May 26, 2020

Fans at Soldier Field this fall?

Good morning, frents …

Hope everyone had an enjoyable and energizing Memorial Day weekend. I did a little bit of everything plus I was able to work a bit on a new look at It’s just a start and my design skills are basic, but check it out if you get a chance.

Big week ahead! We should get some more answers on whether baseball is coming back, plus the NHL and NBA should fill in more details about their returns.

How is it that we’re already at the end of May?

Still business as usual … for now

Could the first bonecrushing Khalil Mack hit this fall be met with a roar from Bears fans instead of the silence we’ve long been presuming?

The Bears and the NFL are preparing as if that might be the case.

That’s according to NFL VP of football ops Troy Vincent, who said it’s been business as usual when it comes to the league’s teams getting ready for 2020.

“We are planning to have full stadiums until the medical community tells us otherwise," Vincent said on a Washington sports talk show on Friday. "Now remember when we're talking — we're talking about September … So there's a lot that can happen here. We're planning for full stadiums.”

Vincent’s comments were eye-catching considering we’re in the middle of the three other major sports planning their midsummer returns in sealed-off hub cities and without fans in the stands. About 3/4ths of the NFL’s 32 team facilities still remain closed, including the Bears’ Halas Hall.

Then again, it shouldn’t be surprising, considering that the NFL has been the lone American institution to barely miss a beat these past 2 1/2 months. While seasons were suspended and campuses emptied, the NFL had the luxury of serving up the sporting version of comfort food with events that didn’t require a physical presence — free agency, the NFL draft (which was altered, but still won plenty of good press for the league) and the schedule release.

The NFL, however, can’t run 256 regular season games in Roger Goodell’s basement.

And getting to a point where local governments are comfortable with 80,000 congregating for a football game might be a task too tall for even the Shield. Vincent admitted as much and said the league won’t force anything if it isn’t there. In Illinois, we’re about to enter Phase 3 of Governor J.B. Pritzker’s reopening plan, gatherings of 50 or more people won’t be allowed until Phase 5, which requires either a vaccine or herd immunity and “no new cases over a sustained period of time.”

I’m not a psychic, but I don’t think we’re getting to Phase 5 by Labor Day.

Still, why wouldn’t the NFL be doing the work they usually do at this time of year? Eight regular season home dates in each city don’t just happen without months of planning. It’s not as if the clubs are going to stand flat-footed and run the risk of being caught unprepared if the situation somehow changes by late summer.

If they have to pull the plug, so be it.

Plus, let’s not pretend there aren’t billions of dollars at stake. Forbes recently estimated the NFL could lose $5.5 billion of stadium-related revenue if the season is played without fans. The Bears stand to sustain a $166 million hit from their total revenue of $453 million if fans aren’t buying seats, beers and jerseys from the team shop.

Like any other business, the NFL is going to try and stem that bleeding no matter what they have to do. The Steelers are reportedly holding back 50 percent of their tickets in case they want to enact social distancing in the stands.

That seems like a silly concession to me right now — you can’t be half-pregnant in a situation with even half the amount of fans — but it does show you how badly teams might want to open their gates to people with money in their pockets.

Maybe the league will eventually back off. Maybe it won’t.

Whatever the case, it’ll be a be a fascinating debate to watch over the next couple of month, one that comes with plenty of money, politics and life and death decisions involved. What does the NFL do if half of the teams are being told by their local governments they’re good to go and the other half aren’t?

If that situation arises, the problems for Roger Goodell are going to be just a tad bigger than figuring out how to improve the wi-fi at Ryan Pace’s dining room table for the draft.

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The NHLPA approved the league’s 24-team playoff plan on Friday night and the league is moving closer toward Phase 2 of its return to the ice. A 21-page memo was released on Monday outlining the plan, which allows for players to train in groups no larger than six at team facilities.

Have a link for Midway Minute? Email me!

• When is the Fire coming back? Thanks to MLS commissioner Don Garber, it might cost a source $1 million to leak it to us. (The Athletic)

• Here’s a great postscript to the Cammy-John McDonough story you read here a few weeks ago: John’s daughter arranged for Cammy and her family to surprise her dad on his birthday. (Cammy Can on Facebook)

Scott King on how the Hawks chose Chelsea Dagger as their goal song. Knowing it came from a Wings fan on staff makes me feel better about not liking it. (NBC Sports Chicago)

Scott Powers spent $1,000 on autographed baseballs. Now he’s raffling them off for charity. (The Athletic)

Randy Kindred on The Original Bull:

“Before The Jordan Rules, The Last Dance or even a first Chicago Bulls tango into the NBA Finals, there was Jerry Sloan. He was floor burns, scowls and blood-stained jerseys. That is, awesome.” (Journal Courier)

Jack Silverstein on why The Last Dance was great community, but bad history. (A Shot on Ehlo)

Madeline Kenney on the Sky minority owner who beat MJ 1-on-1. (Sun-Times)

A 107-year-old Tinley Park woman had a Cubs-themed birthday parade. I’ve seen a lot of quarantine birthday parades on social media the past few months, but this one is by far the best. (Marquee Sports Network)

Mike Vaccaro on the 50th anniversary of Gale Sayers’ Brian Piccolo speech. (NY Post)

Mike Singletary’s Texas high school coaching career is over. With a 1-21 record, I’m comfortable with the finality of that sentence. (Dallas Morning News)

• Finally, true or false: You’d attend a roller derby event at Sox Park if it was the only live sporting event in the city this summer and your health was guaranteed …

That’s it for today. Have a fantastic Tuesday. As always, thank you for being a #frentofthenewsletter.

Kevin Kaduk
Kevin Kaduk
Kevin is the founder of Midway Minute.

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