This will be a hopeful column, because we could all use a little hope right now.
If baseball owners can prove they care about their sport, and baseball joins basketball, hockey and football in a return to action in the next few months, and if athletes can remain healthy, we could be approaching the most saturated nine-month stretch of sports in American history.
For a moment, let’s ignore the dozens of potential roadblocks, and let’s look at the way our major sports could overlap, month by month:
June: Baseball teams head to training camps, either in Florida and Arizona or in their home ballparks. Even without fans in the stands or reporters in clubhouses, America returns to the pleasant silliness of obsessing over lineups and bullpens.
The NHL and NBA prepare to open camps, and the WNBA belatedly starts its regular season. The NFL and college football begin preparations.
Sports are back, however tentatively or imperfectly.
Dream of this: Miguel Sano shows up for training camp looking like he spent the past six months at a boot camp, and begins launching home runs in exhibition games.
July: Baseball begins its regular-season schedule. We get to see our beautiful game played in our beautiful ballparks. We are gifted with dozens of hours of entertainment every week.
The NBA and NHL return to play by the end of the month, providing a contrast to regular-season baseball, with their compressed summertime postseasons.
Golf returns to the Twin Cities, as well, with the 3M Open scheduled for July 23-26 and attempting to match the final-round drama of last year’s PGA Tour stop in Blaine.
Dream of this: Jose Berrios, Rich Hill, Trevor May, Tyler Clippard and Taylor Rogers pitch a combined no-hitter to start the season, and the television broadcast, without fan noise, allows us to hear everything said in the dugout and during the celebration.
August: NFL training camps begin, bringing preseason games to our television sets. The NBA and NHL get into the teeth of their postseasons. The WNBA moves toward its postseason. The PGA Championship is held at San Francisco’s Harding Park, becoming the first major championship to be held in the United States since the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach last June.
College football returns to practice and begins playing early-season games.
Dream of this: The two most Type A personalities in recent golf history duel at the PGA, with Brooks Koepka beating Tiger Woods in a playoff at a golf course anybody could play.
September: The sports calendar becomes a buffet stocked with filet.
The NFL and college football return. Baseball playoff races intensify, with teams pursuing the first-round bye that accompanies the best record in each league, and the expanded playoff format keeping dozens of teams in contention. Just about every game on the calendar matters.
The WNBA playoffs begin, and the NBA and NHL playoffs continue. The U.S. Open is held at Winged Foot.
Dream of this: The Vikings open the season at home against the Packers amid eerie silence. The Vikings win 24-21, Aaron Rodgers sees his receivers drop 12 passes and requests a trade.
October: Baseball’s playoffs begin and the NHL and NBA name their champions. Basketball and hockey bosses realize that their best chance to compete with the NFL is to avoid it altogether and schedule their next season to start in January and conclude in August, before the NFL begins its regular season.
Dream of this: The Minnesota Wild, buoyed by Kevin Fiala and Kirill Kaprizov, make it to the Stanley Cup Final before losing to Boston.
November: The Masters is played at Augusta National. Instead of signaling the beginning of spring to we Northerners, it caps the golf season.
Dream of this: Matthew Wolff, who became a champion at the 2019 3M Open, wins his first major at the Masters with his wacky-yet-powerful swing.
December: The NFL playoff stretch begins, and hockey training camp starts. Fans begin returning to arenas and stadiums in time for the NFL playoffs and the beginning of the 2021 hockey season.
It could happen. All of it could happen.