MY PITCH

One step closer to sports?

By ALEX SPONSELLER
Posted 6/10/20

As the state of Rhode Island kicks off phase 2 of its plan to reopen since the COVID-19 shutdown, I am hoping this also means that we are inching closer to the return of sports. Although nothing is imminent on the local level in terms of leagues playing,

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MY PITCH

One step closer to sports?

Posted

As the state of Rhode Island kicks off phase 2 of its plan to reopen since the COVID-19 shutdown, I am hoping this also means that we are inching closer to the return of sports.

Although nothing is imminent on the local level in terms of leagues playing, there have been some positive signs and things to look forward to here in the next few weeks.

As the weather gets warmer, days continue to get longer, we are seeing more and more people emerging from their homes. Many parks that were shut down are now open, businesses are reopening, the overall numbers are starting to trend in a promising direction. We are far from out of the woods, but at least we are making progress.

One exciting bit of news is that the Goddard Park golf course will be reopening, of course, with some limitations and restrictions. But still, something is better than nothing, which has kind of turned into my motto throughout these past few months.

Little Leagues are also exploring options to have a season. Nothing in the next few weeks, but perhaps by summer’s end. As well as some other local leagues. Overall, although we still have a ways to go, at least we seem to be through the worst of it and laying the groundwork for a return sooner rather than later.

My message to everyone reading is similar to what I wrote in a column a few weeks back: Make the most of every sunny day and keep yourself busy.

If you golf, go crazy. Most golf courses are open to some degree, so any day that the weather holds up you should be hitting the links. Even if you are not a golfer, maybe this can be the summer that you teach yourself.

Beyond golf, go for a hike, shoot some hoops, kick the ball around the back yard. Obviously, be safe while you do it. But there are so many ways to stay active and athletic during the down time. We are getting closer to having things back to normal, well, whatever the new normal will be.

Summer is just a couple short weeks away. Hang in there, brighter days are ahead.

On a national level, I do have a take to share, and it is that I am totally against the players in Major League Baseball’s current dispute in trying to bring the game back.

For those who are not in tune with what is happening, the owners are pushing for a shortened season to begin in July. There won’t be fans in attendance and there will be some schedule adjustments that will limit the amount of travel clubs will have to do.

But, like everything in professional sports, the issue resides in the money aspect.

The owners are trying to pay the players a reduced salary prorated to the number of games they play. That is the basic way of explaining it, and the players are not having it.

A handful of big name players have come out to explain why. Some feel that they should not have to settle for less, some feel that the risk of contracting the virus is a detractor, others simply just don’t feel at this point a return makes sense.

Now, of the players that brought up the virus, they were using that as a secondary reason. None began their reasoning with fear of getting sick, it was just used as an “on top of that” reason.

Everyone deserves to feel comfortable and safe, and if a player truly is nervous about contracting the disease, then of course they should not have to be subject to the risk.

But ultimately, my sense is that this is not a health issue, it is a money issue, and the players have shown absolutely zero willingness to budge or negotiate.

Believe me, I almost always take the side of the players. Professional sports owners are always looking to take care of themselves and their brand first, with their biggest assets, the players, coming second. I’m generalizing, but in reality, these owners are far too often greedy and self-centered.

However, this is the rare case that I take the side of the owner.

Is this just an effort by them to bring in revenue? Of course, but it does not mean that they are trying to slight the players.

Without fans, with less games being played, the money just won’t be as readily available as normal. There just is not the same amount to go around if each player is going to be paid their full salary.

Don’t get me wrong, these teams could afford to pay those salaries, but I can’t blame them for being reluctant to do so when the players are not competing. I know that it is out of the players’ control and it is not fair for them to have to lose out on money, but this pandemic has affected everyone, they’re not the only ones drawing the short straw.

Don’t get me wrong once again, the owners are tough negotiators as well. But at the end of the day, they’ve been the ones coming to the table, drawing up offers, solutions. Meanwhile, the players have been sitting there, arms crossed, shaking their heads “no”.

Even if the debate wages on, I think it’s time for the players to ease up. I can’t believe I’m saying that since like I mentioned, I am usually heavily in favor of the employees, but in this case I’m not.

Baseball, like it or not, is a declining sport. Fewer and fewer kids are playing it every year, the ratings are down for the national product, it has just become too slow and antiquated to compete against these mega sports like football and basketball.

So, to the players, it’s time to make a decision on whether or not you are coming back this season, the ball is in your court.

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