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Baseball

🏀🏒 Postseason Favourites Become Apparent as Leagues Return to Play

August 06, 2020
NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

WNBA: Even though we’re just two weeks into the regular season, we already have strong postseason favorites: the Chicago Sky, Minnesota Lynx and Seattle Storm, who are leading the league with identical 4-1 records. Things aren’t so peachy for the New York Liberty and Connecticut Sun, though, who are both winless through five games apiece. 

  • And the Liberty have it extra bad, with first overall draft pick and presumed savior Sabrina Ionescu (pronounced YOH-NESS-COO) out for at least a month (aka probably the season) after spraining her ankle in her third-ever pro game. Ionescu left the bubble yesterday to visit a specialist in New York. Sad.

NBA: The Los Angeles Lakers have secured the West. As the heavy favorites to win the NBA Championship, the Lakers clinched the top seed in the Western Conference (the Milwaukee Bucks are in the top spot in the East but have not officially clinched it...yet) in their third of eight seeding games on Monday. Just bring on the playoffs already!

NHL: The Carolina Hurricanes became the first team to advance through the qualifiers this week, sweeping their series against the New York Rangers. The Hurricanes, obviously fueled by this adorable montage of messages from their families, are the only undefeated team in the qualifying round.

MLB: The Miami Marlins are back in action and completely unrecognizable. After 18 players tested positive for COVID-19 and six games were postponed, over half of the team’s 30-man roster needed to be replaced before the Marlins could resume play. With fresh faces (including an Olympic speedskater), the Marlins have gone 3-0 against the Baltimore Orioles.

  • And speaking of the MLB’s total lack of control over their teams, 13 players and staff on the St. Louis Cardinals have tested positive for COVID-19, after players allegedly visited a casino *insert exasperated sigh here* after their series against the Minnesota Twins. Listen to this week’s episode of The GIST of It for more MLB news

🏈🏆 Podcast Episode 29: Guess which league is an absolute gongshow

August 05, 2020
James Lang/USA Today Sports, via Reuters
James Lang/USA Today Sports, via Reuters

Tune in to this episode of The GIST of IT here!

Ellen: What's up, GISTers welcome to The GIST of IT, the podcast where two gals and two pals give you the gist of what's going on in the sports world. I'm Ellen Hyslop.

Steph: And I'm Steph Rotz.

Ellen: Thanks for tuning in.

Steph, it's great to see you again, we're coming off of a big August long weekend here in Canada, and I feel like I'm starting the week pretty fresh, feeling pretty refreshed after having that extra Monday off.

Steph: Feels good to always start on a Tuesday, it just jumps you right in there. And this weekend was great. I got to squeeze in some WNBA games, some NBA games, some NHL. How about you, Ellen?

Ellen: Yes. It was so fun having all of the leagues on literally all at once. I quite literally did not know what to do with myself. I didn't really know what game to choose or what to do. And it was so fun watching all of them, especially I found myself really enjoying the NHL because they're right into the postseason and they're right into the playoffs. So it was like nothing, nothing, nothing. And then just so intense, which was so fun. 

But I still am so sad about New York Liberty player Sabrina Ionescu getting that grade three ankle sprain, watching that highlight and hearing her ankle go over, it's just so sad to see a rookie with the star power like her and the ability like her to have her season basically over because they say that it's going to be about a month until she can return and the Liberty aren't going to make the playoffs and they're not going to risk their franchise player just to come back for a week or two and then maybe she wouldn't be able to play in 2021. So just I feel so bad for the Liberty, but also just for the WNBA altogether, because she's such a draw for fans.

Steph: I saw it happen on Twitter and immediately tuned into the game and just was so upset just watching. Yeah, it's a huge loss. What I'm hoping, Ellen, that we can talk about today is the MLB and some college football and college sports because they seem to be most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. And I'm still flabbergasted at how the MLB is moving forward.

Ellen: Yes, flabbergasted is a really good word, and I'm feeling the exact same. So let's get to it. OK, so, Steph, let's chat about the MLB and how COVID-19 just continues and continues and continues to impact them. We got into what's happening with the MLB a little bit in last week's podcast, but to recap and to kind of get into it more, let's start with what happened from the very beginning with the MLB. So as we've mentioned beforehand, unlike other leagues, the MLB opted to go without the bubble or hub city route as they have all 30 teams playing. 

So unlike the NBA and NHL that are doing a restart, the MLB is just a complete start and they're playing 60 games in 66 days, which would be very hard to do logistically within a bubble. So instead they decided to regionalize travel. So basically teams play 40 games against their division and then the remainder against the other league's regional counterpart. And so to back up there a little bit the MLB is divided into two leagues, so the National League, the NL, and the American League, the AL, and then each league is further divided into three divisions the East, the West and the central division. And there's five teams in each of those divisions. So if we take the New York Yankees, for example, they're in the AL East. So they'd be playing 40 games against those AL East teams and then 20 games against the NL East teams.

Steph: I can kind of see where they're coming from with not having the bubble or Hub City based on the explanation you just gave Ellen, especially since baseball games take forever and would be really hard to do back to back to back like we're seeing in the NBA and WNBA and NHL but this travel has to be what's causing the issues with COVID-19 positive tests and with this pandemic.

