Winners, losers from our COVID-19-induced sports hiatus

Jim Hackett
June 17, 2020 - 11:48 am
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It’s been exactly three months now since I’ve been working from home during the Covid-19 pandemic. In too many ways, a whole lot of nothing has happened but in the world professional sports, those who cover it, play it, coach it, run it or own it always find a way to make headlines. Even during this period with no American team sports, there have been headlines aplenty.

I have long said, you learn a lot about somebody on a golf course. The reason is golf is hard and when things get tough, people show their true colors. During Covid-19 the same has been true; both winners and losers have emerged. Here’s a look at the biggest winners and losers over these last three very strange months.

The Winners:

The NFL

When opportunity knocked for Major League Baseball, instead of recognizing it and seizing the day, they made and continue to make all the wrong moves from both sides. More on that in the loser column. All the while, the NFL not only stayed the course, they set the course and dominated the sports headlines during free agency and right through the NFL Draft. The NFL Draft was easily the most anticipated event of the spring and still stands tall as the greatest TV event we’ve experienced in months. American’s are hooked on the NFL and have been for many years. Now, the league stands as a beacon of hope for a nation in need.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell

 I’ve never liked him either, but give it up, he’s had a good pandemic. Outside of his humorless attempts to get a rise out of each team’s fan bases during the Draft, his messages on league matters have been clear, consistent and right on time for his audience. Last week’s Mea Culpa on the Black Lives Matter movement has been met pretty positively. His message is three years late, but he acknowledged that and came off as sincere in this most recent address. A decent first step. The Commish has had a good three months.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver

A-plus for communication. Silver has shown great leadership during his effort to get the NBA back on the court. It’s easy to see that he is intelligent; consistently considering all sides of his constituency prior to making a public statement. His goal has been to get NBA Basketball back in play in a way that can make sense for all; owners, players and fans. When referring to his league’s fans he’s used terms like “offering the fans a respite” while citing “an obligation to try” in terms of getting the game back on the court. Simple, understated and exactly what his fans need to hear. An effort to try. This is a man who understands his customers, the exact opposite of a certain commissioner in a certain league that should be playing already. This part of the column is for winners however, more on those losers later.

PGA Golf

Talk about effort, the world of golf has shown well. First of all, you can play it! Even during this period of personal quarantine. From the top, the leadership of the world’s best have made every effort to give the fans something to enjoy. The Tom Brady / Phil Mickelson vs. Peyton Manning / Tiger Woods charitable event was very creative and just last week the PGA held its first tournament, the Charles Schwab Challenge in Ft. Worth, TX. A for effort. Since this all started, those in the golf world have worked hard to give its customers a product and a path to normalcy.

Jarrett Stidham

PT Barnum once said “Any press is good press.” Has any quarterback with a career stat line boasting two completions in four attempts for 14 yards and a pick-six ever been more highly anticipated during an off-season than Stidham? I’m eager to see him play as well, but right now his story is the perfect example of Covid-19 boredom. Lots of Stidham talk but not a lot to draw from yet. However, I’d say his profile has raised significantly the last few months, hence the spot in the winners column.

Local sports radio & television

No matter your preference, each of the major sports stations has done their part. First sports radio, for providing familiarity every day with voices we like to listen to and conversations we like to participate in. Also, a big stick tap to the local sports TV stations, for digging out the classic Celtics, Bruins and Red Sox games that have been an absolute pleasure to relive.

A Bartlett Giamatti, former MLB Commissioner

Witnessing how poorly Rob Manfred has bungled the state of Major League Baseball has me yearning for a commissioner I once respected. Too bad it was such a short reign and 30 years ago.

The Losers:

If you’ve been looking for representatives of Major League Baseball in this article you can find them all here. The players, the owners and most certainly their game’s useless commissioner Rob Manfred; congratulations, you all take the cake as the losers, every last piece.

Back in March Major League Baseball had opportunity in its grasp, as I wrote, everything was teed up to not only play but to evolve, change, improve and introduce new and greatly needed young fans to its product. Mission not accomplished.

Fast forward six weeks when I wrote this article, telling it like it was with the state of MLB: It was a last call of sorts to act fast before there would be nothing worth acting on.

In that piece, I crushed the players and their union. First Blake Snell for his stupid, illiterate and tone-deaf comments. Then Bryce Harper for echoing those remarks. Then attacking the greed and shortsightedness of the overall group of them; none of them being able to see just how tone-deaf and delusional their recognition of themselves was and is. Pathetic.

More pathetic though is where we are today. Less than a month ago the players were the bad guys. Now, thanks to the owner’s puppet, Commissioner Rob Manfred the tide has turned. First, MLB missed the opportunity to seize the day and be the only sport in play this spring; a season they should own. Then, their unwillingness to change, communicate or attempt to negotiate with any good faith or strong message, has swung public perception firmly out of their favor.

Pretending to negotiate in good faith is a waste of time, doing so publicly is just stupid.

The fans never want to side with the players because of the public nature of their earnings and their inability to not be subtle about it. So if you think fans are now supporting the players’ side over the owners your wrong.

The sad reality now is that the fans are supporting neither side. Worse, it may be too late to get them back in any form similar to the kind of favor the game once enjoyed. A time that feels like a long time ago in a galaxy far far away.

This is a time for winners and those on every side of the Major League Baseball negotiations are most certainly out of chips in that department. The only bigger losers than those directly involved at the top of MLB, are sadly the fans who used to care and those whose livelihoods are tied to the selfish, uncaring, so-called leaders of the game. Those so-called leaders are doing everything they can to destroy the lives and incomes of those most in need that work within the game. No consideration for those folks I’m sure.

Here’s my message to Manfred, Tony Clark and the rest of their henchmen on both sides of that pathetic aisle. Get back to work. Losers.