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AP photo by Carolyn Kaster / President Donald Trump holds a jersey presented by the North Dakota State football team, which won the 2018 FCS national title, during a ceremony at the White House on March 4, 2019.

Other than the most passionate President Trump haters among us — those miserable folks who want him to be wrong about everything all the time — I'm sure most of us hope he was right when he reportedly told major league sports commissioners during a Saturday conference call that he believes the NFL season will start on time in September.

According to both The Associated Press and ESPN, the president also said he hopes to have fans back in stadiums and arenas by August and September, just in time for all of football, be it professional, college or prep.

Just what infectious disease guru Dr. Anthony Fauci — who's now so famous he's about to have his own bobblehead produced by the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum — and other health experts think of this notion isn't yet known, though California Gov. Gavin Newsom made it crystal clear what he thought of Trump's timeline.

"I'm not here to second-guess anybody," Newsom told AP, adding, in part: "Our decision, at least here in the state of California, will be determined by the facts, will be determined by the health experts. Right now I'm just focused on the immediate, but that's not something I anticipate happening in the next few months."

The next few months could be viewed as a baseline for August and September. After all, this is the first week of April. That leaves all of May, June and July, plus the rest of April and part of August to meet the president's wishes. That would pretty much meet anyone's definition of a "few months."

Even Trump, who previously proclaimed he "would love to have the country opened up and just raring to go by Easter," seems to be beginning to understand this is a marathon rather than a sprint.

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AP photo by Matt Slocum / President Donald Trump speaks with officials before the annual Army-Navy football game last December in Philadelphia.

Yet the point of this is not to pummel POTUS for his math or his message. Everyone's flying blind here. For proof, merely look at the face masks experts first said weren't needed, yet we're all now encouraged to wear. As someone declared on CNN recently, we don't know what we don't know. We have no treatment. We have no vaccine. We only know we have a worldwide nightmare on our hands.

But from the narrow, increasingly insignificant lens of sports, what's ignored in Trump's timeline, if accurate, is what is almost assuredly lost prior to September: baseball, be it the majors, the minors (which would include the Lookouts), quite possibly even youth ball. And on top of that, a summer's worth of golf, tennis, soccer, horse racing, NASCAR, the fading dreams of a belated return to pro basketball and hockey, as well as the Summer Olympics and Wimbledon, which were postponed and canceled, respectively.

And, yes, just because the president overlooked them on his conference call, the outstanding athletes who perform in the National Women's Soccer League.

ESPN's Brian Windhorst noted both the NBA and its players union are making contingency plans to cancel the season.

Said Windhorst: "They're leaving themselves an option either way, but they're not having talks about how to restart the league, they're having financial talks about what would happen if the season shuts down, and I think there is a significant amount of pessimism right now."

One could argue the false hope of a country back at work by Easter or unrealistic deadlines that can't or shouldn't be met will almost always lead to pessimism. We all want a miracle, the sooner the better.

What we all need is a reality check. What we all need is patience. Supreme patience.

Even Trump said, when pressed later Saturday about his August-September timeline: "No, I can't tell you a date, but I think it's going to be sooner rather than later."

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AP photo by Brynn Anderson / NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, right, and Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes greet Minnie Mouse during a news conference in Miami on Feb. 3, 2020, the day after the Chiefs closed the 2019 season by beating the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LIV. With each passing day in the COVID-19 crisis, the likelihood of the pandemic having some impact on the next NFL season increases.

That said, there's a different angle to this story, one that involves those who will be expected to pay to watch these sports up close and personal. Or as Trump noted: "The fans want to be back, too. They want to see their sports. They want to go out onto the golf courses and breathe nice, clean, beautiful fresh air."

Perhaps they do. But as April drags into May and beyond, and the United States' death toll from COVID-19 continues to rise, how anxious will many of us be to join tens of thousands of others in any stadium or arena to watch our Hawks, Predators, Braves, Volunteers, Bulldogs, Falcons, Titans or Mocs play?

Won't that be especially true if no treatment has yet been developed to heal us if we become sick?

We may enthusiastically hope our favorite teams begin playing on fields and courts so we might somewhat return to our daily lives and interests. But will we really want to watch them in person rather than on our den television?

There may even be a chance, however slight, that our dependence on sports is changed a bit by this pandemic. We might begin to view all of it, or at least much of it, for what it was always intended to be, which was a distraction rather than an addiction.

As Pope Francis celebrated Palm Sunday Mass behind closed doors in a nearly empty St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican, he said: "May we reach out to those who are suffering and those most in need. May we not be concerned about what we lack, but what good we can do for others."

The return of sports would surely do more good than harm to the nation's psyche, particularly when it comes to football here in the South. But if the lack of sports at the pro and college levels hastens the end of COVID-19 here, there and everywhere, there might be no greater good done than that.

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Mark Wiedmer

Contact Mark Wiedmer at mwiedmer@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @TFPWeeds.

 

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