Ellen:  For sure. You know, some of its travel, but unfortunately, it's seeming like it's because the players are not following the rules. And so for a bit of a COVID-19 timeline, because I feel like that's what we've been living in for the last six months, let's just go into that for baseball. So MLB opening weekend, which was July 23rd, which I guess was a Thursday, but still, MLB opening weekend. The Philadelphia Phillies are hosting the Miami Marlins and four players from the Miami Marlins test positive for COVID-19. They get on a group chat and they still decide to proceed with playing their game on that Sunday, July 26th, even though it's against all the rules.

Steph: You said this last week and I'll say it again for the two of us, it's so unethical and irresponsible, truly how dare they, come on.

Ellen: Literally how dare they, people are dying from this. So, of course, you know, COVID-19, it spreads like wildfire. And now 20 Miami Marlins players/staff have come down with COVID-19 and it's completely messed up the MLB schedule, which does not have much wiggle room considering it's 60 games in 66 days. So Miami was suspended from play for a week until at least August 2nd, so this past Sunday. The Philadelphia Phillies, who are playing the Marlins, also suspended their game for a week after at least two staff members tested positive for COVID-19 probably getting it from the Marlins, which is ridiculous. 

And so as a result of those two teams having COVID-19, a bunch of games were postponed and rescheduled at the last minute, and you know, the MLB had to actually update its health and safety protocol to require every team to travel with a compliance officer to ensure players and staff are actually following through with the league's rules.

Steph: Ok, this does sound a little bit like a failing for both the players and the teams, as well as the MLB though, like both players and the league, have to take a little bit of the responsibility here, I get it, the players want to play. They get paid per game. And with the short season this year, they earn about, they're going to be earning about 37% of the regular season salary. And it's still super unclear who will get paid during these outbreaks. But this isn't the same as coming into your workplace when you have a cold in order to collect your paycheck. These are grown men who get paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to millions of dollars who need to now be supervised because they can't follow the rules. But also, I couldn't help but wonder, why wasn't the league being more stringent in the first place?

Ellen: Yeah, I just don't really understand how if someone got a positive test result that there wasn't someone there that said go to your bubble, the fact that the players could decide for themselves with the information that they have to still walk out onto the diamond and play is beyond me. But also this compliance officer reminds me Steph of when we were lunch monitors in grade eight of the kindergarten kids. You know what I mean? It's like you need to have your lunch time monitor, the compliance officers are going to be that lunchtime person, it's kind of ridiculous.

Steph: It is ridiculous. Grown men.

Ellen: Grown men, sometimes trash anyway. But here's the thing. It does get worse. It's not just the Marlins, not just the Phillies. Somehow on July 31st, so this past weekend, two St. Louis Cardinals players tested positive for COVID-19. And as of today, up to 13 members of the organization have tested positive. Somehow they're supposed to start their games up again on Friday. 

Some of this is because the MLB did say at the beginning of the season that all the teams could have bigger rosters. So as much as some teams are depleted, they do have a larger roster at this time to call from. But still, I think that this was really scary for me because over the weekend they represented the first team that was outside of the Marlins and outside of the Phillies on the East Coast that, you know, actually connected with each other. And now this is just not contained. And it kind of shows the travel side more than some of the Marlins players being idiots.

Steph: Ok, let's recap this a little bit. At the time of this recording, because who knows what will happen. The Miami Marlins, the Philadelphia Phillies and St. Louis Cardinals all have players and staff with positive COVID-19 test results. And because of this, at least 20% of the MLB teams were unable to play due to postponements. 

In fairness, you can expect when you have such comprehensive testing to have some positive test results. Pretty sure the MLB and the players expected that they knew that was going to happen, but I'm sure they didn't really expect something like this. It's hard to look at these numbers and then look at the NHL, for example, which has been super careful in their hub cities and had no new positive tests within the first week of returning to play, knock on wood, it won't happen, but I can't help but compare the two.

Ellen: Yeah, no, I think that's a totally fair comparison because it comes down to also the root and the foundation of which they're playing too. And I think when you're in a hub city with everyone else too, you have to be so responsible because you know that in a split second, everyone could have it. Like if it does get into the bubble, it's really bad. 

But anyway, that's why over the weekend, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred warned that if COVID-19 isn't managed better than the league might have to shut down. That was actually reportedly what he said and I think that he's being legit, I don't think that he's blowing smoke, but it could still be a scare tactic to the players to basically say, get your shit together and stop doing what you're doing and stop lying and stop going out to all these places so that we can actually continue the season. And, you know, most players still want to properly play and finish out the season. And so maybe it's not a threat per say, but I would call it a good reality check.

Steph: We need those every once in a while.

Ellen: Yes. He's like a stern grandpa that's just coming down and laying the law. And so I don't know, as you mentioned beforehand, I think that this is a tough situation because there's onus on the MLB, there's onus on the MLB Players Association that agreed to this as well. There's onus on the players, there's onus on the staff. There's onus on everyone for agreeing to this travel schedule and not really even thinking about multiple hub cities or not even pivoting right away, like they're still doing all of this travel, even though there might have been an opportunity to pivot and go to another location. So I don't know. I think that it's tough. And I think that Manfred probably thought that he could trust his players and the MLB not to do stupid things like they did. But it turns out maybe that trust was not warranted.

