Time is nearing for WNBA, other pro leagues to make decisions about 2020

  • The witching hour is nearing for when pro sports leagues like the WNBA, NBA and MLB are going to need to make decisions about how and if they will have seasons this summer.

    The witching hour is nearing for when pro sports leagues like the WNBA, NBA and MLB are going to need to make decisions about how and if they will have seasons this summer. AP File Photo

 
 
Updated 5/22/2020 7:02 PM

Ideas are swirling. But there are still more questions than answers about how professional team sports will operate in the coming weeks and months.

The NBA and Major League Baseball want to resume their seasons and crown a champion.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The WNBA, which was supposed to tip off its 2020 season last weekend, wants to get started to piggyback off an interesting off-season that saw positive momentum from a successful collective bargaining agreement, intriguing trades and a virtual draft that included the introduction into the league of a potential superstar, No. 1 pick Sabrina Ionescu of Oregon.

All three leagues are strongly considering singular sites for competition, as a way to better control the safety of athletes by lessening their travel and exposure to others and quarantining them in the same hotels while they play games in one arena that would be serviced by the same vetted game-day staff, without fans.

The witching hour for making these kinds of logistical decisions that will have significant and long-term ripple effects is nearing.

For instance, WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert has already stated that there will be a point in which it will be too late for the league to get in its full season, and that point will probably be early July.

To start games in early July would mean that the WNBA would probably need to start training camp in early June, mid-June at the latest, to give the players and coaches a suitable amount of time to prepare for the season.

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We're nine days away from June 1.

So, I think we should know something a little more concrete soon.

It's exciting to think that we may have some sports to look forward to this summer. They'll look way different than usual, of course, but they would still be live sports.

Potential single-site venues for WNBA games this summer include Las Vegas and possibly Connecticut, both of which have attached or adjacent hotels to the arenas that would serve as convenient quarantine facilities for players and team personnel. Chicago could be in the mix as well, as there is a hotel attached to Wintrust Arena.

Testing and its availability would also be key to a season. Players and coaches and officials and game staff would need to be regularly tested throughout the season, as a case or two here or there could threaten the viability of the entire league.

It's possible that if a plan of action is finally settled on, the players would have to start the process with a strict self-quarantine.

Convene in the designated city, self quarantine for the 14-day incubation period, get tested and then gather with their teams to start a training camp under strict guidelines of staying within the confines of the approved venue.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Meanwhile, games, without fans, could be played in the single site and then broadcast by crews in remote studios, so that the fans could at least get some kind of taste of the season.

It's all a lot of juggling and jumping through hoops for everyone involved.

At some point, each league will also weigh if all the juggling and jumping through hoops is worth it considering a huge source of revenue (ticket sales from fans) will be missing from the equation.

But according to an ESPN report, the cancellation of the season could result in a loss of $2 billion in basketball-related income for the NBA.

Most of that is probably TV money. The WNBA also has a nice contract with ESPN for the broadcast of its games.

Obviously, Major League Baseball has plenty of TV money at stake, too.

But even so, at what point do the leagues face diminishing returns in this process? At what point is there just too much jumping through hoops to make a season worthwhile? That is also being considered.

Let's hope a balance can be found here, and found soon.

America needs a win. America needs its sports. America needs a little slice of normal right now.

Classic TV: While WNBA fans patiently await news on the fate of the 2020 season, Chicago Sky fans can re-live some great memories next weekend with the re-airing of a couple of classic Sky games.

On May 30, WCIU will air back-to-back Sky games from the 2018 season: the Sky vs. Wings from July 20, 2018 at 1 p.m. and then the Sky vs. the Sparks from Aug. 16, 2018 at 2:30 p.m.

• Twitter: @babcockmcgraw

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