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updated: 9/7/2012 5:01 PM

NPF's swing and miss costly to Bandits players, fans

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While bad publicity may be better than no publicity, the debacle that ended the National Pro Fastpitch season last week wasn't the headline the publicity-starved women's softball league needed.

Let me set this up with a baseball analogy.

Imagine that the Chicago Cubs are in the World Series.

Please. Stop laughing. This is serious.

Now, imagine that the Cubs could clinch the title with a Game 7 win at Wrigley.

But hold on. Mother Nature gets uncooperative, and rain pounds the city all day, causing Game 7 to be washed out.

Now imagine Major League Baseball telling fans that the series is over, that there would be no rain date because it had not been planned for.

Season over. Goodbye.

No Game 7. No World Series champion for 2012.

Say what?

There would be disbelief, followed by anger, maybe even rioting in the streets. Outrage and criticism would be heard from coast to coast.

Believe it or not, that exact scenario played out with the NPF and directly involved its Chicago team, the Bandits.

In the world of women's pro softball, there isn't rioting in the streets, but there is the anger and outrage. You might not have heard it since this league is such a minor player on the sports landscape.

On Aug. 26, the Bandits, who play at The Ballpark at Rosemont, a beautiful 2-year-old facility that can be seen from the Tri-State Tollway, were one game away from clinching their second NPF championship in a row. They were the host team.

It poured and poured in Rosemont that Sunday. But since the league had no contingency plans for bad weather in its bylaws, there was no option for a rain date for the Bandits and the USSSA Pride.

And no 2012 champion.

Stunning, right?

I mean, you have to love the logic by league officials in planning the season. "Rain date, schmain date. Who needs it? Like it ever rains in Chicago in August."

Apparently, discussions immediately ensued about scrambling together a Plan B and playing on the following Monday. But league commissioner Cheri Kempf explained that one team would have suffered significant losses to its roster due to travel plans. Some players were scheduled to leave Chicago immediately after the final game on Sunday in order to begin obligations with other teams overseas.

Bandits pitcher Monica Abbott, the NPF's pitcher of the year, found herself at the center of that conversation. Kempf initially cited Abbott's overseas schedule in Japan as an example of the obstacles in seeking a rain date.

Abbott lit into NPF on her personal website, saying she would have never left unfinished business in Chicago, that she and her teammates wanted to finish the series.

Kempf then came out with a clarification about Abbott, admitting the NPF had not asked Abbott about her situation and travel plans directly. The rest of Kempf's statement went on to apologize for the strange end to the season and explain how the league would now be working tirelessly to review its championship series policies.

Umm. Probably wise.

Still, what a mess. Not only does this bungling make the NPF look like an amateur operation, it has left fans feeling disgusted and empty.

Maybe a team like the Cubs can get away with leaving its fans feeling that way -- disgusted and empty -- for decades at a time, but the Bandits and the NPF can't.

Playoff push:

It's coming down to the nitty-gritty for the Chicago Sky.

With just seven games left in the season, the push for the first playoff berth in franchise history will be going down to the wire. The Sky will try to edge the New York for the final Eastern Conference spot.

Sunday's game at Connecticut, the top team in the East, is critical. Then the Sky plays the two best teams in the Western Conference, the defending WNBA champion Minnesota Lynx at Allstate Arena on Tuesday, and at the Los Angeles Sparks on Thursday.

The Sky will end the regular season with two home games at Allstate: Atlanta on Sept. 20 and Washington on Sept. 22.

Patricia Babcock McGraw has covered the Chicago Sky since its inaugural season in 2006. She is the color analyst for all Sky television games, which are broadcast on Comcast CN100.

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