Sam Ross Jr.

Sam Ross Jr.

Being a sports fan these days is almost a full-time job when it comes to keeping track of who’s playing and who isn’t.

This isn’t the typical matter of free agency losses or acquisitions, trades, injuries or retirements. Further, it has nothing to do with graduations or transfers, ineligibility or just plain quitting. Rather it is tracking the sports themselves.

Answer Man imagines soon needing to set up his living room like a combination golf tournament scoreboard and typical war room scene from military films, with unit status represented by objects deployed on huge map tables, pushed around with huge sticks.

Just this week we’ve learned that high school sports are a go in Pennsylvania – for now, at this time, pending developments, subject to changes of heart. There will be no spectators, of course.

Even as the PIAA was giving a qualified go-ahead, the Northeast Conference, of which St. Francis University is a member, was axing the fall sports seasons. No qualifier statements there.

The prestigious Ivy League beat NEC and others to the punch by three-plus weeks by bagging fall sports in early July.

Meanwhile, Major League Baseball has opened play, with a symbolically pathetic opening pitch at the initial game by COVID-19 guru Dr. Anthony Fauci,

It was the perfect metaphor for the times, Fauci striding purposefully to the mound, taking a half windup, and throwing a ball about 45 degrees toward his left, as if he thought the first-base dugout was home plate.

No one on the sidelines needed to worry, though, because the ball landed on the infield grass, not even making the base path.

Now MLB games are being called off and teams quarantined, leading to doubts about the viability of the season.

The NHL is set to resume Saturday with an expanded – aka watered-down – 24-team playoff field. Unlike MLB’s plan of having teams flit to and fro, the NHL games will be played in the so-called “bubbles” of isolation, utilizing Edmonton and Toronto.

The NBA resumed play Thursday with 22 teams admitted to its bubble, at ESPN’s sports complex in Florida.

One can only imagine the nervous NFL brass and owners watching with fingers and toes crossed that MLB’s COVID-19 problem wanes and the bubble guys of the NHL and NBA get through their playoffs without virus difficulties.

Meanwhile, the Johnstown Collegiate Baseball League ran off a regular season and has playoffs that typically would have produced two local entries in the AAABA Tournament.

Alas, this August in Johnstown will transpire without that tournament, leaving a notable void.

Now Answer Man digs into his faux mailbag to retrieve and answer questions he is asking.

Q: What does it mean that no MLB team opened this shortened season 3-0? Sign me, Tom T. Trivia from Oddville, Kentucky.

A: Tom, this hasn’t happened in MLB since the 1954 season, a year before Answer Man was born. What it means is that predictions of uncertainty, parity and mediocrity for such a short, 60-game season, seem to have been well-founded.

Q: What are the Penguins’ chances of winning another Stanley Cup in this strange playoff setup? Sign me, Pens Nutt from Squirrel Hill.

A: Although it may be taken as a bad omen, 14 of 15 ESPN.com hockey experts picked the Pens to walk over Montreal in their best-of-5 opening series. But when it came to picking an eventual Cup champion, only two went with the Penguins. By way of contrast, 10 picked Tampa Bay to lift the Cup, a triumph of hope over experience considering the Lightning’s recent playoff disappointments.

Q: Any thoughts on Notre Dame actually joining the ACC for football this season? Sign me, Dewey North from South Bend, Indiana.

A: Dewey, get back to me if and when it becomes a done deal that there actually will be a complete ACC football season played this fall.

Sam Ross Jr. is a freelance journalist who writes a column for The Tribune-Democrat.

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