Steph: The more I think about the MLB's return to play format, I think they should have gotten a little bit more creative with how they brought baseball back. It's so cliche to say now, but we're not in normal times, cannot stress that enough. I'm sick of hearing that phrase, but there it is. And the league is paying the price now for trying to make things as normal as possible. Something's got to give, whether it's travel, game length or number of games. Thinking back to what you said, Ellen, at the top of the show, if the games are long and it makes playing back to back games hard, why not shorten the games?

Ellen: Yeah, it's been tossed around a lot. Like why isn't the MLB playing seven innings? I think that a lot of people would want the game just to go to seven innings anyway. And what a great way to use this season as a guinea pig for a test for the future. And, you know, they've tried different ways to speed up the game. So in extra innings, for example, a team could start with a runner on second base. And the reason why that's such a big deal is because a runner on second base, even if you go up to bat and you hit a single for example, that runner on second base generally should get home. And so they're really trying. To speed up extra innings that way, so they've done a good job there and it has worked on extras, but I totally agree with you ,there was no creativity here. It was just the regionalised travel schedule and it was just the oh, we normally play 162 games. So actually playing 60 games is super short.

Steph: Mm hmm. And I know I'm coming at this more from a realistic and not a romantic approach to baseball...

Ellen: I have some romance for baseball.

Steph: So, yes, I acknowledge that I can be in a little bit of a different headspace than some baseball fans when I'm thinking so critically about this. Just wanted to put that out there. I like baseball, but I acknowledge my stance. The MLB is still on right now. I wouldn't be surprised if that changed soon. But anyway, while it is on, the viewership is thriving. It's having its best ratings ever. Opening weekend had more than twice the number of viewers as 2019 and ESPN's first 12 broadcasts averaged 1.16 million viewers, a 34% increase from 2019. Fox Sports also had a double digit rating increase, while regional sports networks experienced a 31% viewership increase from last year during opening weekend. And eight teams have gained over 50% in viewership. These are all pretty impressive numbers.

Ellen: Definitely impressive. And I think with a grain of salt, too. I mean, you know, you have all of those diehard baseball fans and baseball fans are probably the most diehard fans of any sports I would say. They get so right into it. They would go to multiple games a season in person and they now have to watch for a moment. I guess actually you could say that for any sport. So maybe that's not actually something to take with a grain of salt. 

You know, it was the first major league to come back in this pandemic, which I think is a big deal. And 60 games is actually reasonable to watch, finally. But I also think and maybe this is me more personally, but with baseball potentially ending, I think people are like, oh, my gosh, let's consume all of this baseball content that we can right now because we have no clue if literally in one week we're not going to have baseball for the rest of 2020.

Steph: For sure. All of that definitely plays a factor. But this viewership is at least a positive and silver lining for the MLB. Hopefully, maybe increased viewership will help generate some advertising revenue and help generate some of that lost income there for the league. But I hope it doesn't stop them from canceling the season if it ethically needs to be canceled for everyone's safety, you know.

Ellen: Yeah, yeah. That's a really good point. How the business shouldn't impact the safety side even though it's doing so well. Mm hmm. Yeah. And speaking of safety, because we're all about safety here at The GIST, wear your helmets kids. 

So speaking of safety today, which is Wednesday, August 5th, we were finally supposed to receive more clarity around the upcoming NCAA fall sports season after the Board of Governors met Tuesday afternoon to talk through everything. That's going to be breaking some point soon. 

So if you're listening to this now, maybe Google NCAA Board of Governors ruling and you'll hear something. We are still waiting. So it seems like college football is going to go ahead and move forward to focus on the major conferences, which if you need an update on what the major conferences are for college or how it's organized, have a listen to episode number 26 of The GIST of It. Stephanie and I covered that very comprehensively a couple of weeks back. 

So basically the ACC has decided to go with an 11 game schedule with one non-conference game. So that means traveling pretty far, the Big Ten is doing conference only for ten games. Same with the PAC 12, same with the SCC. And then the Big Twelve is doing ten games, nine games in conference and one out of conference. What's interesting with college football in particular is that there's this thing called the college football playoff, massive deal and that actually operates outside of the NCAA. But we still think that the NCAA could kind of impact and affect how the college football playoff is going to go on. 

So not really too much of a clue of what's going to happen there with college sports and, you know, outside of football or still what's going to happen to all those other sports and all of those scholarships and all of those students like that's still very, very much up in the air. It'll be interesting to see what the NCAA is actually going to say.

Steph: Mm. Got a lot of opinions, but I'm staying tuned to see what happens here.

Ellen: Well stay tuned for next week's for Steph's opinion on what's happening in the NCAA.

All right Steph. So all that covid stuff was a little bit heavy, as much as sports are back, you know, still talking about all that stuff gets me down a little bit. So let's talk about some other things in the sports world that have put a smile on our face lately and have made us say, wow, that was fun. And this week we have one. Well, I have one that I think is really fun. But I would say that you're a little bit cheesed about it. You have a little chip on your shoulder about this one. So the news that I love is that Dwayne the Rock Johnson, along with Dany Garcia, who apparently is his ex wife, I read on Axios Sports and I was like, imagine doing business with your ex. I could never in a million years do that. But I love that relationship. Good on them.

Steph: Well said.

Ellen: Yeah, yeah, trash people. Just drag it to the trash.

