Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse…
Last week, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announced it will postpone its induction ceremonies for the highly anticipated class of 2020 until next spring — and move those ceremonies to Mohegan Sun in Connecticut.
This is a huge blow for Greater Springfield on a number of levels and just the latest in a series of setbacks resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Indeed, this is destined to be one of the most memorable induction ceremonies in the history of the hall, with a class that includes the late Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan, and many others. This induction ceremony was going to be star-studded, provide a huge financial boost for the city at a time when it really needs it, and help broadcast Springfield’s revitalization to the rest of the world.
And now, all of it will be at Mohegan Sun, which, according to Hall of Fame President and CEO John Doleva, can provide a bubble-like environment that can better protect attendees from the virus. Doleva has vowed this is a one-time move away from Springfield and insists the step is largely unavoidable and necessary to help the hall survive a year that has seen visitation plummet and revenues fall precipitously.
Like Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, who has ‘Home of the Basketball Hall of Fame’ printed on his city of Springfield stationery, we’ll take Doleva at his word and admit that COVID-19 has brought about some changes that no one could have anticipated, especially in the world of sports.
Indeed, they’re playing hockey and basketball in August, and will go on playing it into September. The Toronto Blue Jays are playing baseball games in Buffalo, N.Y. because officials in Canada won’t let them play there. All the NBA teams are playing in a bubble in Orlando. The Masters will be played without fans. On it goes.
But the Basketball Hall of Fame induction ceremonies in Uncasville, Conn.? That certainly won’t sound right during the broadcast. Can you the imagine baseball inducting anyone anywhere but Cooperstown? Or football inducting anyone anywhere but Canton? The answer is no. Indeed, those institutions have postponed their ceremonies until next year, but kept them at their traditional sites.
Unfortunately, the Basketball Hall of Fame simply cannot afford to do that. To take a line from another sport, it is up against the ropes and in what amounts to survival mode.
Because of this, Springfield needs to swallow this bitter pill and look at the bigger picture. Yes, it desperately needs the 2020 induction ceremony in its downtown. But what it really needs, long-term, is a healthy Hall of Fame that will be a cornerstone in the years to come — after the virus is behind us.
This step, as painful as it is, might help ensure that health.