The biggest comeback

In the first weekend of August, Dutch professional football and Fox Sports staged what was billed as ‘The Comeback’. The preseason matches marked the first organized footy since March of this year.  While other sports such as Baseball and Cricket had received a green light on month earlier, only the return of the footy could well and truly usher in the return to competitive sport in the Netherlands. While the jury is still out on whether sports are back for good, we will run down the status of where the various sports stand and what’s coming up in this perplexing 2020 sports year.

American sports
MLB: A shortened baseball season was launched in July with a complete reconfiguration of the competition grouping teams together by proximity. The season should last until October 31 with more teams than usual taking place in the playoffs. Despite tight Covid-19 restrictions outlined in a 113-page manual, the virus has been popping up in league clubhouses causing cancellations and doubts about the viability of the season. 

NBA: The professional basketballers have returned to the hardwood in bubble housing all teams and the venue where the games are played.  The NBA and Disney reached an agreement to have games played at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando, Florida.  Games resumed on July 30 and The Finals will end no later than Oct. 13.

NHL: North America’s professional ice hockey league opted to restart their season in two Canadian locations.  24 teams remain in contention when play restarted August 1 from the hub cities of Edmonton and Toronto.  The other eight teams — the top four from each conference based on the 2019-20 regular season — have already clinched a spot in the playoffs and will play each other in a round robin to determine seeding. The first round of Stanley Cup playoffs began on August 11.

NFL: The 2020 American football season will be the 101st season of the National Football League. Pending developments in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the season is scheduled to begin on September 10, with the NFL Kickoff Game, featuring  the defending Super Bowl LIV champion Kansas City Chiefs hosting the Houston Texans in a rematch of the previous season’s AFC Divisional Round. The season will conclude with Super Bowl LV, the league’s championship game on February 7, 2021 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. The league has built the season schedule such that a shortened season would be possible, should they subsequently decide that the ongoing pandemic warrants a delayed start

Of the first nine meets in the prestigious Diamond League, 8 were scrapped.  An event called the ‘Impossible Games’ replaced he planned Oslo fixture in June.  The European Championships that should have been held in France (August 25-30) have been cancelled.  The Amsterdam Marathon, slated to be held on October 18, is still in the works with a restricted version while its Rotterdam counterpart has been shelved for 2020.

An abbreviated, Europe-only Formula 1 season got its start on July 5 with the first of two Austrian races.  Since then, races have also been held in Hungary and Great Britain.   Several other major races will attempt late starts with the Indianapolis 500 on August 23 and the 24 hours of Le Mans slated to be held in the weekend of September 19-20

One of the last major sports to shut down after the pandemic gained a European foothold, professional cycling saw its first event in August since the Paris – Nice race in March.  Italy’s Strade Bianche was held on the first Saturday in August.  Scheduling make-ups dates for the rest of the UCI calendar was an exercise best done in pencil but the calendar now features the following races:

29 August – 20 September: Tour de France
20-27 September: World Championship (Martigny, Switzerland)
3-25 October: Giro d’Italia
10 October: Amstel Gold Race
18 October: Tour of Flanders
20 October – 8 November: Vuelta a España
25 October: Paris-Roubaix

Field Hockey
The Dutch hockey federation suspended the competition at the onset of the Corona crisis and subsequently cancelled the remainder of the season.  No champions will be crowned for 2020 and there will be no promotion / degradation. The FIH Pro League, in which the Netherlands takes part, looks to start up in October.

While many of the European professional leagues did finish off 2019/2020 seasons, the Dutch football association along with their counterparts in Belgium and France, cancelled the remainder of the competition at the onset of the pandemic. The Eredivisie began a preseason of training matches in the first weekend of August under the name, ‘The Comeback’.  The regular season will kick off in the weekend of September 12-13.  Other European competitions will resume play as scheduled.

The American PGA Tour got underway in June with several tournaments already played without spectators.  The European Tour has also restarted albeit with several notable cancellations including the British Open and the KLM Open which should have been played this year at Bernardus Golf in Cromvoirt.  September should see both the US Open and the Ryder Cup while the Masters is scheduled to be played in November.

The ladies tour began in earnest at the Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio with the LPGA Drive On event.  The ad hoc tournament prefaced the Marathon Classic a week later in the same city.

Following a false start at the Adria Tour in Belgrade, where a number of players including Novo Djokovic contracted Covid-19, tennis has begun to resume tournaments with better safety in place.  The US Open in New York is scheduled to hold their tournament without spectators in early September while Roland Garros is scheduled for early October. Wimbledon has been abandoned for 2020.

Written by John Mahnen