Dude’s Update On Pro Sports Return

Okay so are the professional sports league going to finish their seasons or not? Since the COVID-19 pandemic caused professional sports leagues to stop playing, the speculation has been when and if the leagues were going to play again. Now that we are nearing July 4th, we wonder when they will start.

If I have to be honest with you, at this point and with the COVID-19 numbers spiking once again, I would rather that leagues not try to finish their seasons and just wait until next year. Regardless, here are the latest updates:

Major League Baseball (MLB) is finally set to begin a 60-game schedule to start the end of July. The schedule will feature 40 games within the division and 20 inter league games against teams in corresponding regional divisions. The league has given each club the permission to decide how they will manage fans to coincide with local restrictions. The restart of “spring training” has already begun. It was also announced this week that MLB cancelled all minor league seasons in 2020. The league also ruled that spitting will not be allowed.

National Hockey League (NHL) is set to open training camps on July 10th. The league is planning to restart with a 24-team tournament to be played in two “hub cities”. The latest word was that Toronto and Edmonton were being considered as the hub cities.

The National Basketball Association (NBA) is planning to revive their season with 22 teams playing in Walt Disney World with no fans in attendance. The spike in COVID cases in Florida has raised some concern but NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is still comfortable with the league’s plan to restart the season. There have been reports that NBA players will wear smart rings which will monitor their temperatures and other vital signs to ensure safety of their players.

Major League Soccer (MLS) is set to start playing again with what they call “The MLS is Back” tournament beginning July 8th in Orlando, Florida. Just this week, six players from FC Dallas have tested positive for the coronavirus. Teams will participate in group play much like they do in the World Cup.

The pandemic is already impacting the start of the National Football League (NFL). The league cancelled the Hall of Fame Game between the Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers which was scheduled for August. The league also cut down the preseason schedule from four to two games. There are still talks of shortening the regular season.

College football has been weighing their options but nothing has been decided. Players from Alabama, Clemson, Tennessee and other major colleges have tested positive. Coaches are navigating these issues while trying to prepare for the upcoming season. The season is still scheduled to begin on August 29th. There has been some talk of pushing the start of the season to February of 2021. I’m not sure about that one.

While we have been deprived of our professional sports teams, sports is really not the most important thing right now as the nation finds itself fighting the rise in coronavirus infections. Leagues shouldn’t return to playing just to play but do the smart thing even if it means they might not play at all. The end of the official seasons for the NBA, NHL or MLS shouldn’t be cheapened by some thrown-together tournament. Whoever wins the championship will be tagged with an asterisk anyway. As much as I love sports, let’s just hit the restart button when a full season can be played.

Dude’s Thoughts On Offensive Sports Team Names

I read yesterday where people are changing Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben’s because these symbols are offensive. There has also been widespread calls to remove Confederate symbols from public display. I totally agree with these efforts to put these symbols in museums instead of public displays of honor. This started me thinking about some offensive team nicknames that should be changed.

Which brings me to the Washington Redskins.

Why in the hell do we still have a sports team called the Redskins? Is this not beyond offensive? Why has this not been changed yet? Just imagine what it would be like if the team were another color skin name? Not much difference yet Washington’s National Football League (NFL) franchise continues to go with it.

Over the years there have been several colleges which have changed their offensive nicknames. I’m still not sure about using nicknames such as Indians, Braves or Seminoles. While some say that these nicknames aren’t as offensive as Redskins what if we had teams named “Mexicans” or “Asians”? Hmmm, that gives it a different spin doesn’t it? So why is it okay for Native American names and not other ethnic groups?

Back to the Redskins….what’s stopping them from changing it? I guess it’s money and merchandising. Who the heck thought it was a good idea to name a football team in the NATION’S capital “Redskins” anyway? There have been many suggestions to change the name and logo to Warriors, Heroes, Redhawks, Griffins, Generals or Federals. They only need to look at their National Basketball Association (NBA) brothers – the Washington Wizards – who were known as the Washington Bullets until they changed their name in 1997 because the owner didn’t want the team’s name to be associated with any violent references.

