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Nobody knows what sports will look like upon return

It’s an interesting thought: That this is our immediate and perhaps long-term future in sports, a television screen frozen on New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick’s dog sitting alone at a kitchen table while staring at a laptop during the NFL draft.

Which would at least make those who cover the team celebrate the idea of finally being able to interview a likable figure.

Everything is different. How we watch things. How we work. How we learn. The coronavirus has forced us to re-examine all those daily habits otherwise viewed as more common than holding a smart phone.

Moving forward, it will be the same for fun and games.

The three-day draft that had been scheduled to light up Las Vegas ended Saturday with mostly positive reviews, a virtual exercise by NFL teams selecting those prospects they believe will make them better.

This now includes the Las Vegas Raiders. Fans should immediately purchase gear from Clemson University, given it appears head coach Dabo Swinney is the only member of the Tigers having not been drafted by the Raiders the past two seasons.

But now the clock stops on live sporting events, other than UFC. The company fulfilled a promise of president Dana White this week that his sport would be the first back competing. It will stage UFC 249 on May 9 in Jacksonville, Florida, in front of no fans, who will all be at nearby beaches.

Think of our present situation as being in a blazing forest fire. We’re standing in the middle of it. It seems as if nothing, not the trees or flowers or underbrush, will ever return. But it all eventually will. It always does.

But the trees won’t be as tall. The beauty not as pristine. That will be sports for some time.

They were the first of the major entities to shut down due to COVID-19 and could be one of the last to return. If you think you know how sports will look and feel when that finally happens, you don’t. Nobody does.

Who knew eights weeks ago how the world would look and feel today? So how can we predict what sports will look like two or three or four or 10 months from now?

The virus caused this change. The economics of sports will be affected. Some professional leagues, such as the NFL, will be far better positioned to handle a predicable shrinkage at the gate.

But what about baseball and 81 home games? What about a Major League Soccer product that still operates heavily in the red? What about minor league sports that have no television deals and rely on how many seats are filled? What about the imminent financial stress on college athletics?

Sports will come back. They just won’t be what we have come to know. Not at first, anyway. Many fans will have less discretionary income to enjoy games in person. Suddenly, one’s flat screen will replace a seat on the 50-yard line.

And in a world of massive stadiums and large arenas, what percentage of folks will fear being a part of such large crowds with its inevitable lack of social distancing?

Draft is coming

I’m not sure what semi-normal will be like. Not totally positive if Las Vegas — because of its reliance on tourism — will be battered fiscally more than others with NFL and NHL teams, given its conference basketball tournaments and NASCAR.

The draft is now set to arrive here in 2022, a fact known to everyone except NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who when delivering the news said it would play out in 2020. I’m blaming a sugar rush since it appeared he might have consumed an entire bowl of M&Ms that sat on a table in his basement during the virtual draft.

It worked virtually better than most forecast. We came to realize dogs are the NFL choice of pet. That most football families strangely have the same number of children. That a guy in Arizona coach Kliff Kingsbury lives like a modern-day Gatsby. That a yacht acts as a guest house for Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.

That we never knew Tom Brady was drafted by the parent of an Alaskan Klee Kai.

We will host the draft. It’s coming. The Knights will return to T-Mobile Arena and the Raiders will make Allegiant Stadium home and UNLV and the Aces and Aviators will play again.

We’re just not sure when or what the optics will resemble. Nobody is.

At this point, the fire is raging around us. We can’t see the smoke just yet.

Contact columnist Ed Graney at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.

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