After a Covid-19 induced interruption of all sports in the United States ended in May with NASCAR’s return to action, Thursday saw a plethora of activity. For the first time, there were six professional sports leagues in action on the same night, mostly without fans in attendance. In addition, tennis and golf were also in action.
September is generally busy, with baseball in its last month of the regular season and football kicking off. However, basketball and hockey are usually at least a month from beginning their seasons. Even in early October, when four or five leagues could be in action, only Major League Baseball is in the postseason.
The NFL Kickoff
The NFL season began much the way the 2019 campaign ended, with the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs falling behind the Houston Texans early, then reeling off 31 consecutive points to cruise to an easy 34-20 victory. The game was played at Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium, generally considered the loudest venue in the league. However, due to Covid-19 restrictions, only 17,000 spectators were in attendance.
For fans of AFC West teams hoping for a Super Bowl hangover, the Chiefs sorely disappointed them. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes, fresh off a new $500 million contract with $142 million guaranteed, was an efficient 24-32 passing for 211 yards and three touchdowns. The big surprise, and a worry for the rest of the league, was rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire’s 138 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries.
The NBA Bubble
The second round of the NBA playoffs continued in Orlando’s Disney bubble with the Los Angeles Lakers taking on the Houston Rockets, the fourth game of their series. It was the only action of the night and was played in front of virtual spectators and a smattering of family members that have been allowed inside the bubble.
The Lakers built a 23 point lead over a lackluster Rockets team that eventually stormed back to make it a two-possession game with under a minute left before succumbing by the final score of 110-100 to take a 3-1 series lead.
Major League Baseball
Baseball is approaching the end of the shortened season. The Chicago White Sox, Minnesota Twins, and Cleveland Indians are all within a game and a half of each other in the American League Central, but comfortably within the field for the expanded playoffs. In the National League, the East Division-leading Atlanta Braves spotted the Washington Nationals a five-run second inning lead before coming back to win 7-6.
The Rest of Sports
The WNBA is playing their season without spectators in a bubble in Bradenton, about 100 miles from the NBA bubble in Disney World. There were three games Thursday night, with two of them having significant playoff implication.
The Las Vegas Aces, in second place in the Western Conference, defeated the Minnesota Lynx 104-89 to extend their lead to two and a half games over the third-place Los Angeles Sparks, who were shocked by the Washington Mystics 80-72.
In the NHL’s Stanley Cup Playoffs, Alexander Radulov scored 31 seconds into overtime to give the Dallas Stars a 3-2 victory and a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series over the Vegas Golden Knights in the Western Conference finals. The games are being played without fans in the NHL bubble at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta. In the Eastern Conference finals, the Tampa Bay Lightning have a 2-0 series lead over the New York Islanders.
The Western Conference-leading and defending champion Seattle Sounders pounded the cellar-dwelling San Jose Quakes 7-1 Thursday night in the only MLS action of the night. Although some MLS teams allow a limited number of fans in attendance, the Sounders aren’t one of them.