I think it’s time to change it.

There have been similar protests against the Cleveland Indians, Atlanta Braves and Kansas City Chiefs but I guess these are considered tame compared to a team named for a SKIN color. Seriously?

Colleges which changed their offensive nicknames:

  • Arkansas State – from Indians to Red Wolves
  • Belmont – from Rebels to Bruins
  • Miami (Ohio) – from Redskins to RedHawks
  • North Dakota – from Fighting Sioux to Fighting Hawks
  • St. Johns – from Redmen to Red Storm
  • Southeast Missouri State – from Indians to Redhawks
  • Sycracuse – from Orangemen to Orange

While we’re at it, I’m in favor of eliminating nicknames Rebels, Demons and Devils. Rebels are mostly reference to the Civil War and as for Demons and Devils – do we really need these too? The Wake Forest “Demon Deacons”??? Well, I have known some church deacons sooooo….

For years I have supported my position for Demons in that I was supporting the players and not the mascot of the team. Now it seems a little hypocritical for me to be offended when someone supports something with a demonic theme when I am saying “Go Demons” at a football game. I am going to end that practice.

I’m also wondering about the Chicago Blackhawks name of the National Hockey League (NHL). It’s the name of a Native American tribe but does it need to be a team’s name?

Let’s get this right and fix these nicknames. Yes, I know people get easily offended regardless what you do but let’s start with teams named “Redskins” and go from there.

Check out some of these books about the origins of sports team nicknames:

When Will Sports Play Again?

With most of America opening up again after the pandemic which caused professional sports leagues to cancel or postpone their seasons, there are plans of restarting professional sports. Here are the latest plans for restarting:

National Basketball Association (NBA)

The NBA Board of Governors has approved a restart of the 2019-20 season on July 31 with 22 of the league’s 30 teams participating in a tournament format. All games will be held without fans at Disney World’s ESPN Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando.

National Hockey League (NHL)

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman recently conducted a press conference outlining the NHL’s Return-to-Play plans.

This format will feature the top-12 teams in each conference playing in a qualifying round, with the top-four seeds in the Eastern and Western Conference (based on points percentage) clinching automatic bids into the first round of the playoffs. That means that the Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers have clinched playoff berths in the Eastern Conference, while the St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche, Vegas Golden Knights and Dallas Stars have clinched in the Western Conference.

These eight teams will also play in an intraconference round-robin event that will determine the top-four seeds of the first round of the playoffs in each conference. These games will be played with regular season overtime and shootout rules, with ties in the final standings broken by regular season points percentage.

The remaining eight teams in each conference will compete in a qualifying round that will feature a bracketed format, meaning that the five-seed will take on the 12-seed, the six-seed will face the 11-seed, the seven-seen battles the 10-seed, and the eight and nine-seed will matchup for the chance to move on to the first round of the playoffs. The matchups for the first round series remain to be set as the Return To Play committee is still determining whether to set the format based on seeding or a bracket.

Here is how that playoff format would look in both conferences:

Eastern Conference:
5 – Pittsburgh Penguins vs. 12 – Montreal Canadiens
6 – Carolina Hurricanes vs. 11 – New York Rangers
7 – New York Islanders vs. 10 – Florida Panthers
8 – Toronto Maple Leafs vs. 9 – Columbus Blue Jackets

Western Conference:
5 – Edmonton Oilers vs. 12 – Chicago Blackhawks
6 – Nashville Predators vs. 11 – Arizona Coyotes
7 – Vancouver Canucks vs. 10 – Minnesota Wild
8 – Calgary Flames vs. 9 – Winnipeg Jets

The qualifying round will be a best-of-five series, while the Return To Play committee has yet to finalize whether the first and second round of the playoffs will be a best-of-five series or a best-of-seven series. However, the Conference Final round and the Stanley Cup Final will all be a best-of-seven series.

Once the round-robin and qualifying rounds have ended, the league will conduct conference-based playoffs in each hub city.

