Hewitt Commentary: Did Regina dodge a bullet losing CFL hub battle?
REGINA -- If the CFL does in fact play in September, the games will be played in Winnipeg, as announced by the CFL Tuesday afternoon.That’s assuming a new CBA will be agreed upon.
Saskatchewan lost out to Winnipeg in the bid for the CFL hub. Fewer COVID-19 cases, better air connections and a slight time zone advantage to the east for TSN among the likely reasons.
So we lost. Or did we?
COVID-19 numbers are horrific in the United States, particularly in states where a large majority of CFL players call home: California, Texas and Florida for example.
These states are football and COVID-19 hotbeds.
As we all know, the U.S. leads the world with COVID-19 cases, more than 140,000 deaths at last count, and climbing steadily. CNN has now reported that there have been far more American infections than announced.
So, instead of us, Winnipeg might allow approximately 700 or maybe 800 CFL players entry into their fair city, the majority of them Americans.
Scary and definitely unchartered territory for the current pandemic times.
What’s even more concerning, the CFL has yet to outline the league’s exact bubble protocols. It’s all grey and as a result nothing currently is reassuring.
A few days ago the NBA announced no players tested positive under that league’s bubble in Orlando. The NBA is spending $150 million to operate their bubble. The NFL is spending much more. To date, 95 “working out” NFL players have tested positive for the virus.
The wealthier American based sports leagues are giving their players daily tests and their bubble protocol rules are as long as your arm. Player’s movements are being monitored electronically, not to mention all the folks these leagues have hired to make sure no one is in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Bottom line, an effective CFL bubble will clearly cost a ton of money. A truckload. The Manitoba Premier, Brian Pallister, pledged $2.5 million to the cause, cash that will likely go directly to the CFL bubble. When you compare that to 150 million, you’d assume correctly that $2.5 million will barely scratch the surface.
The CFL is “hoping” the Federal government will add 42.5 million loonies to the bubble cost pot if the league confirms September play.
Is that enough?
Not according to the NFL, NBA, NHL or MLB.
Compared to a pandemic, with the risk of severe illness or losing a loved one, sports is not top of mind, but if citizens feel they will be safe, then let’s go for it.
Can Manitoban’s feel safe?
Good intentions are not always enough.
Show me the bubble money.
The onus is squarely on the CFL to inform Winnipeg citizens of stringent bubble protocols and earn trust, so our pals in Winnipeg (except for when they are playing the Riders) can feel some level of comfort about this infusion of American football players living in their community.
That hasn’t happened yet, in fact, it’s not even close.
I wish Regina and our province could get an economic boost right now in the worst way. We are all feeling badly about the COVID-19 effects on local business.
But, in the big picture, did we here in Saskatchewan really lose out on this deal?
I can’t answer that question.
Infection counts will.
Don Hewitt first started covering the Saskatchewan Roughriders for CKCK-TV in 1979.