Chris is finally back recording the show! He breaks down the decisions of Caleb Farley, Rashod Bateman, Rondale Moore, Gregory Rousseau and Micah Parsons to opt out of the 2020 season. He also discusses the impact of the Pac-12’s player demands and how the Big Ten followed suit. Plus, catch up on the latest regarding the Power 5 conference schedules for the upcoming season. Listen to the latest episode now on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts. https://anchor.fm/theaftermath
If you have been keeping tabs on the MLB’s delayed season so far, you no doubt know that it is not going too well from a player safety stand point. The league has already had to postpone or cancel a number of games due to coronavirus outbreaks within two separate clubs. 21 members of the Miami Marlins organization tested positive for the virus. At least 13 members of the St. Louis Cardinals have tested positive and that number is still rising. MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has already started to discuss potentially shutting down the season.
It is at this point that I’m sure the league and potentially many of its players wish they had opted for a bubble format like other professional sports leagues. The NWSL ran it’s Challenge Cup tournament without a hitch. MLS had some hiccups at the very beginning of it’s tournament, but things have been smooth sailing since teams entered the bubble. The WNBA and NBA have gotten off to strong starts. The NHL has no positive tests inside its bubble so far.
Baseball clearly looks to be in trouble. MLB seems to be at a loss for how to isolate and prevent these outbreaks from spreading through teams like wildfire. Red flags are going up all over the place for college football and the NFL as a result.
There are not even plans in place to build a potential bubble. As a result, dozens of players are opting out and even more find themselves on the newly created COVID-19/Reserve list to open training camp.
With fans not allowed to attend games in many states and percentage caps implemented at stadiums in others, it is hard to understand why the NFL is not at least attempting to create a bubble plan. It seems like many traditional revenue streams for teams will be interrupted this season, so I would imagine cutting costs would be a priority. I won’t pretend to be an expert on the league’s finances, but eliminating weekly travel would likely cut down on a huge expense for each franchise.
There would be plenty of costs that come with securing a bubble site large enough to accommodate all the players, coaches, trainers, medical staff, referees and more that go into staging an NFL season. You can’t do this for free, but the league has the finances to make it happen.
I understand it also might be a bit of a tough sell for players to commit to leaving their families to live in a bubble for the next four to six months, but that is the price of playing football in 2020. I totally respect players opting out for their own safety or for the safety of their families. I know that creating a bubble puts some strain on these athletes, but it is clear based on what is happening in baseball that without the bubble, the risk of spreading the virus is much higher. Let me reiterate it from before: the bubble works!
From a player and public safety perspective, the bubble set up seems to be the only way the 2020 season will be able to take place. MLB’s early blunders underlines how difficult it is to limit the spread of the virus with larger rosters traveling across the country.
For college football, it is much easier said than done to craft a bubble scenario. Universities have taken some larger steps to account for the concerns that come with playing the sport during the pandemic. All the Power 5 conferences have announced plans to play conference-only schedules this season. The ACC and Big 12 did throw in the added wrinkle of one non-conference game to be included in the 2020 schedule.
Cutting down or eliminating non-conference games limits travel to some degree, but not as much as would be considered the safest measure possible. These teams still will be traveling to multiple states across the country, the travel will simply be more regionalized. Emphasis on more here because conferences like the ACC still have travel involving Massachusetts, Indiana and Georgia.
Unfortunately, due to the massive number of teams in Division I, it would be impossible to create a bubble setting for all of college football. The potential for a conference-only bubble to work is much higher, but there are still hurdles that would need to be cleared, including many the NFL would not face given the makeup of the player pool.
Even if these conferences found appropriate sites to host these bubble seasons, student-athletes would still need to attend classes. While some would undoubtedly be able to take classes online, it is unlikely every athlete would be able to take every class virtually.
It also feels like a lot more to ask of athletes who technically hold amateur status to isolate in a bubble for three or so months.
Look, I am not pretending this is an easy issue to solve. In fact, I am acknowledging that it is very difficult. However, I think it is pretty easy to connect the dots here regarding which formula works and which one does not. It is time to start taking the appropriate steps to suitably prepare for the season.