Dwayne the Rock Johnson, along with Dany Garcia and RedBird Capital Partners, are poised to buy the XFL. So as a quick reminder, the XFL was a rebooted football league that was started earlier this year. But then it had to close its doors when it went bankrupt amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. So anyway, this group has put in a bid for 15 million dollars to buy the XFL, which is actually pretty cheap, all things considered. And the sale still needs to be approved by the powers that be. And they're supposed to be doing that on Friday. There's no other bids in. So it's pretty well a done deal. And if it goes through, Dany Garcia could become the first woman to own a sports league, which I think is pretty cool. 

Steph: OK, to be a party pooper here Ellen. I literally thought we were done with the XFL. I will tell you why I'm cheesed. I'm cheesed because I really want my WNHL. You know what I mean? I know that this is really cool that she's the first woman to own a sports league or will be if this gets approved. And all the mainstream media was truly focusing on The Rock in the sale and leaving Garcia out of the headlines. Not cool. Not cool, folks. The Rock, of course, does have a pretty good story. Before he started his life in the WWE, which I'm sure we all know him for, he played football in university in the 90s and spent two months in the Canadian Football League, the CFL, and then made his WWE debut in '96. And also fun fact, he played a former NFL player who ends up buying a team in HBO's Ballers, which is so ironic, so hilarious. Quite the story arc in this man's life. But he did tweet to his credit here how cool it is that Dany Garcia will become the first woman to own a team. Great work, great work.

Ellen: Great work. And who knows Steph, maybe they'll make a shit ton of money from owning the XFL and then maybe she'll start her own pro women's league. Or  maybe she'll get in on the WNHL. Who knows? That's the way that we have to think about it is like let's have her make frickin bank and coin and then let's have her start all these other leagues and expand all these other teams. 

Steph: If you're listening, Dany Garcia, bring a WNBA team to Toronto. Thank you. Appreciate it.

All right, that's The GIST of It from Ellen and I, thanks for tuning in. Even if I was a killjoy this week, if you still like what you heard, tell all your friends and get them to subscribe to The GIST of It on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play or Stitcher. And while you're there, feel free to rate us five stars and leave us a review.

Ellen: And in case you missed it, if you like what you heard today, even with Stephanie being a killjoy, you have to check out our free twice weekly newsletter where every Monday and Thursday morning we give you the gist of what's going on in the sports world. If you haven't yet, subscribe at thegistsports.com. Otherwise, if you want to get in touch with Steph and I, email us at pod@thegistsports.com or DM us on Instagram @thegistnews.ca or @thegistusa. I'm Ellen Hyslop. 

Steph: And I'm Steph Rotz.

Ellen: And this has been The GIST of It. See you next week.

MLB Season Off to a Rough Start with 18 Miami Marlins Testing Positive for COVID-19

July 30, 2020
 MITCHELL LEFF/GETTY IMAGES The GIST: We’re a week into th
MITCHELL LEFF/GETTY IMAGES The GIST: We’re a week into th

The GIST: We’re a week into the MLB season and 18 (!!!) members of the Miami Marlins have already tested positive for COVID-19. Not good. The league has since postponed games and adjusted the schedule, but we think this situation might require more than a Band-Aid solution.

Sh!t. What happened?: The MLB season started on Thursday, July 23rd, and opening weekend went smoothly for *checks notes* just over 48 hours. By Sunday morning, Marlins starting pitcher José Ureña had tested positive for COVID-19.

  • Given this news, you’d expect the Marlins to shut everything down, right? Yeah, us too. Instead, via group text (talk about receipts), players decided that they would forge ahead and play on Sunday, which may have violated MLB COVID-19 protocols.
     
  • By Monday, 14 members of the Marlins (12 players and two staff members) had tested positive, and their games were finally put on pause.

Uh-oh. So where do things stand?: As of now, the Marlins and the Philadelphia Phillies (who the Marlins played during opening weekend) have placed their schedules on hold. All members of the Phillies have since tested negative and they’ll restart play this Saturday. Miami will apparently play again next Tuesday...if they can piece a team together.

Will anything else change?: Despite an offer from America’s quarantine heartthrob New York governor Andrew Cuomo to host all 30 MLB teams in New York, commissioner Rob Manfred will move forward with the original regionalized travel play plan.

  • The MLB will attempt to make up postponed games later in the already shortened season, but are apparently open to some teams playing fewer games and deciding final standings based on winning percentage. As if this wasn’t already giving us a headache!

🏒🏀 Podcast Episode 28: Everything you need to know about the return of the NBA and NHL

July 29, 2020
DIRK SHADD/TAMPA BAY TIMES
DIRK SHADD/TAMPA BAY TIMES

Listen to this episode of The GIST of IT here.

Ellen: What's up, GISTers? Welcome to The GIST of IT, the podcast where two gals and two pals give you the gist of what's going on in the sports world. I'm Ellen Hyslop.

Steph: And I'm Steph Rotz.

Ellen: Thanks for tuning in.

Hello, Steph. It is the last week of July we're heading into the long weekend, the NHL and NBA are starting up. How are you feeling?

Steph:  Ellen, if I just started crying on the podcast, would that make you uncomfortable?

Ellen: Honestly, maybe.

Steph: I've had three pieces of chocolate cake today. I don't know about you, but I'm still processing Folklore. For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, it's this little known artist called Taylor Swift who released the saddest album right now. And it's got me real sad. How about you? How are you doing, Ellen?

Ellen: You are the cutest human being ever. Three pieces of chocolate cake. Oh Steph, you know what, it's just bulking season, baby. You're just going to turn that right into muscle. I know the way that you've been working out lately. That's going right to your biceps.

