As Nashvillians (and much of the rest of the country) look forward to the diversion of the resumption of team sports, here in Music City, our local sports teams are seeing varying levels of success at their efforts to resume play in 2020. Two teams are slowly trudging forward toward hitting the gridiron and the ice sooner rather than later, while another saw its season ended prematurely by the pandemic. The local baseball club also saw its season cancelled but is still working on some sort of substitute to give Nashville baseball fans a reason to head out to the ballpark.
We checked in on all four major Nashville professional teams for this update:
Oh, Our Glorious Boys in Gold, we hardly knew ya’! After a wildly successful inaugural game (except for the final score) back on Leap Day in February, Nashville SC was only able to play one more game before Major League Soccer temporarily pulled the plug on their 2020 season. After waiting out the first months of the pandemic, the league organized an “MLS is Back” tournament in Orlando, FL with the intention of all of the teams playing in a “bubble” at ESPN Wide World of Sports at Disney World Resort over the course of July and early August.
After a short period of practicing together at their home facility, Nashville SC made it all the way to Orlando before discovering that several of their players had tested positive for COVID-19. Their first planned game against Chicago Fire was initially postponed and then cancelled as Nashville SC and another MLS team, FC Dallas were eliminated from the tournament due to health concerns.
While the tournament continued on without those two squads, Nashville SC returned home to great disappointment from the team, the management and their legion of fans that were so excited about their first season. “In what has been a challenging year, and in an uncharted environment created by the tornado that devastated our city, and COVID-19, this is another big disappointing outcome for Nashville SC and its supporters,” said Nashville SC CEO Ian Ayre.
There are still hopes to continue the season after the tournament has concluded, and hopefully the team’s players will have recovered and stayed healthy to be a part of future play. Their fans will certainly be rooting for them, both on and off the field! Their team song is a promise of that.
After a shaky start to the season, the Preds were playing some of their best hockey right before the NHL suspended play in the middle of March. As the resumption of play looms in early August, gathering the players back together was a little more problematic than other sports leagues as the international makeup of the team meant that some players were scattered across the globe in their home countries to ride out the pandemic and await further instructions. Now that the league has structured a method for a novel playoff tournament in two Canadian hub cities, the players have returned to practicing with their home clubs in preparation for the sprint to the finish.
In addition to Toronto, half the teams will be playing in Edmonton, including Nashville who will compete in a best-of-five tournament against the Arizona Coyotes beginning on August 2. The winner of this play-in series will enter the official Stanley Cup playoffs, hoping to win their way through four more best-of-seven series to earn the chance to hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup for their fans.
While the games will be played without fans in the stands, and our Predators will not skate on home ice at least until the start of next season (fingers crossed!), interest is high in the team since they were just hitting their stride when play was interrupted. With two excellent goalies competing for time in the crease and a veteran team of forwards and defensemen, the Preds have what it takes for a long run in the tournament. How they emerge from the long break remains to be seen, but every team is in the same boat, er…zamboni, when it comes to shaking off the rust. Get ready to recall some of your favorite fan chants to yell at your television screen.
The Titans had a relatively quiet offseason, signing a few free agents and re-upping with two of their core players, QB Ryan Tannehill and RB Derrick Henry. Key departures included Tackle Jack Conklin and veteran defenders Jurrell Casey, Wesley Woodyard and Logan Ryan, but the Titans also did a good job restocking their roster with some rookies through the NFL draft.
If they do manage to kick off the season, NFL football will certainly look different this fall. The team has already acknowledged that they will probably not be able to play in front of full crowds at Nissan Stadium, although they are still working with health and governmental officials to determine exactly what sort of in-person experience might be possible. Preseason games will be limited, or perhaps even eliminated completely, not that fans will probably mind not having to pay full price to sit in the heat and watch a glorified scrimmage anyway.
Currently, the team is scheduled to start their season on the road in a nationally-televised game at Denver on Thursday night, September 14. (Kickoff is scheduled for 9:10 pm local time, so get a nap in that day!) Coming off a season that ended one game short of the franchise’s second ever Super Bowl appearance, hopes are high for this squad. Also keep in mind that they were eliminated in the AFC Championship game by the eventual Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs, a team that the Titans defeated during the 2019 regular season.
Brimming with talent and confidence, this year’s edition of the Titans is itching for the chance to take the next step from good to great to champions, so here’s hoping that the pandemic situation will allow them to prove their worth between the lines on the gridiron.
Nashville’s AAA minor league baseball team never got the chance to even start spring training before the grass rug got pulled out from under them at the beginning of the Coronavirus crisis. While they waited for guidance as to whether there would be any sort of season this year, team management made the bold step of keeping their entire payroll intact for months, finally furloughing a number of employees after minor league baseball was officially canceled at the end of June.
Very few sports teams, or businesses in general, were able to show such dedication to their employees during the long period of forced closure, and the Sounds deserve a lot of credit for their support. At the time of the furloughs, they commented, “The COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating for Minor League Baseball, including the Nashville Sounds. Unfortunately as we continue to navigate through this unforeseen event, the very difficult decision was made to eliminate a number of seasonal and full-time staff positions.”
The team management is still holding out hope for a return to baseball to First Horizon Park for at least part of the summer. without minor league team rosters to draw from, the big league teams will be able to carry extra players on their teams as they begin an abbreviated 60-game season in late July. There may still be a need to have extra players ready to fill rosters in the event of injuries, and that’s where the Nashville Sounds management comes in.
Depending on the city’s and the state’s level of quarantine and the ability to have at least a limited number of fans in the stands, team management hopes to field two teams of unsigned free agent players who will compete against each other for a 40-game season at First Horizon Park. This will keep the skill levels up for the players as they prepare themselves for potentially heading to the “Bigs” in the event that a replacement player is needed. Even though the same two teams will play each other over and over again every night, this won’t be like a “Harlem player fighting for a chance to make it to the big stage of the MLB. Plus, a summer night in a baseball stadium (socially distanced, of course) enjoying a cold beer and a hot dog sure sounds like an excellent distraction right about now.