The league is currently still debating over a total of 10 cities, and it will eventually come down to two final cities to host the Return To Play format once the league can officially restart play.

Those cities include:

Chicago
Columbus
Dallas
Edmonton
Las Vegas
Los Angeles
Minneapolis/St. Paul
Pittsburgh
Toronto
Vancouver

Commissioner Bettman did say that a final decision on the two hub cities to host the conclusion of the 2019-20 season might not come for another 3-4 weeks, and that a final determination will depend on COVID-19 conditions, testing availability, and government regulations.

Major League Baseball (MLB)

There is no decision on how or when Major League Baseball will return. This is largely due to indecision on plans between the league and the players’ union. The latest proposal is for a 76-game season to begin in July and end in October. The issue seems to be cutting player salaries for the shortened season proposal which the MLBPA is rejecting. If the indecision continues, the 2020 season could be cancelled.

Major League Soccer (MLS)

The latest plans are that MLS teams will go to Orlando and play all the tournament games at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. The teams would be divided into groups like at the World Cup and play three group stage matches, which will be added to the original two matches all teams played towards their regular season totals.

Then 16 teams would advance out of the ‘group stage’ into a 16-team knockout style tournament. The teams that didn’t advance would go home with the others moving through the round of 16, quarterfinals, semifinals and finally the championship. Only the group stage matches will be added to the season totals.

Biggest U.S. Cities Without Professional Sports

Most professional sports leagues are successful when they have franchises in major U.S. cities such as New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. Unfortunately, some of the cities with the largest populations get left out. Then you have cities such as Green Bay and Oklahoma City who get professional sports teams even though they aren’t in the top of U.S. population. Some cities are more popular than others.

Here are cities currently without a professional sports franchise in the five major leagues (Major League Baseball, National Basketball Association, National Football League, National Hockey League or Major League Soccer):

Austin, Texas (964,254)

The closest professional sports team is the San Antonio Spurs which is about 80 miles away from Texas’ state capital city. Although home to the University of Texas and several minor league teams, there has been no talk of any of the major leagues placing a franchise here. Austin seems to fall behind San Antonio and Houston which are 4th and 7th in U.S. population.

Current minor league teams: Spurs (basketball), Round Rock Express (baseball) and Stars (hockey)

What could work here? Perhaps an National Hockey League (NHL) team since there aren’t any in San Antonio or Houston. Austin was – in fact – awarded an MLS franchise and will begin play in 2021.

Fort Worth, Texas (895,008)

Technically, Fort Worth has the Dallas Cowboys as AT&T Stadium is only 18 minutes away but Fort Worth really has no team to call its’ own. The Texas Rangers are also 18 minutes away as well. Forth Worth has to adopt Dallas as their teams.

Current minor league teams: Vaqueros FC (soccer)

What could work here? Nothing really since they are so close to the Cowboys, Rangers, Mavericks and Stars. They are just cursed to be so close. Nobody really likes a hyphenated team called the Dallas-Ft. Worth team. St. Paul and Minneapolis are in a similar situation but they use Minnesota as their team name but they are the only sports teams in that state. I can’t see anyone changing names to Texas Cowboys or Texas Mavericks.

El Paso, Texas (682,669)

Here’s another Texas city without a team and they are a long way from the closest one. The Arizona Cardinals are actually the closest team to El Paso at over 400 miles away.

Current minor league Teams: Chihuahuas (baseball) and Coyotes (indoor soccer)

What would work here? With El Paso on the border of Mexico, it would probably work to have an MLS team since soccer would be pretty popular. Unfortunately, there has been no talk of locating an expansion team here.

Louisville, Kentucky (620,118)

Of all the cities on this list, Louisville seems to be the most ideal location for a professional sports franchise. The Cincinnati Reds and Bengals are the closest to Louisville almost 100 miles away. The city had the Kentucky Colonels in the old American Basketball Association (ABA) in the 1960s-1970s but nothing serious since then.

Current minor league teams: Bats (baseball) and Louisville City FC (soccer)

What would work here? Definitely the NBA. Kentucky loves basketball and it would seem a perfect choice for an NBA franchise since the closest one is five hours around in Memphis. It seems odd that no new leagues have even considered Louisville. It would seem like a prime location.