Steph: Oh, I love how you can spin anything into a positive direction. Thanks, Ellen.

Ellen: Yeah, no problem. You know what I can't spin into a positive direction?

Steph: Hit me.

Ellen: Baseball.

Steph: Oh, gosh. 

Ellen: Baseball. Nothing is going well right now. On Monday, just four days into the MLB shortened season, at least 15 members of the Miami Marlins tested positive for covid-19. And this was after they had played their first series against the Philadelphia Phillies. So because of this, all Marlins games are suspended until Sunday and they were actually supposed to be playing the Washington Nationals in Miami over the course of this next week. And the Washington Nationals had a team vote and they were basically like, hell no, I'm not going.

Steph: What a scandal. Oh, my gosh.

Ellen: It's such a scandal. But you know what is the most scandalous part, and what truly, truly rattles my cage? Is that through group text, Marlins players who were well aware of the outbreak that was happening in their team all texted each other and still decided to play on Sunday against the Phillies. And this is totally against the MLB covid-19 handbook and is also just so selfish. And I don't know how these players would have thought that this was the right thing to do anyway.

Steph: So wait, back this up, they knew they all were in on it, they had a group chat going along and I'm sure there's screenshots. Is that how we know about it? How do we know about this?

Ellen: So we know about this from sources within the Marlins. That's basically the way that we know about this, and other media outlets kind of sharing what has been going on. So, you know, you can just picture... we've talked about group text beforehand with Brendan Leipsic in the NHL. Those things are dangerous. And you get one person who's kind of like, OK, I think that I have symptoms, I think that I might have covid, but let's not say anything because we're playing against the Phillies right now and we want to do well.

Steph: That's just... That's beyond unsportsmanlike.

Ellen: Oh, it's completely unethical.

Steph: It's unethical. Yeah. Good wording.

Ellen: And so, you know, the MLB is a little bit different because it has a regionalized travel schedule which allows teams, teams outside of the Toronto Blue Jays who were denied by the Canadian government because of the cross-border travel situation, which in hindsight, Canada is looking very smart. But anyway, this regionalized travel schedule allows teams to play at home, and it's something similar to how the NFL wants to host their season. And I mean, the MLB is supposed to be 60 games in 66 days, which is very, very different than 16 games within 17 weeks, which is what the NFL would be looking at. But still, just this whole travel thing is not sitting right with me.

Steph: When you read the Canadian government's reasoning for not issuing a national interest exemption for the MLB regular season to cross the border, it makes complete sense. The risk of transmission in this league right now is too high. We've seen it. It's happening. I really hope that the NFL thinks about it too, even though it's obviously a very different structure. But it's definitely frustrating. Like, why they didn't go with a bubble in the first place is totally beyond me.

Ellen: Yes, that is totally beyond me too Steph. And I think it's totally beyond a lot of people. So much so that a lot of people are calling for the MLB season to be paused again or canceled outright. Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York, has said, hey, come on over to New York State, we can host all the teams in our bubble. And it might actually work because New York City itself has two stadiums there and a boatload of stadiums everywhere else. So, you know, it could work. Maybe we'll see a bubble with MLB.

Steph: Let's focus on the good anyway. Anyways, let's move on. Too much Folklore, too much of MLB. Let's talk about the leagues who are doing so far so good in their bubbles. With the NBA starting tomorrow, which is Thursday, July 30th, and the NHL starting on Saturday, let's give a verbal cheat sheet on how the fuck the seasons are going to work with our precursors and some insight.

Ellen: Let's do it.

Steph: Ok, so first, let's dive into the NBA because it's starting tomorrow, which is so exciting, so a total of 22 teams, the teams with the best regular season record before the league shut down and to be honest, the world basically shut down in mid-March, are part of this return to place season. Of the 22 teams, nine best teams in the Eastern Conference are taking part and then the 13 best teams from the Western Conference are taking part. All games are being played in Orlando, Florida, at Walt Disney World, which is super fun.

Steph: Ellen, speaking of Orlando, Florida, Walt Disney World in the NBA, remember how last podcast I said I'm extremely impressionable towards marketing, and I'm basically a marketer's dream. Do you remember that?

Ellen: I do.

Steph: I absolutely love seeing so many NBA players this past weekend wearing their orange WNBA hoodies as the WNBA season started last Saturday. And I couldn't stop thinking about this hoodie. I gave it the twenty four hour rule test, slept on it and 100 percent paid the astronomical shipping and duty fees to get me one shipped to Canada.

Ellen: Did you get an orange?

Steph: I got an orange, I got a men's medium. Cause I have the outfit planned, I'm going to wear it with like fit and flare pants. It's going to be great.

Ellen: Oh, my gosh. Ok, I have actually gone on that Fanatics website. I kid you not like so many times and they've literally always had XXL Men's or youth sizes. They've literally  never had anything. So that's amazing that you got it.

Steph: Thank you.

Ellen: And I do have to say, though, one thing on the Fanatics piece, it was the number one best selling item over the weekend, but it was still not featured on the homepage of the website anywhere. So I just got to say that, like, put the money where it is.

Steph: You're right Ellen. Mm hmm.

Ellen: Ok, well, I can't wait to see that outfit. You're going to have to share it.

Steph: Thanks. We'll post it on the 'gram.

