The NFL announced it’s 2020-2021 schedule on Thursday night, and among the numerous matchups there was a true surprise: a game on Christmas Day. The NFL has played games on Christmas before, but usually only when the holiday falls on a Saturday, Sunday, or Monday. Christmas is on a Friday this year, but that didn’t stop the NFL from scheduling a 4:30 pm game between the Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints.
Christmas has not typically been an NFL holiday, but in 2020 it could be a holiday for all four major professional sports. The NBA, NHL and MLB have all had to suspend their seasons due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and all are reportedly open to some wild scheduling ideas to get things back on track. It’s possible we could have a total sports bonanza on Christmas this year. But how possible is it?
Christmas has historically been an NBA holiday, with at least one game played on December 25 since 1947 (excluding the lockout in 1998), and a five-game slate in recent years. Of course, COVID-19 puts all that into question. The 2019-2020 NBA season isn’t over yet, and there have reportedly been discussions about moving the playoffs and the draft to August or September. With the NBA’s regular season normally starting in October, that leaves the 2020-2021 season in a precarious position.
Even with so much uncertainty, it’s hard to imagine the NBA not having games on Christmas — even if the 2020-2021 season is forced to start later. As long as the NBA (and other sports) are operational, the 70-plus year tradition of NBA games on Christmas seems unlikely to be shelved.
The NHL played games on Christmas for over 40 years, but that tradition ended in the early 1970s. Since then, the NHL has focused on New Year’s Day as their holiday, with the Winter Sports Classic being a major draw and a celebrated tradition.
That doesn’t rule out the possibility of a Christmas game, though. The NHL is reportedly considering numerous options, including starting the 2020-2021 season in December. If that happens, it would be hard to turn down the opportunity to play a game on Christmas, especially if they’re trying to make up the time (and games) lost due to a delayed start.
Major League Baseball is the true wildcard. MLB is typically seven weeks into its offseason by the time Christmas rolls around, but COVID-19 has put every possibility on the table. MLB is determined to play as many games in 2020 as possible, which could mean starting the season in late summer/early fall and playing through December. Connecting America’s pastime with Christmas could be an exciting prospect for MLB.
The major obstacle is that MLB is a summer sport, and there are a limited number of domed baseball stadiums in the league. Out of 30 stadiums, only 8 have roofs. That alone could scuttle any plan to have baseball play into the winter months. But if MLB decides to play all games in the 2020 season in one location, and that location has a domed stadium, that stops being a problem. One thing seems certain, though: if MLB isn’t playing in-season baseball through December, there is zero chance of any MLB game being played on Christmas at all.
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