Albuquerque, New Mexico (560,218)

The pro sports teams in Phoenix are the closest at 480 miles away from the largest city in New Mexico. The city did have a short-lived professional volleyball team in the 70s called the Lasers but nothing much except for minor league teams. There hasn’t been any discussion to include Albuquerque from any of the major sports leagues plus it’s not that easy to spell on a consistent basis.

Current minor league teams: Isotopes (baseball), United (soccer) and Duke City Gladiators (indoor football)

What would work here? Probably nothing. It seems that this city will be stuck in the minor leagues. Baseball seems to be the most popular sport here but I wouldn’t think the MLB would expand or move a team here.

Tucson, Arizona (545,975)

Tucson is about 113 miles away from Phoenix for their professional sports teams but none of their own. Tucson loves baseball as they are busy during MLB’s spring training in March every year. This city is completely overshadowed by Phoenix and there has been no serious talk about placing any professional sports teams here.

Current minor league teams: Sugar Skulls (indoor football) and Roadrunners (hockey)

What would work here? MLS would if could snag it away from Phoenix.

Fresno, California (530,093)

Fresno is halfway between the Bay Area and Los Angeles but 150 miles from San Jose and 200 from Los Angeles. It is not likely they would have any interest from any professional league.

Current Minor League teams: Grizzlies (baseball) and Monsters (hockey)

What would work here? Probably nothing. It would be hard to compete with other cities in California.

Mesa, Arizona (508,958)

Mesa suffers the same problem as Fort Worth as they are less than 20 miles from a big league city. Phoenix with the Suns, Cardinals, Diamondbacks and Coyotes are the closest major league teams. Mesa is big with spring training for major league baseball but not much in other pro sports and it is not likely they will get a professional sports franchise.

Current minor league teams: Rattlers (indoor football) and Cubs (baseball)

What would work here? Maybe build an arena to lure one of the teams to Mesa.

Colorado Springs, Colorado (472,688)

The home to the Air Force Academy is about 70 miles from Denver’s professional sports teams. College sports seems to have a strong hold on this city and it doesn’t seem likely that any major sports league would put a team here.

Current minor league teams: Switchbacks FC (soccer) and Rocky Mountain Vibes (baseball)

What would work here? Probably nothing. Denver is close enough and they have a franchise in all the professional sports leagues.

Omaha, Nebraska (468,262)

Omaha gets attention with hosting the College Baseball World Series but no one talks much about anything else. The closest they have been was the Omaha Knighthawks in the United Football League (UFL) which tried to become a feeder league for the NFL. The Knighthawks drew well but the league failed. They also had a brief stint in the NBA as they split the Kansas City-Omaha Kings from 1972-1975.

Current minor league teams: Storm Chasers (baseball), Lancers (hockey) and Beef (indoor football)

What would work here? Maybe the Kings should move back here. The NHL could possibly work here too.

For many of these cities, you can’t say it would never happen. I never thought Oklahoma City would get an NBA team to move there so there is hope for these top cities.

When The Stanley Cup Was Affected By A Pandemic

We are still not sure how the current COVID-19 pandemic will affect this season’s Stanley Cup Final but we can look back to see how a similar pandemic affected the 1919 final. In 1919, the Spanish Flu outbreak impacted the Stanley Cup Final when it was cancelled after five games and no champion was crowned.

The final featured the Seattle Metropolitans of Pacific Coast Hockey Association (PCHA) champions hosting the Montreal Canadiens of National Hockey League (NHL). Seattle was the host of the Stanley Cup Finals which was a best-of-five series.

Game #1 – Seattle 7, Montreal 0: Seattle took advantage of playing by PCHA rules as they scored two in the first period, three in the second and two in the third.

Game #2 – Montreal 4, Seattle 2: The Canadiens evened the series in game two with Newsy Lalonde scoring all of Montreal’s goals. Montreal took the lead and never relinquished it, although Seattle scored two in the third in 32 seconds to make it close.

