Thursday, July 2, 2020

Slant Pattern U.S. Sports Covid Update

By Kevin Beane

Back in March or April, I predicted (not in this space, just casually among friends) that even people who take Covid seriously will reach a point where they say, "enough!" and start taking more risks, bigger risks, stupider risks, than they should.

And so I think that's come to pass, except not as dramatically as I imagined. States are reopening, but people are taking more risks, bigger risks, and stupider risks more quietly and sheepishly than I imagined. And between that and premature openings of states across the country, we are spiking again in many places.

As it is with the country at large, so it is with sports. All of the major U.S. professional leagues have put in place timelines and training camps. So far, not so good. In the NBA, the Nuggets and Nets have had multiple Covid cases, among other teams. 6% of tested NHL players have returned positive results.

Despite this, the leagues barrel ahead with their plans. The Nets and Nuggets have temporarily closed their camps, but you can bank on the fact that they will be there when the season tips off in a month (the NHL isn't even going to quarantine training camps). NBA Commissioner Adam Silver says "Never full steam ahead no matter what," but ... the leagues will go full steam ahead, no matter what. They'll do what UFC has done. If someone tests positive for Covid, they pull him out of the event and the beat goes on.

The only situations where any of the NFL, MLB, MLS, NBA, or NHL might pause their season again is if multiple players literally die of Coronavirus. I don't even think off-field personnel dying would do it.

So, hooray. We get to have professional sports. This is quite a pyrrhic victory and I wish every league would shut down until cases across the country are down to negligible levels, have been for a bit, and scientists and doctors are largely in agreement that no further waves are coming.

College sports is a bit of a different scenario than the pros. Despite the acrimony the NCAA inspires, they wield not nearly the power the governing bodies of professional sports do. They aren't responsible for any scheduling (except for post-season tournaments) and the universities are much more beholden to the states in which they operate, especially public schools.

As you are no doubt aware, Covid approaches, management, successes, and failures differ wildly from state to state. That's how it's going to be for college sports, as well, where, just as in the pros, clusters of cases at Clemson, LSU, and other places have popped up in their football programs.

So what does this mean for the college football season — the sport this writer cares most about by far? I have prediction here, too:

It's going to be a weird season. Specifically, what I think you're going to get is something out of the 1910s or 1920s. Take a look at the Wikipedia entry for the 1925 college football season. Oglethorpe played 11 games. Georgetown (Kentucky), a member of the very same conference, played 3.

I do believe some states, probably not many, they will shut down their sports teams for the fall season altogether for at least that's state's public universities. More will abbreviate their season, cutting down or out out-of-state non-conference games, and perhaps (hopefully) rescheduling other games to take their place (impromptu Texas/Texas A&M, anyone?). Some states will go bullishly, foolishly ahead with a full schedule. Some teams will a full season, some will lose just a game or two, some will lost half their season or more.

By the time college basketball seasons rolls around in November, hopefully we will be on the other side of this. I hope I'm there to see it, and I hope you are, too. Stay safe, everyone.

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