Let’s not kid ourselves. This virus has killed over 150 thousand people in the U.S. alone. It is disproportionately affecting communities of color. People of color make up the majority of NFL and college football rosters. If we really want to place high priority on bringing back sports, we need to do so in the safest way possible, recognizing the impact potential missteps could have on local communities. That is clearly establishing a bubble format. It’s time for the NFL to change its tune and for college football to start getting as creative as possible.
Basketball is back! The WNBA season is underway at the IMG Academy in Florida, with the first week of action now in the books. It won’t be a typical season because of the coronavirus, but the league has established a double round robin regular season, meaning each team will have 22 games before moving to its traditional playoff format.
I am really excited to watch this 2020 season, so I thought I would share my favorite matchups for the shortened league year. There are two reasons for this. One, to highlight the best games on the schedule. Two, to draw attention to the lack of access for fans to watch their favorite teams and television coverage devoted to the WNBA as whole.
2020 will be the first season the Minnesota Lynx have all of their games broadcast on television. We will see if that remains true next year when the league resumes its traditional 34-game season. It is ridiculous that Lynx games are not regularly available on TV. The franchise has won four WNBA titles, with the latest coming in 2017. For it to be this difficult to watch one of the league’s premier franchises is embarrassing and provides a pretty clear picture of how little the media pays attention to women’s sports.
In the interest of making sure everyone can watch all of the games listed, I only picked matchups that are scheduled to be nationally televised. Fortunately, this season will feature the most nationally televised games in WNBA history. ESPN announced Monday that it will be adding 13 more games to it’s slate for the season.
Unfortunately, that rules out both 2019 finals rematches between the Mystics and Sun. For a point of reference, both games between Warriors and Raptors, last year’s NBA Finals participants, were nationally televised. Just another indication of the disparity between men’s sports and women’s sports coverage. ESPN/ABC and CBSSN are the national broadcast partners for the league.
Here are my top 10 games to watch for the rest of the season.
10. Las Vegas Aces vs. New York Liberty August 9, 3 pm ET, ESPN
The headliner here will be watching the previous two No. 1 picks face off in Jackie Young and Sabrina Ionescu. We might get a pretty good glimpse at the future of the WNBA in this matchup as well. The Las Vegas Aces represent what the New York Liberty could be in a few years, but there are some very young players with star potential on both sides. For Vegas, A’ja Wilson might already be at that point. Kelsey Plum is still just 25 and looking to get back to her 2018 form. New York boasts seven rookies and most of the roster is 25 and under. The Aces were semifinalists last season. They should be one of the most exciting teams to watch all season.
9. Atlanta Dream vs. Dallas Wings August 8, 12 pm, ESPN2
For many reasons, this should be an interesting showdown. The first matchup between these two teams proved to be the most high-scoring game of opening weekend. Atlanta and Dallas combined for an even 200 points in a 105-95 victory for the Dream. Both teams are really young and feature some exciting prospects. Atlanta has rookie Chennedy Carter, who averaged 22.5 points per game at Texas A&M and dropped 18 points in her debut, and 2019 first-round selection Kalani Brown, who struggled to get minutes as a rookie in Los Angeles. Dallas’ entire roster is under the age of 28. They have a ridiculous collection of young talent, including Arike Ogunbowale, Katie Lou Samuelson, Megan Gustafson, Satou Sabally, Tyasha Harris, Allisha Gray, Marina Mabrey and Bella Alaire. I’m buying lots of futures in Wings stock. Expect this to be an entertaining contest.
8. Dallas Wings vs. Chicago Sky September 11, 8 PM, CBSSN
We see it all the time with UConn players, but now we get a chance to see two former Oregon stars battle it out to close out the season. Satou Sabally and Ruthy Hebard both put together stellar careers in Eugene, translating that success into first-round selections in the WNBA draft. Chicago should be looking to strengthen it’s playoff position come season’s end. For Dallas, the playoffs might be a bit of a long shot, but it will be really interesting to see how much this young team develops and bonds over the course of the season. This should be a game of contrasting styles as well. The Sky had the fastest-paced offense in the league last season while the Wings were notorious for slowing it down.
7. Seattle Storm vs. New York Liberty August 18, 9 pm, ESPN
If you had high expectations for Sabrina Ionescu’s WNBA debut like I did, you were probably a little disappointed. It turns out she saved the fireworks for her second game. We should probably expect some streaky performances from the 2020 No. 1 pick as she gets acclimated into the league, but she showed her immense potential. That makes a rematch with Breanna Stewart and the Storm even more exciting. This game should feature plenty of three-point shooting and big names. Given a few more weeks to gel, New York’s young core could start to click as well. The season opener between these two teams was close until the fourth quarter. I think the next one could be tight all the way to the end.