Game #3 – Seattle 7, Montreal 2: Seattle scored four goals in the first to take a commanding lead. No goals were scored in the second. In the third, Seattle prevented any comeback, outscoring Montreal 3–2.

Game #4 – Montreal 0, Seattle 0: Ended in a tie after 20 minutes of overtime, with both Holmes and Montreal’s Georges Vezina blocking every shot. At the end of the first period, the Seattle’s Cully Wilson scored a goal but it was waved off as it was scored just after he had blown the period’s final whistle. Near the close of the second overtime, Louis Berlinguette of Montreal had an outstanding chance to win it but missed by inches. At the end of the game, players laid collapsed across the ice, the crowd gave both teams an ovation after the game in appreciation of the teams’ play.

Game #5 – Montreal 4, Seattle 3: Montreal rallied from a 3–0 deficit after two periods and scored three to force overtime. Montreal’s Jack McDonald scored the game winning goal with Seattle down a player when Frank Foyston was injured.

The teams had planned to play the series deciding game on April 1st but the Spanish Flu outbreak affected several players on both teams. Newsy Lalonde, Joe Hall, Winfred Billy Coutu, Louis Berlinguette and Jack McDonald of Montreal were sick with high fevers. Montreal was going to forfeit the Cup to Seattle but Seattle’s manager/coach Pete Mudoon refused since it was a result of the illness.

Four days later, Montreal’s Joe Hall died of pneumonia brought about by the flu. His funeral was held in Vancouver on April 8, with most team members attending. Manager George Kennedy also fell ill. He seemed to recover and was released from the hospital, but he died a few days later.

No official Stanley Cup winner was declared in 1919. None of their names were engraved onto the trophy; however, when the Cup was redesigned in 1948 and a new collar was added to include those teams that did not engrave their names on the trophy.

Friday Flashback: Jacksonville Firebirds

The Spring/Summer version of American football has historically had a difficult time surviving even without the competition from high school, college or pro football. The Jacksonville Firebirds had some brief success during the summers of 1979-1981 in Jacksonville, Florida with the American Football Association (AFA). The AFA was established shortly after the demise of the World Football League (WFL) which disbanded in 1976 and created a league with teams mostly in the Southeastern United States.

The Firebirds tapped into some of the top high school coaches in the Jacksonville area, such as Bob Williams, Corky Rogers, Jimmie Johnson and Jerry Disch. Among the players were former University of Florida quarterbacks Don Gaffney and Jimmy Fisher.

The team played their first game on May 26,1979 against the Kentucky Trackers. The Firebirds won 48-14 in front of a crowd of 15,102 in the Gator Bowl. That kind of attendance was the exception for most AFA teams in the league. At the time, Jacksonville football fans were hungry for a team after both the Jacksonville Sharks and Express failed along with the World Football League (WFL).

Gaffney in a game against the Arkansas Champs
(Firebirds won 44-6)

The Firebirds played their home games at the Gator Bowl and drew over 153,000 fans for 13 games with respectable competition on the field during their first season and averaged 12,930 fans per game.

Gaffney had an outstanding season for the Firebirds in 1979 going 292 of 416 pass attempts for 4,290 yards and 50 touchdowns. Gaffney led the Firebirds to the AFA title. They defeated the Carolina Chargers in front of over 22,000 fans which is currently the fifth largest single game crowd for a semi-pro football game. (https://www.americanfootballassn.com/attendance-records.html)

Kicker Allan Leavitt kicked the Firebirds’ longest field goal in a game against the Carolina Chargers on August 9, 1980 when he booted a 55-yard field goal in an 19-18 win. Leavitt had played college football at the University of Georgia (1973-1976) and one season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the National Football League (NFL) in 1977.

The Firebirds went 26-13 during their three seasons of existence. The team’s biggest rivalries were the Orlando Americans, Alabama Vulcans and Carolina Chargers.

They played their final game on August 23, 1981 where they lost in a first round playoff game against the Chicago Fire, 24-17. The Firebirds were threatening to score late in the game and were prepared to go for two according to game reports from that final contest.

