It'll be great to have sports return whenever that actually happens, but it's safe to say they won't be returning exactly as we knew them.
And it's not just the shortened seasons, different playoff formats, or empty ball parks. MLB for example is reportedly considering implementing a new rule for extra innings that had previously only been seen in the Minor Leagues.
A runner being placed on second base at the start of any inning after the ninth (10th inning and on) was implemented in the minors in 2018 to help prevent extremely long games in the interest of player safety. That same rule being implemented during the 2020 shortened MLB season isn't official yet but it is widely expected to happen.
Here's what National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues president Pat O'Conner said about it at the time:
"We believe these changes to extra innings will enhance the fans' enjoyment of the game and will become something that the fans will look forward to on nights where the game is tied late in the contest. Player safety has been an area of growing concern for our partners at the Major League Baseball level, and the impact that lengthy extra innings games has on pitchers, position players and an entire organization was something that needed to be addressed."
Extremely long extra innings games put a strain on bullpens, and given the unique circumstances around a condensed 2020 season and player health in general, it's believed this new rule could help keep teams healthier.
Reactions to it showing up in MLB have been mixed.
Unpopular opinion here but this rule is awesome for regular season. Played tons of games this way and honestly it works really well and adds tension, strategy and expedites extra innings. Fans, if you give it a shot, it’s actually kinda wild.— Richie "Dicky Danger" Shaffer (@Rshaff8) June 23, 2020
Gotta disagree Richie. Broadcasted the Drive the past two years. It does nothing to enhance the game. You play baseball for 9 innings, then softball/pinball/wiffle ball starting in the 10th? No thanks. Certain elements of the game simply shouldn't be touched.— Dan Scott (@DanScottShow) June 23, 2020
These rules aren’t bringing new fans. I would rather ties after 12. Stop changing the game for people who love the sport. Same with the speed of play rules. Leave it alone. Same with the universal DH. It’s not bringing fans, I get it for this year, but that’s it.— Bankes III (@pbankes30) June 23, 2020
This is such a bs move. Even considering the circumstances. Let baseball be played the way it has always been played. With waaay less then 162 games, playing a couple 15+ inning games when they happen shouldn’t be a big deal.— Bobby Caivana (@BCaivana7) June 23, 2020