the NASCAR cup series heads to the world center of racing, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, for the inaugural fourth of July version of the Brickyard 400. This is unprecedented for NASCAR considering over the course of 50 years they are usually in Daytona around this time. While this move was met with a lot of criticism from fans, there is a positive to come from this move though, as the sport will hold their first doubleheader with Indycar. This has been talked about for many years and now it has finally come to fruition. Another new facet of this weekend will be the Xfinity Series running on the road course configuration. This could very well lead to the cup series transitioning from the oval to the road course next season should everything go well when the Xfinity series does it. It will definitely be an interesting weekend.

Last week, Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin dominated the first-ever doubleheader at Pocono. The two drivers finished first and second in both races with Harvick taking race one and Hamlin winning race two. Both of these races came down to pit-road strategy as Harvick was able to eke out a victory by taking two tires and fuel while his teammate Aric Almirola took four. The next day Denny Hamlin pretty much had the whole field covered as he went on to claim his fourth victory of the season. Overall, the idea of two races in a weekend went over well but for the racing itself, it was hard to watch. One of the main issues I had was how the drivers didn't have to shift this week. In my opinion, that was what made this track so unique. It was an oval that had road course characteristics and it usually produced some pretty good finishes. Hopefully this will be addressed when the new car makes its debut in 2022.

One of the big stories going into this week is the announcement a couple of weeks ago that NASCAR will be moving their all-star event to Bristol Motor Speedway. Over the past couple of weeks, there has been a whirlwind of news from the Bubba Wallace story at Talladega, to the doubleheader races last week. A lot of this has put this announcement on the back burner but this is a huge story. The race will be held on Wednesday, July 15th as NASCAR continues with midweek races. This is the first time since 1986 that the race will not be run at NASCAR's home track in Charlotte back when it took place at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The format will be pretty much the same as all the winners from 2019 and 2020 will all have an automatic birth into the race while the rest of the field will run in the open event the day before. The main event will feature four stages including a 15 lap closer around one of NASCAR's most popular race tracks. I think this move was long overdue and I hope that they continue with it in the future. Don't get me wrong, there isn't anything wrong with the race at Charlotte but I think a change of pace would be welcomed. I look forward to seeing how this turns out.

As we move on to Indy this weekend, the driver I have winning is Kurt Busch. This weekend will be the 2004 Cup Series champion's 700th career start, and he's won just about every race that there is to be won except this one here at the Brickyard. This week, that is going to change. It hasn't been the most consistent season for the Vegas native, but he still sits tenth in points and right in the thick of the playoff battle. This track isn't his best as he currently has a 19.42 average finish, including a dismal 30th place finish last year. But this week, I think he gets back on track with a victory as he starts second. The veteran has flown under the radar this year, but he has definitely shown spurts where we think he is going to break-out. He also has runs where it seems like him and his team are mid-pack, but there aren't many drivers out there that have the experience he has. And a talented driver like him always finds a way to bounce back. Look for Kurt Busch to take the #1 Monster Energy Camaro to victory lane.

All stats and information used in this article are brought to you by the good folks at driveraverages.com and Racing-Reference.com, the best websites for all NASCAR stats.

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