'Things are getting pretty real'

The Bulls are done for the foreseeable future, but what happens to the rest of Chicago's sports teams is still up in the air.

Good morning, frents …

Anything happen since we last talked?

Yesterday’s newsletter already seems like 8 weeks ago …

A day unlike any other

One of the things we love about sports is the ever-present chance we’ll see something we’ve never seen before.

But Wednesday tested that truism just a little too much.

“Things are getting pretty real,” Patrick Kane told reporters following the Blackhawks’ 6-2 win over the Sharks at the United Center.

Things are getting pretty real, alright. Suffice to say, we’ve never seen anything like what unfolded as Wednesday afternoon turned into night.

To recap: The NBA season was suspended after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19 and the NCAA said March Madness would be played without any fans in the stands. A slew of conference tournaments including the Big Ten also announced they would be played in empty stadiums.

And that wasn’t even the half of it.

The rash of suspensions and cancelations came as a shock, even though it became clear earlier this week that we were headed toward the inevitability of this impacting the sports world in a big way.

The NBA’s call was an easy one to make. With Gobert’s diagnosis and the common threads between all 30 teams — from matchups to referees to even shared chartered planes — Adam Silver needed to sit everyone down and figure out what’s what. With coronavirus already in the player pool, being overcautious by playing in front of empty arenas simply wasn’t an option.

But without any diagnosed individuals in their ranks, officials for MLB, MLS and the NHL haven’t committed to the nuclear option just yet. There’s still so much we don’t know and will have to be figured out starting today.

Here’s where Chicago sports stands right now:


Baseball plans to go ahead with spring training and regular season games in front of fans but has a conference call scheduled for Friday, ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported.  That plan will almost certainly change as the state of Washington is banning any gathering over 250 people (sorry, Mariners) while Oakland and San Francisco are restricting events over 1,000 (you too, A’s and Giants). The Sox home opener is currently scheduled for two weeks from today while the Cubs open at Wrigley on Monday, March 30.

Cubs player rep Kris Bryant told reporters in Arizona he’d be fine playing in empty stadiums if it came to that.

“I think people’s safety is of the utmost importance right now. Obviously it would be nice to play games with the fans in full stadiums, and there’s a lot of other stuff to take into consideration. But people’s health is the most important thing to me.”


The NHL released a statement on Wednesday night saying it was still consulting with medical experts and will have an update today. It seems a good bet there will be some games played in front of no crowds, a decision that could affect Friday night’s Blackhawks game against Ottawa at the UC.

“I hope that it will never have to get to that point,” Jonathan Toews said to reporters before Wednesday’s game. “That would be pretty disappointing. But people’s health is pretty important, so you can’t underappreciate that.”


The crowd restrictions in Washington state and the Bay Area forced the postponement of the March 21 matches in Seattle and San Jose. But the league has said nothing about the Fire’s return to Soldier Field on the same date. The club announced late last month that over 30,000 seats have already been sold for that game.


It’s not being held in Chicago, but the IHSA said this weekend’s 1A/2A boys basketball championship will be held in Peoria. A similar decision will have to be made for next week’s 3A/4A event. Wednesday’s 4A sectional between Benet and Hinsdale South was postponed until tonight as Hinsdale South awaits the results of a COVID-19 test from one of its students. (Both Hinsdale Central and Hinsdale South are closed today.)

The only thing that’s certain today is that it will be another busy day. The coronavirus story is developing rapidly on so many fronts and there are decisions that will be made quickly, maybe even before you were able to open this email and read it.

One more thing: I know I wrote earlier this week that I preferred Midway Minute to be a good respite from real world events. But the intrusion of coronavirus into every aspect of American life this week is really going to make that wish a failed one for awhile. Sports are in unchartered territory right now and it’s the rare time that isn’t one of their best features.

Wednesday’s results

Hawks 6, Sharks 2
Patrick Kane scored twice and Alex DeBrincat had three assists. Dominik Kubalik scored his 30th goal, joining Steve Larmer, Darryl Sutter, Eric Daze and Artemi Panarin as the only Hawks rookies to hit that mark.

Oh, and it might’ve been the last game the team plays in front of fans for awhile.

Big Ten tournament
Indiana 89, Nebraska 64
Minnesota 74, Northwestern 57

Big East tournament
DePaul 71, Xavier 67
Paul Reed posted 23 points and 12 rebounds as the Blue Demons get their first Big East tournament win since 2014

Spring training
Cubs 3, Padres 2
Sox at Rockies (PPD, rain)

Today’s schedule

Big Ten tournament
(all games on BTN)
8 Rutgers (+2.5) vs 9 Michigan (11 am, O/U 135)
5 Iowa (-1.5) vs 12 Minnesota (1:25 pm, O/U 149.5)
7 Ohio State (-1.5) vs 10 Purdue (5:30 pm, O/U 128.5)
6 Penn State vs 11 Indiana (7:55)

Big East tournament
2 Villanova vs 10 DePaul (6 pm, FS1)

Spring training
Dodgers (SS) at Cubs (3:05, Marquee)
Sox — Off day

Whenever the Cubs have Opening Day, Jon Lester won’t be the starter. David Ross said on Wednesday that his choice for the honor will be a choice between Kyle Hendricks or Yu Darvish, ending Lester’s four-year stint as the Cubs’ Opening Day starter.

You put you best foot forward to start the season, and I think Yu Darvish or Kyle Hendricks are a tick above Jon right now,” Ross said.

• For more on the NBA’s unprecedented move, check out Tom Ziller’s Good Morning It’s Basketball. It’s a fantastic newsletter and one of the reasons I wanted to try my own. You should subscribe to it. (GMIB)

• Stadium’s Jeff Goodman reported on Wednesday that DePaul coach Dave Leitao will be offered a contract extension. (Twitter)

Meet the diminutive White Sox prospect who doesn’t whiff. (The Ringer)

Five defensive players the Bears should pursue in free agency. (NBC Sports)

• Got a cool note from Midway Minute reader Joe Ziemba that Saturday marks the 60th anniversary of the Chicago Cardinals leaving the South Side for St. Louis. Joe has a cool Facebook page about the Cardinals,  which features a lot of information from his book “When Football Was Football: The Chicago Cardinals and the Birth of the NFL.

If you’re pining for a simpler era when March Madness was still able to be played in front of fans, here’s that time the 2005 Illini were good enough to be profiled by Illinois superfan Bill Geist on a Sunday morning news show …

That’s it for today. Stay safe and smart out there and thank you for being a #frentofthenewsletter.

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