The success of the team finally ran out before the 1982 season as the franchise was rumored to move to Lake City, Florida. The team was eventually sold and renamed the Sunbirds. The AFA played one more season and folded.

YearRecordPlayoffs
197912-3First Round
Defeated Alabama Vulcans, 28-21
Championship
Defeated Carolina Chargers, 27-7
19807-5None
19817-5First Round
Lost to Chicago Fire, 24-17
Jacksonville Firebirds Season-by-Season Results

If you want some really good information on the AFA, check out http://www.birminghamprosports.com/ website. (Thanks to Gene Crowley for permission to use photos from his website. His site has a lot of photos and information you won’t find anywhere else.)

Firebirds vs. Alabama Vulcans (1979)
Firebirds vs. Carolina Chargers in 1979 AFA Championship Game

If you would like more information about the American Football Association and other minor league football teams, check out this book on Amazon:

Friday Flashback: Kentucky Colonels

While most people think of fried chicken, the folks in Kentucky enjoyed having a professional basketball franchise in the American Basketball Association (ABA) from 1967-1976. The Colonels won the most games (448) and had the highest winning percentage (.602) of any other team in the league during their existence.

On March 6, 1967, the American Basketball Association awarded the franchise that became the Kentucky Colonels to Don Regan for $30,000. Later that year the franchise was bought by Joseph Gregory, Mamie Gregory and William C. Boone. John Givens was named as the first coach of the Colonels.

The Colonels won their only championship in 1975 when they defeated the Indiana Pacers in five games. They were one of the ABA’s most consistent team as they won four division titles and qualified for the playoffs each season.

The most notable players for the Colonels were Dan Issel, Artis Gilmore and Louie Dampier. Issel played six seasons for the Colonels (1970-1975) then played for the Denver Nuggets of the National Basketball Association (NBA) from 1975-1985. He coached from 1992-1994 and then 1999-2001. Gilmore played for the Colonels from 1971-1976 and then played 12 seasons in the NBA with the Chicago Bulls, San Antonio Spurs and Boston Celtics. Dampier played 10 seasons with the Colonels (1967-1976) before finish his career with the San Antonio Spurs (1976-1979).

Kentucky Colonel seasons:

  • 1967-1968
    • 36 wins, 42 losses
    • Lost to Minnesota Muskies in Eastern Division Semifinals (3 games to 2)
  • 1968-1969
    • 42 wins, 26 losses
    • Lost to Indiana Pacers in Eastern Division Semifinals (4 games to 3)
  • 1969-1970
    • 45 wins, 39 losses
    • Lost to Indiana Pacers in Eastern Division Finals (4 games to 1)
  • 1970-1971
    • 44 wins, 40 losses
    • Lost to Utah Stars in ABA Finals (4 games to 3)
  • 1971-1972
    • 68 wins, 16 losses
    • Lost to New York Nets in Eastern Division Semifinals (4 games to 2)
  • 1972-1973
    • 56 wins, 28 losses
    • Lost to Indiana Pacers in ABA Finals (4 games to 3)
  • 1973-1974
    • 53 wins, 31 losses
    • Lost to New York Nets in Eastern Division Finals (4 games to 0)
  • 1974-1975
    • 58 wins, 26 losses
    • Defeated Indiana Pacers in ABA Finals (4 games to 1)
  • 1975-1976
    • 46 wins, 38 losses
    • Lost to Denver Nuggets in ABA Semifinals (4 games to 3)

The Colonels played their last game on April 26, 1976 when they lost in Game 7 of the ABA semifinals to the Denver Nuggets, 133-110.

After the 1976 season, the ABA and NBA were deciding on a merger and which ABA teams would go over to the NBA. It was clear to everyone that the Colonels had the talent and the fan support to join the NBA for the 1976-77 season. However, during the merger negotiations in June 1976, the NBA made it clear that it would accept only four ABA teams, not five. With Denver, San Antonio, New York and Indiana being the clear front-runners to make the cut, Colonels’ owner John Y. Brown decided that it was better to fold the team for cash, instead of continuing to fight. To the great disappointment of long-time Colonels fans, Kentucky was left out of the merger.

