While I write these blogs during the pandemic, ESPN always provides background noise while I tap away from my kitchen table/makeshift office. (And when I say “noise” I mean “deafening noise” when Stephen A. Smith and Max Kellerman are on.)
It’s just the way I’m wired. I love sports. I’ll always love sports.
I’m not like columnist Norman Chad, who wrote a Sunday piece headlined: We don’t need sports as much as we think. Within (and keep in mind he’s a humor writer), Chad wrote, “Believe it or not – and saying this might get me fired by the end of this sentence – we don’t need more sports in our lives, we need less.”
I wasn’t abhorred as some said they were via social media. Maybe it’s because I consider Chad an acquaintance from my past life as a sports journalist. I’ve talked to him. In fact, I brought his column on to the Charleston Gazette-Mail sports pages back in the day.
But, Norm, we definitely need more sports. As soon as possible. Our kids need the exercise, the camaraderie, the discipline. Hell, they need something to do. And us adults need the entertainment, the soap opera, the… oh, let’s face it, we too need something to do.
Yet I’m starting to get concerned about that world of sports I love so much.
I understand health comes first. I’m all about working from home, social distancing and flattening the heck out of the Covid-19 curve. I listen to, and take direction from, health experts.
But, as I tell my Joni all the time, I can multitask. I can watch pandemic developments and directives and follow sports as well.
And I am concerned about the sports world. I think we were all good with hitting the stop button when the outbreak hit. Sure it hurt when we lost March Madness and spring sports.
But how exactly will the sports world move forward? What I’m sensing is no one knows. Heck, what I’m sensing is no one knows who will make the calls. The leagues? The president? Governors and local leaders?
How about parents of college athletes? Are you going to let your son, a 5-star offensive tackle, line up within sneezing distance of others in a football game? What about the athletes themselves? As a 6-10 basketball center, are you prepared to sweat and mix it up in the paint against opponents?
Let’s set that aside though. Let’s assume participants are satisfied with vigilant testing.
That leaves the attendance obstacle — and the money angle. The latter one is getting more serious as we move along.
In case you missed it, WVU athletic director Shane Lyons has announced staff salary reductions and furloughs for the new fiscal year.
What caught the headlines there were voluntary 10 percent salary reductions for Lyons, football coach Neal Brown, basketball coaches Bob Huggins and Mike Carey and baseball coach Randy Mazey. In the case of Huggins, that’s a loss of around $400,000. Lyons’ target is to cover a projected $5 million shortfall because the Big 12 and NCAA hoops tournaments were wiped out. But within there are also projected losses of ticket revenue and Mountaineer Athletic Club donations.
Also, nearly one-third of the athletic department’s workforce (65 employees) will be furloughed and, according to a WVU press release, “some employees will not return.”
Within professional sports, the NBA season remains a hanging chad. And money issues, of course, are of concern to those within. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the NBA and NBPA reached an agreement to extend through September the 60-day window that preserves the league’s right to terminate the Collective Bargaining Agreement in the wake of the pandemic. The original 60-day window was closing early this week. (Personally, I agree with Shaquille O’Neal there. He told USA Today’s For the Win, “I think we should scrap the season. Everybody go home, get healthy, come back next year.”)
But there’s baseball, golf, tennis… There’s college football.
Who will decide on those? And college basketball going forward, etc.
It will be interesting. USA Today’s Christine Brennan offered this today:
“You know who’s going to make [sports] so? Not league commissioners or conference officials. Not billionaire owners or millionaire players… Governors and mayors run our sports world right now. Our elected local leaders are the most powerful people in sports today, as they should be.”
Brennan pointed to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who said any decisions made would be “based on the latest medical and public health advice, in compliance with government regulations.”
And then Brennan dropped the hammer. She quoted Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot regarding Major League Baseball.
“While it breaks my heart that I can’t watch my White Sox play (and OK, the Cubs too), the health and safety of our residents must come first,” Lightfoot said. “This means placing a hold on activities which attract large crowds until we are confident in our ability to prevent the spread of Covid-19. While I believe the MLB is working on creative ways to address these public health concerns, for now, this means that Chicago isn’t playing.”
Ohio governor Mike DeWine also said any MLB plan would have to be approved before the Cleveland Indians and Cincinnati Reds could play.
Yet what if President Trump threw open the doors? What if some cities say OK and others say no?
A lot of questions. A lot of concerns.
The best I can suggest: Flip your multitask switch back to work and hope a chain of command and some answers surface for our beloved world of sports.
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Mitch Vingle covered sports in West Virginia for 38 years. Follow Mitch on Twitter at @MitchVingle and be sure to check out the rest of Wheelhouse Creative’s website for your marketing and advertising needs. If interested, call us at 304-905-6005.