First there was a void. A formless, shapeless, sportsless few months with Belarusian soccer and exhibition table tennis darting about in the inky darkness.
May brought a glimmer: South Korean baseball, German soccer and mixed martial arts.
In June, the Premier League and golf joined the mix.
Now it’s July, and the pinprick of light has become bright. Sports is really, truly, finally coming back.
They say it doesn’t feel like summer until baseball starts. This year, summer begins on July 23, when Major League Baseball gets underway, with a rapid-fire 60-game season.
There was a contentious labor negotiation, a few players have already opted out because of safety concerns, and stadiums will be empty. But players will be turning double plays, running 90 feet between bases and hitting home runs, just as they have for more than a century.
The final schedule hasn’t been released, but teams are expected to stay in their regions for the most part, until the playoffs and World Series, which will be held as normal.
N.B.A. and W.N.B.A.
N.B.A. teams are coming back, starting July 30. Well, 22 of them anyway. The league won’t bother bringing back the eight worst teams from the interrupted regular season — including the Knicks — figuring they wouldn’t have had a chance to make the playoffs anyway.
The league will start with eight regular-season games for each team, with all games played at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World in Florida. Then the playoffs will begin, possibly slightly expanded: If the ninth-place team in either conference is within four games of the eighth-place team, it will get to participate in a play-in game for a berth. The playoffs will then proceed as usual.
When we left the league, the Milwaukee Bucks had the best record, with the Los Angeles Lakers the best in the West. A Giannis Antetokounmpo vs. LeBron James finals would go a long way toward erasing memories of the league’s hiatus.
The W.N.B.A., a summer league, never got a chance to get started. It will now begin on a date to be determined in July with a shortened 22-game schedule at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. Extending the season much past early October is not possible because so many of the players have contracts with European teams for the winter.
Sabrina Ionescu, formerly of Oregon and just drafted No. 1, will be the most-watched rookie in the league in years. Her arrival is much needed by her team, the New York Liberty, which has won just a quarter of its games over the last two seasons.
There will be no more regular-season games in the N.H.L., which will skip right to the Stanley Cup playoffs, expanded to 24 teams from 16. Games are likely to be played in two hub cities, which have yet to be determined. The starting date is also to be determined, probably in late July.
Eight teams that would not have made the playoffs under the usual format will have a second life, including the storied Montreal Canadiens, who were the last team from Canada to win the Cup, in 1993.
Last season’s Stanley Cup winners and runners-up, the St. Louis Blues and the Boston Bruins, are at the top of their conferences again and will be among the teams getting byes.
Major League Soccer
M.L.S. will kick off its resumed season next Wednesday with the M.L.S. Is Back Tournament at Disney World. Teams will play three games that count toward the regular-season standings, then the top performing teams will advance to a playoff to decide the winner of the tournament.
After that, the regular season will resume with games planned at home sites. The M.L.S. Cup playoffs will be played as usual.
Formula One begins its season four months late with the Austrian Grand Prix on Sunday. The plan, for now, is to run eight races instead of the planned 22. The three-time defending champion is Lewis Hamilton, who is seven wins short of Michael Schumacher’s record 91.
Test cricket, the top level of the game, will return next Wednesday with a match between England and the West Indies in Southampton, England. For hygienic reasons, bowlers will no longer be able to spit on the ball as they have done for more than a century to get it to move as it approaches the batters.