Fans in Louisville would like to bring back the Colonels. The website #ColonelsComeBack is a grassroots effort organized to promote the return of the Kentucky Colonels to professional basketball. Supporters are passionate about basketball in this area, and wish to have their own team in the NBA.

For more reading and stories about the Kentucky Colonels, check out this book:

XFL Xpires After Pandemic Shortened Season

The second incarnation of the XFL spring football league came to an abrupt end due to the COVID-19 pandemic and now it looks as if the league will not be back.

Yet another spring league now bites the dust along with last year’s Alliance of American Football (AAF), Arena Football League as well as other leagues: the first XFL, World League of American Football/NFL Europe and the United States Football League (USFL).

Maybe we can now admit to ourselves that professional spring football leagues won’t work. It has been tried now many times and each time they have all folded. As much as I love football it is also hard for me to admit that football can’t be a year-round sport.

It actually looked like the XFL was going to work with their innovative rules, television contracts and caliber of players but the pandemic brought an immediate end to the season. While established sports leagues can survive, startup leagues like the XFL was dealt a difficult blow to its existence.

The eight-team league will now add the Dallas Renegades, DC Defenders, Houston Roughnecks, New York Guardians, Los Angeles Wildcats, St. Louis Battlehawks and Tampa Bay Vipers to the graveyard of failed sports leagues and teams. It is sad. St. Louis was drawing big crowds to a city that has been abandoned by two NFL teams. Dallas and Houston had some quality teams and were going to be the two teams challenging for the league title.

It’s difficult to tell if the league would have survived its first season had it now been for the pandemic that has affected the entire world. They were soon going to be competing with Major League Baseball (MLB) for attention. I think they might have been able to do it but now we will never know.

Hopefully the XFL’s short-lived existence can live on if the NFL would consider some of the innovative rules that proved to be successful such as the kickoff where the kicker would line up on his own 30-yard line, but every one of the kicking team’s coverage players would be lined up on the opposing team’s 35-yard line. The receiving team’s blockers would line up just five yards away at their own 30-yard line. Players on both teams were only allowed to move once the returner caught the kickoff.  The NFL could also consider the XFL rules on points after touchdown where the league eliminated kicking and replaced with 1, 2 or 3-point conversions. I would also suggest the NFL make field goals worth four points if they were going to implement the XFL’s points-after-touchdown rules.

The XFL is gone. The pandemic claims another victim. There will be no more football played in the spring.

When Will Sports Play Again?

This is a very strange time in history. It is odd to have a time when there are no sports playing.

Normally, we would have the NCAA Men’s and Women’s basketball tournaments narrowing down the brackets in March Madness. The National Hockey League (NHL) would be in the final stretch of the regular season. The National Basketball Association (NBA) would also be in their final part of the regular season. Major League Baseball (MLB) would be nearing the end of Spring Training and getting ready for opening day. Major League Soccer (MLS) would also be playing at this time as well as other sports leagues.

Now there is nothing playing and we don’t really know when they will start again or what kind of season will be played.

The Coronavirus pandemic has significantly altered sports. Even the Summer Olympics in Tokyo have now been postponed until next year.

With these stoppages, I have wondered about other times sports leagues had to cease due to a national emergency. Except for labor strikes, here are the last times leagues had to stop playing:

Major League Baseball

The September 11th terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, D.C. pushed the end of the regular-season from September 30 to October 7. Because of the attack, the World Series was not completed until November 4. The 2001 World Series was the first to end in November.

National Football League

In the wake of the September 11th attacks, the NFL’s week 2 games (September 16 and 17) were postponed and rescheduled to the weekend of January 6 and January 7. In order to retain the full playoff format, all playoff games, including Super Bowl XXXVI, were rescheduled one week later.