6. Los Angeles Sparks vs. Washington Mystics September 10, 10 pm, CBSSN
Even without Elena Delle Donne and Tina Charles, the Washington Mystics are showing they mean business in 2020. Myisha Hines-Allen, Ariel Powers and 2019 WNBA Final MVP Emma Meesseman have all shared the scoring load in the early stages of the season. The team made a statement on Thursday by knocking off the title-favorite Storm. Los Angeles would also like to have a word with anyone looking to crown Seattle in August. Nneka Ogwumike, Brittany Sykes and Candace Parker form a formidable trio with Chelsea Gray facilitating the offense. This late-season contest should be an important one when it comes to playoff seeding and a potential preview of a playoff matchup in the semis or finals.
5. Phoenix Mercury vs. Connecticut Sun August 26, 10 pm, CBSSN
On it’s own merits, this would be a really fun game to watch. Add in that Dewanna Bonner will be facing the Phoenix Mercury on national television. Bonner has already looked like a staple of the Connecticut offense, especially with Jonquel Jones opting out for this season. I am eager to see her going head-to-head with Brittney Griner as the heat turns up on the playoff push. Neither team has gotten off to a great start, but expectations of a playoff appearance are the minimum for both sides. If that wasn’t enough for you, just go watch Diana Taurasi and Skylar Diggins-Smith ball out for a few hours. It will make your day better.
4. Washington Mystics vs. Las Vegas Aces August 15, 12 pm, ESPN
A rematch of the WNBA semifinals from 2019 is looking like another top-end showdown for 2020. Washington was supposed to take a step back without Elena Delle Donne and Tina Charles, but the depth of this roster has stepped up. Through three games, the Mystics are the only undefeated team left in the league. Las Vegas has not been quite as prolific out of the gate, but it flashed its immense potential in a 30-point drubbing of Atlanta. The Aces added Angel McCoughtry to a roster already featuring A’ja Wilson and Liz Cambage. That group has championship potential, but Ariel Powers and company are proving that the road to a title still runs through D.C.
3. Dallas Wings vs. Phoenix Mercury August 10, 7 pm ET, ESPN2
Dallas hit the reset button on the franchise this offseason, trading its star player, Skylar Diggins-Smith, to Phoenix for three first-round picks. The Wings used the first two of those picks on Bella Alaire and Tyasha Harris. We won’t know the full haul of this trade until after the 2021 draft, but it will be really interesting to see how Diggins-Smith handles playing her former club and the progress we can assess in the Wings’ rebuild. This matchup would have been a lot more exciting if not for COVID-19 and fans would be able to welcome Diggins-Smith back to Dallas, but this will have to do for now. We can look forward to that reunion next season.
2. Los Angeles Sparks vs. Minnesota Lynx August 26, 8 PM ET, CBSSN
Rivalry renewed. The Lynx and Sparks met in back-to-back WNBA Finals in 2016 and 2017, with each of them winning one title. Seimone Augustus switched sides this offseason, which only adds fuel to the fire. Both rosters look a bit different than the last time they met with a championship on the line, but you can always count on star power. WNBA all-time leading rebounder Sylvia Fowles is still getting it done on the interior for Minnesota. Napheesa Collier looks like she is on her way to stardom after collecting the 2019 Rookie of the Year award. Candace Parker is still one of the league’s best and fellow veteran Kristi Tolliver is back after a stint with Washington. If you are looking for some bad blood in a regular season matchup, this is your best bet to find it.
1. Chicago Sky vs. Seattle Storm August 10, 9 pm, ESPN2
This is shaping up to be the game of the year, at least in the regular season. Last season, Courtney Vandersloot led the WNBA in assists. Natasha Howard led the league in steals. Both are off to strong starts already and Howard gets one of the best defensive players in the league back to help her in Breanna Stewart. Expect this matchup to be a chess match wrapped inside a heavyweight fight. There is an incredible level of talent of both sides and a lot of veteran superstars. Chicago and Seattle seem to be on a collision course for a meeting in the playoffs. If you are a fan of three-point shooting, great one-on-one matchups and lockdown defense, this is the game for you.