Sports

Wild World: No fans, shaky minors

ARE KEVIN COSTNER and Tim Robbins (from the film “Bull Durham’) discussing salary negotiations or the shaky state of minor league baseball?

A new weekly (we hope) column on the weird, wonderful and noteworthy on Planet Sports.

What do you suppose the chances are of Major League Baseball and the players’ association coming to an amiable salary agreement to start the 2020 season again soon?

“I gotta get my money. I’m not playing unless I get mine.” – Blake Snell, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, quoted in the Los Angeles Times.

• • •

Games without fans may seem like an odd concept, but they’re trying something like that in Denmark that might be the shape of things to come.

At a soccer game between AGF and Randers, the stands were empty, but by using Zoom, and piping crowd noise gathered through that video-conferencing platform, there were fans – projected on a giant screen – and cheering/jeering over the loudspeakers.

That may not be the stadium experience we grew up with, but we might have to put up with it for a while.

• • •

It may make for heart-warming and amusing movies like “Bull Durham,” but minor league baseball is in trouble. The cover story on the current issue of Sports Illustrated points out the tough conditions facing the “rest of organized baseball.”

There’s a lot going on. The coronavirus pandemic has stopped seasons from starting, and most of the 160 minor league teams operate on a thin wedge of profit. How will they pay employees, meet bills and plan for the future?

What about the ticket sales and stadium advertising revenue that’s already been received, and – likely – spent?

“It’s like this big wave is about to hit us,” Sacramento River Cats president Jeff Savage said to SI. Then he hit us with a mixed metaphor. “Everything is on fire.”

• • •

SoFI Stadium, the new home of the Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Chargers (SoFI LP).

We were worrying about when the COVID-19 pandemic abated enough to reopen the various sports seasons. With all the violence following in the wake of the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis, it’s certainly possible that even without the health risk, games would be cancelled because of fears or violence or just really annoying traffic jams.

What with all the other news, it may have slipped by most of us but the opening of the sci-fi-looking new local home of the NFL in Inglewood isn’t that far away.  The Rams are scheduled to kick off on Friday, Aug. 14 at SoFi Stadium against the New Orleans Saints. The Chargers will have their debut two nights later against the Dallas Cowboys.

Will there be fans there?  You’ve heard the cliché, if you build it, they will come. Now, maybe, it’s “We built it, but nobody was allowed in.” That will make another fun movie.

• • •

There are all kinds of marriages these days. Now folks are mulling the impact of “sports marriages.” By this, we mean teams and players who are locked in a lengthy “for better or worse” financial arrangement that will be expensive to get out of. Just like in a regular divorce.

JARED GOFF, for better or worse (Rams photo).

ESPN.com had some fun with this by ranking NFL’s most imposing quarterback “till death do us part” deals. They found that the love between the Rams and QB Jared Goff was pure as gold, because his contact binds him through 2024. Of course, they could still go to splitsville if the team is willing to pay him an alimony of $15.5 million.

The Chargers aren’t quite that romantic. They signed Justin Herbert as their quarterback of the future, and he’s going steady with the Bolts through 2023.  There is one out, however; his pending contract will likely say he will get no more than $5 million guaranteed income if he doesn’t play.

Don’t trip over the ottoman, Justin!

• • •

Predictions are like Doritos. They’re tasty but get stale pretty fast. So take with a scoopful of salty salsa these NFL predictions from CBS Sports.

In the AFC, the division champs are foreseen to be the Buffalo Bills in the East, the Indianapolis Colts in the South, the Kansas City Chiefs in the West and the Baltimore Ravens in the North.

In the NFC, division crowns will go to the Philadelphia Eagles in the East, the Minnesota Vikings in the North, the Tampa Bay Bucs in the South and the San Francisco 49ers in the West.

That’s the meal in June. Crow will probably be eaten before 2020 is over.

“Wild World of Sport” is posted on Mondays.

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