Ellen: Ok, sorry. So now let's get back to the NBA and the bubble that they're finding themselves in. So this season will restart with each team playing eight regular season games to determine playoff seeding. That all makes sense. All great. The part that gets a tad confusing is that there will be a play-in for the tournament number eight seed in either conference and a play-in will only happen if the number nine seed is fewer than four games behind in the standings. Otherwise the number eight seed will be safe.

Steph: Ok, I'm a little confused. What does this play-in tournament look like? What are the chances of it actually happening? Does it have to happen? Why is it happening?

Ellen: Yeah, so it doesn't have to happen. The reason why the NBA wanted to do it is, I guess if you picture a standard playoff table for the NBA top eight teams in the West, top eight teams in the east, number one faces off against number eight. With this weird shortened season... In the regular season that the league has had sometimes that final eight spot is really competitive. And so what they're trying to do is to say, OK, this season, restart is super weird and it's short so we'll give the benefit of the doubt to that ninth team if they're within four games. 

So when they say within four games, that basically means wins and percentage of wins in comparison to the number eight team, it's pretty likely that this could happen. I mean, four games behind in the standings is actually a decent amount when you're looking at a playoff picture. So I wouldn't be surprised if we ended up seeing this and then in which case, the number eight seed would just have to beat that nine seed once or the nine seed would essentially have to beat that number eight seed two times in a row.

Steph: Ok, I love how they're keeping this interesting for us. And you've explained it beautifully because I read this a couple of times on the Internet and I was lost. So thank you Ellen.

Ellen: Yes, no problem. I hope that it happens because, you know, more games for us and more entertainment and extra drama.

Steph: We love drama here.

Ellen: Absolutely. Love drama. So after the initial eight regular season games, the top eight teams in each conference will be decided, meaning there will be six teams who will not make the playoffs at all. Bye. They're not part of it anymore. After that, the playoffs will run as normal with a seven game series, meaning that you have to win four games to move on and the first round of the playoffs will start on August 17th.

Steph: This is amazing. It's all happening so fast. We're really, really jumping right back in. And you've given a really great recap here, Ellen. Thanks so much. Let's get your predictions. What players do you think are going to do well in the bubble?

Ellen: Oh, OK. So there's, of course, no fans in the bubble, so there's not really any home court advantage. So I think that the players that will do well will be those that don't really thrive off the energy of a stadium and arena. And I can't think of anyone who would be better at that than L.A. Clippers star Kawhi Leonard. I think he truly gives a flying fuck of the fans in the stands, he is such a chiller. 

Also as an L.A. Clipper, they share an arena with the L.A. Lakers. And so when it's a Clippers home game, it's not really a Clippers home game. That is Laker Nation at the Staples Center there. So he's used to home games not being home games. So I think he'll be totally fine. And I'm also super excited that there'll be no fans because Kawhi makes the weirdest noises when he goes to the back basket. It's like, oh [grunts], it's very strange and weird. So I can't wait to hear those noises without the fans being too loud.

Steph: I'm really excited to hear the players speak to each other more often. I'm excited to see a little bit of dialogue and get to hear more of those sport noises across all of these restarts. And keeping your theory here in mind, Ellen, similar to you, I think Kendall Jenner's on and off again flame Philadelphia 76er, Ben Simmons will do well too he's also more of a chiller. So going off your theory there, Ellen. 

I think he's also been working with a sports psychologist during covid-19 to help him with his confidence to shoot three points during a game which he's notoriously bad at and just didn't do. So it's going to be really cool to see how that turns out for him. And if this is true and he's seeing a sports psychologist, I'm all for men seeing psychologists more. Let's reward them. Let's put our bets on those men. Am I right?

Ellen: Totally all in, baby. And it'll be so great to see him hit a three pointer. I was actually living in Philly when Ben Simmons hit his first three pointer. And I think that the entire city was like, holy shit, Simmons did a three pointer. And so if he's just rattling those off in Orlando, like, oh baby, they're going to be excited down in Philly. But anyway, enough of the players who's going to win the championship.

Steph: Ok, Ellen, in the Western Conference, everyone seems to favor either of the L.A. teams, Lakers or the Clippers. But as an Eastern Conference girl, I obviously have to root for the defending champs, the always underestimated the beloved or my beloved Toronto Raptors. But Ellen, I feel like you as well as the rest of the Internet are going to shut me down here and say that the Milwaukee Bucks will take the Eastern Conference.

Ellen: Yes, I'm regrettably shutting you down. I love the Raptors, Raptors girl, love them through and through. But I just don't think that they have the star power to finish it off this year. I really don't think that they do. So what I'm anticipating is that it's going to be a Clippers, yes Clippers over Lakers and Bucks finals and I would bet on the Clippers to win. And, you know, I know that the Lakers are the favorite LeBron's on that team, but I just got to go back to Kawhi. He's amazing. And also, I think him and Paul George just kick it up another level in playoffs. It's like they're chill, chill, chill throughout the regular season and playoffs start and they're just off to the races.

Steph: Ok, let's get to hockey, the NHL is returning to play on Saturday, August 1st, with 24 teams playing. The top 12 from both of the conferences. Similar to the NBA, they're are also going with the bubble format, but instead of one city they're doing two. All Eastern Conference teams are in Toronto and all Western Conference teams are in Edmonton.

