Somewhere in Bristol CT, an executive on mahogany row might have a smile on his/her face this morning. ESPN has a live sporting event to put on TV tonight and it just might be better than the abomination that was the NBA H-O-R-S-E tournament. Then again, it might not be a big attraction because the underlying sport is not a big attraction.
Placed on “the mothership” – ESPN itself and not one of the satellite channels – the WNBA Draft will unfold. This is a real event happening in real time; what takes place there is genuinely news; the question for ESPN is this:
- Since only a small fraction of the normal viewers of ESPN have any idea who these players are and what is the status of the 12 teams in the WNBA, will folks tune in to see it simply because it is real and not historical?
According to several reports I read this morning, the presumptive #1 pick tonight will be Sabrina Ionescu who played at Oregon last season and was unanimously selected as the AP Player of the Year. Notwithstanding that achievement, I have no idea who she is and how she plays. According to those same reports, there are a handful of other players who are likely to fill out the first 5 or 6 picks in this draft; I do not recognize a single name in those reports.
That situation is why the NFL and the NBA Drafts are widely followed as TV events; we know most of the players in the draft because we have seen them play. The WNBA Draft – and the MLB Draft – suffer by comparison because we have not seen most of the players in competition. Tonight may be a bit different because of the lack of any sort of sports programming that has been live over the last month or so. ESPN certainly hopes so …
Earlier this week, the Governor of Florida declared pro ‘rassling to be an “essential service” thereby classifying pro ‘rassling with things like police, fire, hospitals, grocery stores and the like. Here is how the folks who make such determinations in Florida expanded the definition of “essential services” to permit pro ‘rassling to be included:
“Essential services inter alia shall include “employees at a professional sports and media production with a national audience – including any athletes, entertainers, production team, executive team, media team and any others necessary to facilitate including services supporting such production – only if the location is closed to the general public”.
As to the reason for such an expansion of the definition of “essential services”, the governor said that pro ‘rassling services are “critical” to Florida’s economy. There is no punch line here; this is news and not a joke…
I have written here several times that I genuinely want the return of sports to our society because I miss them, and I enjoy them. I have also written that I do not believe that sports should be restarted any time soon because the COVID-19 situation has been slowed down but it has not been resolved. Every once in a while, I run across a piece that argues for an early reopening of sports in the US because of some putative healing power or social bonding effect that derives from professional sports.
In such pieces, you can be certain to find references to the fact that MLB and the NFL played their games during WWII – even though many of the best players were serving overseas in that war. Another historical citation often used is that the NFL staged games only a couple of days after President Kennedy was assassinated and many of them point to rapid return of MLB to NYC after the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Towers. All these things are historically accurate; none of them are concocted or contorted. The do differ from the current situation in a fundamental way however:
- The MLB and NFL games played in the US during WWII did not have an adverse effect on the war effort in Europe or the Pacific.
- The NFL games played after the Kennedy assassination did not endanger the newly sworn in president nor did it hinder the recovery of John Connally who was also wounded in that event.
- The return of MLB to NYC in the aftermath of 9/11 did not affect the structural integrity of any other structures in NYC thereby endangering other residents and workers.
- The premature resumption of sports-as-we-know-them thinking that they have some societal palliative value could very well make the pandemic worse.
When we think about restarting sports in the US, we ought to take a page from the folks in the medical profession who take the Hippocratic Oath. I am incapable of translating the original text of this ethical exposition, but supposedly the opening line says:
“First, do no harm.”
Let me suggest that sports execs and TV execs and politicians – – like the Governor of Florida – – adopt that fundamental principle whenever they need to make any decision that relates to the sports cosmos. Sports are fun; sports are integral to many lives and to society; sports are a significant part of the economic engine; sports are important. And stopping this pandemic is even more important…
Finally, Bob Molinaro has this report in his column this week in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:
“Idle thought: I began social distancing years ago when somebody would approach and try to tell me about his fantasy football team.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………