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Sports fans now confront post-NFL Draft world of . . .  well, nothing

Yankee Stadium on March 17, 2020.

Yankee Stadium on March 17, 2020. Credit: Shelby Knowles

Now what?

The NFL Draft is over, concluding a six-week period during which the league gave us free agents and rookies-to-be to fill our time and space, leaving sports fans to confront a post-draft world of . . . well, nothing.

Sure, the league has said it will reveal its 2020 schedule by May 9, so that technically is more than nothing — but only slightly so. The fact that the schedule will be written in pencil makes getting excited about it more difficult.

Anyway, there is that, and there is the return of UFC, also on May 9, and maybe professional golf in mid-June, and beyond that, more maybes stretching out to a cloudy horizon.

Is that a flashing neon “2021” sign in the far distance?

Even “The Last Dance,” ESPN’s 10-part documentary on Michael Jordan and the 1990s Bulls, reached the 40% complete mark with Sunday night’s episodes.

Only three more weeks until Bryon Russell Day!

So the sports world, that has used up its best live ammunition of spring with the NFL Draft, is rapidly burning through its best documentary material and has learned that fans have a limited appetite for old games and made-up competitions such as athletes playing H-O-R-S-E in their backyards or video games on their computers.

Grim. There is no other way to put it. But at least we can hope for some good coming out of all this.

For one thing, sports fans will appreciate the games other people play more than ever. And owners, executives, coaches, players and the sports media industry will appreciate fans more than ever — or at least they should.

The growing fractures in the sports business infrastructure are demonstrating how interconnected everyone is, from the fans who buy tickets and pay TV subscriptions on up the food chain to the owners and players.

At present, some entities and individuals are getting paid in full, others are getting paid in part, and fans mostly are waiting for someone to give them refunds on their tickets or discounts on their TV bills.

If this goes on much longer, though, the fractures might to lead to a collapse, and no one wants that.

Spectator sports are foremost a big business, make no mistake. The leagues trying to return to action as soon as possible are protecting their financial interests first, with community service at best a very distant second.

But that does not mean the community aspect of this is not important. Of course it is.

People who do not like sports might not understand that, any more than people who do not like opera understand how much those fans have lost during the COVID-19 pandemic. But it’s all real.

While it pales in comparison with lives and jobs lost, losing the sorts of passions that enrich our lives is a loss, too.

We have felt it since March 11, when Rudy Gobert of the Jazz tested positive, the NBA season was suspended and the world as we knew it changed.

For going on seven weeks since, we have gotten by with morsels of scheduling updates, dollops of nostalgia and some real NFL news.

People ate up the last of those, averaging 8.4 million viewers over the three days of the draft across all media platforms, shattering the previous record of 6.2 million last year.

But we also have been fueled in part by the novelty of a unique, shared life experience — and shared sacrifices — over these past couple of months.

That stuff still is important, but it is OK to admit it is getting really, really old.

Every appropriate health precaution still should be our top priority as a society. But a close second should be this: Someone getting baseball bats into the hands of Pete Alonso and Aaron Judge. And soon.

New York Sports