Ellen: Yeah, and we saw the teams arrive yesterday in their respective bubbles, in their suits and their masks and one thing that I was not expecting was guitars, which just seemed like everyone's picked that up as a hobby during coronavirus. And I just can't help but picture them sitting around in this hub place that they are either singing Folklore or the first thing that came to mind is actually Green Day is like "hope you have the time of your life" and they're all just kind of talking about 2020 and the hub city being such a gong show.

Steph: Oh my gosh. When I saw those photos on The GIST Instagram, I screamed because artistic hockey bros are my kryptonite. I can't, like game over for me.

Ellen: They are your type.

Steph: That's my type. Hasn't worked out for me so far, but you know, I'm keeping my options open. Ok, to recap, the NHL paused its season about a month before the playoffs were about to kick off. The format of the NHL is kind of same, same, but different to the NBA. It's a little bit more complicated. Instead of playing regular season games to determine seeding before the playoffs, the NHL has essentially separated out the top four teams in each conference from the other eight teams in each conference and are hosting a qualifying round and a round robin. 

The qualifying round series are between the teams seeded fifth to twelfth in each conference and will be a best of five series. The winners of those series will then join the top four teams in each conference. In the east those top four teams are Boston Bruins, Washington Capitals, Tampa Bay Lightning and the Philadelphia Flyers. In the west, St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche, Vegas Golden Knights and the Dallas Stars.

Ellen: I love how you said Boston Bruins there.

Steph: I have to say it and that's only way I could say it Ellen.

Ellen: Such disdain, such disdain. And actually of this mix, I'm super impressed and proud of, as much as I don't like them as a hockey fan, but because of living in Philly, I'm proud of it, The Philadelphia Flyers, I would have never expected them to be in the top four teams in the east. So just got to give the quick kudos to the Broad Street bullies.

Steph: And I'm happy for Gritty. I'm happy for him.

Ellen: Oh, yeah, the best guy.

Steph: Ok, stay with me here. While this qualifying round of the 5th to 12th seeded teams is going on, the top four teams that I just mentioned in each conference will be having Round-Robin playoff seeding games to determine where they rank between one to four in each conference. So they're really trying to make it count. After the qualifying round is done and the round robin seeding is done, then it's the actual playoffs that have a classic best of seven series. The playoffs are set to start on August 11th, when the Stanley Cup final series is set to start on September 22nd.

Ellen: All of that is confusing, but also makes sense in the way that you explained it. So we kind of have the qualifying round robin seeding and then the playoffs. And so, Steph, you're the hockey gal and I really want to know who do you think is going to win the Stanley Cup?

Steph: I'm very upset that you had to ask me this question, Ellen, but I guess I should get used to it. Because I know in my heart it's not going to be the Leafs and I feel like I'm betraying them by saying this. But I'm going to have to go with Tampa Bay Lightning. They have a top notch goalie, Andrei Vasilevskiy, who was voted the best goalie in the league last year. Tampa Bay is a favorite team as well, and now they're out of Florida. So things could look up for the team. And after quarantine, you know, it's anyone's game, really.

Ellen: It is anyone's game. But I do have to say Tampa really shit the bed last year and went out in the first round. So, I mean, they're a great squad, and I hope that you're right because, you know, Tampa could use some good news right now for sure. But I just got to say, I don't know they shit the bed last year, and I feel the same way about Toronto.

Like, obviously we want the Leafs to win. But also a really selfish part of me is like it can't be this year because celebrating in the streets after the Raptors won the NBA championship was probably one of the best nights in my life. And if we can't experience that because of what's happening from a quarantine perspective and having to be six feet apart from everyone, I'm totally fine. They should probably just blow it this year. That's going to be the theory if they don't win it's because they need to have a proper parade.

Steph: Oh, it's strategic for sure if they don't.

Ellen: Exactly. So, Tampa could win, but I really think that the Boston Bruins have a super good shot at winning this one or the Las Vegas Golden Knights. But I still think Boston, because they've been in the playoff mix for years and last year they lost to the St. Louis Blues in the Stanley Cup finals, so I think that they'll be out for vengeance in this one. The only thing that might hold them back is the home arena advantage. I have gone to a Bruins game before and it is the rowdiest wildest arena I've ever been in, those fans are so devout and I think that a lot of players, especially Brad Marchand, really vibe off the crowd energy and they'll be missing that.

Steph: I'm excited for Brad Marchand to have to miss something. He's not great. He's not a great guy. Altogether it's going to be really fun to have the NBA going, the NHL going, the WNBA going, let's not forget. MLS going and maybe MLB going at the same time. It'll be fun.

Ellen: It'll be so fun. And then the NFL starts in September. So it's so weird to have everything over the summer. But, hey, we'll take it.

Ellen: All right, so let's get talking about some other things in the sports world that have put a smile on our face lately, things that just make us go, wow, that was fun or that was funny or that was great.

Steph: On Instagram earlier this week, U.S. women's national soccer star and the only woman who almost has me, a Canadian girl buying an American jersey, Megan Rapinoe posted that she is in a new HBO documentary entitled Seeing America Alongside AOC, Hasan Minhaj and Nicole Hannah-Jones. It appears to be a one hour conversation. It's going to get political and it premieres this Saturday, August 1st, which is the same day that the NHL returns to play. It's just Stephanie's perfect day.

Ellen: The stars are aligning for you. Look at that.

Steph: Folklore who?