National Hockey League

The 1919 season ended early with Toronto suspending operations, leaving Montreal and Ottawa to play off for the championship. Montreal would win the playoff and travel to Seattle for the Stanley Cup final. However, the Cup series would not be completed due to the Spanish Flu infecting the whole Montreal team and causing the eventual death of Montreal’s Joe Hall.

National Basketball Association

No stoppages

Major League Soccer

No stoppages

So for many of these leagues, this is the first time they have had to deal with a national emergency. Although it is uncertain when they will play again, here are some tentative plans when they restart:

MLB: Since there will be no games or organized workouts for at least the next eight weeks, it’s almost certain this season will start no sooner than Memorial Day. That leaves only about 120 days for regular-season games if the current postseason format remains intact, unless there is an appetite for pushing the World Series well into November.

NFL: The pandemic has not yet impacted the upcoming 2020 schedule at this time however last week, the National Football League announced that all public events in Las Vegas were canceled but that event scheduled for Apr. 23 through Apr. 25 was still on track.

NHL: The league is intent on crowning a Stanley Cup Champion but unsure how the season will be finished. The league will most likely finish the season and bump the season to finish later. So the Stanley Cup final could possibly be in July.

NBA: According to ESPN, the season could be extended into September in order to determine a winner, rather than cancelling it. It’s not clear how that would affect the start of the 2020-2021 NBA season.

MLS: The league announced on Thursday that it was extending the suspension of all matches, with a target return date of May 10.

If I were in charge of these leagues, I would probably do the following:

NBA: When they resume, I would go directly to the playoffs with expanding the playoff field from eight to 13 teams in each conference with the division winners getting a bye in the first round. The first round could be a best-of-three series. The expanded field of teams should be able to cover teams who were still in playoff contention when the season was suspended.

NHL: Much like the NBA suggestion above, I would go directly to the postseason and also expand the playoff field. I would expand to 12 teams per conference with the division winners receiving a first round bye. The first round could be a three or five game series.

MLB: I would pack as many double-headers as possible into the schedule. I would see no need to change the postseason format.

It will definitely be interesting to see how things will work out once play is resumed. I anticipate that the leagues will see a surge of viewers after being deprived during this time of lock downs.

Sports will eventually return. Let’s all be patient and take every precaution to avoid spreading the virus.

With The First Pick of the NFL Draft….

The National Football League’s annual draft of college football players has begun in Nashville. My office is a few blocks away from the activity and I want no part of it as over 100,000 have blitzed downtown making it a headache to drive or park.

What’s the deal with all this fuss about the draft anyway? It is becoming an event like the Super Bowl. Adults are painting their faces and wearing costumes as they cheer who general managers of their pick for their teams. They cheer when it is announced that they have picked a center or guard which is like getting underwear for a Christmas present. Cameras show the college players getting picked and some with their families as mothers are jumping up and down and fathers shedding tears as they realize they have won the lottery.

These are college players who may or may not make it in the NFL. It is an incredibly wasteful production and hype over players going from college to the NFL.

I watched some of the first round on ESPN until the local Tennessee Titans made their first pick which was a player named Jeffrey Simmons, a defensive lineman from Mississippi State. Instead of showing highlights from his games, ESPN apparently felt it was necessary to talk about the “mistake” he made in 2016 when he punched a woman repeatedly after breaking up a fight with his sister and the woman. They even showed video from it. I thought it was unnecessary and poor taste by ESPN. I was done. I didn’t watch anymore of the draft.

As I saw the thousands crammed into the area here know as Lower Broadway, I was amazed at how huge the NFL Draft has become and I really don’t understand it. No other professional sports league has made as much of a big deal with picking college players. Now that the NFL has taken it on the road, other cities will jump onboard and host the draft.

It’s just another excuse to have a party and Nashville definitely didn’t need it. One news story that pops up today is about how the NFL Draft is ruining the bachelorette parties. Oh my. We can’t have that now can we?

Traffic is already bad on a normal day and on most days parking costs about $16.80 but the same now during this “special event” costs $40.00. I guess the NFL needs the money.

I’m not a fan of the NFL Draft.