Ellen: That sounds so awesome. Ok, so I was going to say one fun thing, but I feel like I kind of want to say two fun things just because we've been talking about hockey. OK, quick fun thing first as we were talking about hockey watching a highlight today of the exhibition games between the Philadelphia Flyers and the Pittsburgh Penguins, it just really showed how sloppy hockey might be when it comes back. And maybe even the NBA is going to be a little bit sloppy when they come back. I mean, they've been off for so long, but, you know, standard in hockey, five players on the ice for each team. The Penguins made a line change and they had 10 players on the ice at one time. That's just not even something that you do in peewee hockey.

Steph: Oh, my gosh.

Ellen: I don't know how they did that. So that was kind of wow. That was fun, and also, you know, they're human. They make mistakes.

Steph: They're human too.

Ellen: And the main thing that I want to say that was so fun was the NWSL Challenge Cup ending on Sunday. Huge hats off to the Houston Dash for winning their first ever title. And this was also such a big deal because this was the first time that they were in the playoffs, which is pretty amazing to just be like boom in the playoffs, boom win the title. And I think, you know, they won the title, but also the NWSL and all of their organizers, all of their staff, everyone on the front line for that tournament did an unreal job. It was hosted in Salt Lake City, Utah, and they had no positive tests within the bubble, which is just outstanding. 

The Premier Lacrosse League (PLL) is now playing there. And I just had a chance to chat with someone at that league and they said that the NWSL left it in such a great place that now the PLL is just feeling so confident with their season because they did such a good job. So, you know, hats off to the NWSL. They're thinking of potentially bringing some additional matches this fall to the league so that they can really thrive off of this momentum. So, you know, just outstanding love seeing soccer doing so well.

Steph: Mm hmm. And let's hope the MLB is picking up the phone and calling the folks over at the NWSL. 

Steph: All right. That's The GIST of IT from Ellen and I. Thanks for tuning in. If you like what you heard, tell all your friends and subscribe to The GIST of IT on Apple podcast, Spotify, Google player, Stitcher. And while you're there, please rate us five stars and leave a review.

Ellen: And in case you missed it, The GIST creates sports content, experiences and community that's by women and for all sports fans. If you like what you heard today, you have to check out our free twice weekly newsletter where every Monday and Thursday morning we give you the gist of what's going on in the sports world. If you haven't yet subscribe at thegistsports.com. Otherwise, if you want to get in touch with I, email us at pod@thegistsports.com or DM us on Instagram @thegistnews.ca or @thegistusa. I'm Ellen Hyslop.

Steph: And I'm Steph Rotz.

Ellen: And this has been The GIST of It. See you next Wednesday. 

🏀 MLB and WNBA Support Black Lives Matter Movement and Honor Breonna Taylor

July 27, 2020
MINNESOTA LYNX/TWITTER
MINNESOTA LYNX/TWITTER

The GIST: Baseball and basketball regular seasons began this weekend, and while the season starts were fun to watch, it was the leagues’ calls for social justice that really blew us away.

What happened?: The MLB had been relatively quiet during the recent Black Lives Matter protests, but support for the movement was abundant this weekend. “BLM” has been stamped into pitchers' mounds, players can choose to wear a “Black Lives Matter” patch on their jerseys and many players knelt before games after messages of unity played on the loudspeaker. Unprecedented, and long overdue.

  • After Dr. Fauci’s cringeworthy pitch started the season off, Thursday’s Opening Day matchup between the Washington Nationals and the New York Yankees saw all players kneel for the national anthem as they each held a single black ribbon stretched between the two teams.

Awesome. Any other MLB news?: Elsewhere in the league, the Miami Marlins had to find a new pitcher for yesterday’s game against the Philadelphia Phillies, after starter Jose Urena was one of four players to test positive for COVID-19. They still won 11–6.

  • The Boston Red Sox are down a pitcher, too. Ahead of summer training, Eduardo Rodriguez tested positive for COVID-19 but was cleared to play on July 18th. Unfortunately, during a recent routine medical check, doctors found a heart issue that’s likely linked to the virus. Scary.

And in basketball?: The WNBA season started Saturday, and ahead of the opening matchup between the Seattle Storm and the New York Liberty, all players returned to their locker rooms for the anthem. Upon returning, the players stood for 26 seconds of silence in honor of Breonna Taylor, who was killed at age 26.

  • Storm’s Breanna Stewart and Liberty’s Layshia Clarendon also spoke about Taylor before the game and assured fans that her name, along with Sandra Bland, Vanessa Guillén and other victims of police brutality and racial violence, will not be forgotten.
     
  • Players will wear the names of these women on their jerseys throughout the season and will wear “Black Lives Matter” and “Say Her Name” t-shirts during pregame warm-ups. Some players even have customized “Say Her Name” shoes. Powerful.

Love it. And how were the games?: Most notably, Seattle won the season-opener 87–71 over the Liberty, which wasn’t a shock based on last season’s standings. And unsurprisingly, superstar Stewart led the Storm with 18 points while veteran point guard Clarendon led the Liberty with 20 points. What was surprising, though, was rookie Sabrina Ionescu’s (pronounced YOH-NESS-COO) relatively quiet Liberty debut.

  • Ionescu, a bonafide superstar after an unprecedented college career, put up just 12 points on Saturday, which is average by her standards. Regardless, it was so fun to see her back in action.