I want sports to come back more than anyone. My columns may not always reflect that sentiment, but it really is the truth. It would be good for the psyche and good for the soul. It would be good for my walls which I’m climbing.

However…

“Having asthma and being a bigger guy, but I understand the risk, and I’m going to take all the precautions. We’ll have to see in writing whether everybody else is taking the precautions, whether it be the staff or the bus drivers. It’s a lot of moving parts that have to go along with it. It can’t be something that’s rushed. I know the NFL and NFLPA have been working on this for a while. But there are so many things that have to be cleared before me and my family feel it’s acceptable for me to be playing.”

That is a quote from Pittsburgh Steelers Cam Heyward, courtesy of DK Pittsburgh Sports.

Despite all the money professional athletes make, they are still human beings and not slabs of meat thrown on the field for our entertainment. This isn’t the Roman Empire where we throw our gladiators into the arena for a life or death battle with a wild beast.

Where We Stand

Lately, there seems to be a resurgence of the Coronavirus in some parts of the country. It has forced us to take a step back and do some re-evaluation.

I get the argument of more testing producing more positive tests. In turn, then, I can surmise that more positive tests raises the chances of more rapid spreading, and a higher rate of spreading increases the chance of higher hospitalizations. Therein lies the problem. If, and it is still just if, hospitals start getting crowded again due to these outbreaks then sports will have a big problem.

Hopefully we won’t get to that point, but if hospitals start getting stretched again it will be harder to justify playing sports and risking more outbreaks.

There are many people in the “full steam ahead” camp. Their argument being that players deal with the flu every season. Maybe you miss a game or maybe you play through it. Again, this isn’t the flu nor is it being treated as such by medical staffs. We give medicine to people with the flu, and don’t do an automatic two week quarantine. The “full steam ahead” people probably need to pump the breaks just a bit before they go diving into the pool.

There certainly is still a path to sports returning, but it is filled with far more land mines than some seem to realize.

College and Pro Football

Dr. Fauci stated he didn’t think football was safe for return unless they do some type of “bubble” setting, ala the NHL and NBA. Clearly bubble wrapping all the players, staff, and ancillary members of a team from August through at least December is not going to be possible. That means those folks will be out and about where contraction is possible.

We’ve already seen a handful of teams with a handful of infected people. Most, if not all players, will have minor or no symptoms. However, by guidelines they will still have to be quarantined for 14 days.

This means players miss a minimum of two games. No problem, right? Players miss games due to injury all the time. The thing is, as we’ve seen repeatedly with Covid-19, one infected person can quickly become 8, and 8 can become 15. In those cases a team would be beyond hampered trying to field a competitive team.

Just yesterday the medical director of the NFL Players’ Association advised players not to work out in groups. They are basically telling them to wait until the scheduled training camp to work in groups.

14 day quarantines for every positive test will make this season a competitive and logistical nightmare, and could potentially even result in game cancellations if a team has too many quarantined players.

If competitive balance across teams becomes widespread, the season will get real gimmicky, real quick.

In the college ranks, Alabama, Clemson, Houston, Texas, and Kansas State, just to name a few, are schools that are having many positive tests upon player return to campus. Houston and Kansas State have cancelled workouts until further notice.

Most players who have tested positive are asymptomatic and feel fine. If the research is accurate that asymptomatic people don’t spread the virus, then maybe reducing the quarantine time would be possible. Otherwise it may be tough to manage a season.

Schools are trying to help protect players, but maybe also protect themselves, too. Iowa and Ohio State are having players sign a waiver, as I’m sure many other schools will do. This doesn’t happen regularly, so it throws up a giant red flag. These are unpaid, amateur athletes that you are asking to sign a paper to what, “live right”? It may not be intended this way, but it seems almost like universities want absolved in any worst case scenarios. It’s a very bad look.

Finally, the question of fans. With outbreaks occurring more frequently, it is hard to see fans being allowed at games. If they are, it will be severely limited. Large gatherings are one of the most frowned upon situations during this pandemic.

NHL/NBA

These two leagues, off for almost four months now, are going to attempt “finishing” their seasons in bubble cities. The NBA will be in Orlando, FL, at the Disney complex. The NHL has yet to announce which two cities they will use.

Florida is one of the new hot spots for virus outbreaks, causing some NBA players to sound less than thrilled with the league’s plan. They probably shouldn’t worry, as Governor Ron DeSantis has issued a statement blaming Hispanic fruit pickers for those outbreaks. So NBA players need to steer clear of the fruit tree groves.

Anyway, between rumblings of massive Black Lives Matter protests and the Florida virus outbreak, things have lost some steam with the NBA plan.

The NHL’s plan is to get right to a 24 team playoff in the two hub cities. An interesting conundrum came out this past week for several players. Their wives/fiancées are set to give birth. In the case of Vancouver defenseman Jordan Benn, it will be his first child.

Benn and the others will need to leave the hub city, go home for their child’s birth, and return to the hub city. If a quarantine is mandated at each location, that is essentially a month that player will be locked down.

Additionally, Tampa Bay has shut down their facility after one of those fruit picker induced outbreaks in Florida.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it one more time. Scrap this season and start planning for 2020-21, which could still be potentially impacted by the pandemic. What these leagues are doing is totally contrived and gimmicky. They have been off for four months. In any realistic world, that season is a wrap.

Baseball

I saved baseball for last because, well, what more can I say about these clowns. Virus related issues seem to be the least of their problems.

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse between the owners and players, they’ve stalemated over 10 lousy games. 10. This is what you get in this “Bills vs Mills” battle royals of stupidity.

They are really blowing it, because baseball is the sport with the least person to person contact. Social distancing wouldn’t be a breeze, but it would be much easier than the other sports.

Two Cent Summary

Sports still have a lot of unanswered questions surrounding their return. If you don’t believe that go back to the top and read Cam Hayward’s quote again. How do the players really feel? I know they make a ton of money, but they are human beings. This could be a life or death situation, if not for them, for someone close to them who is more vulnerable.

I need sports. I don’t hunt. I don’t fish. I don’t paint. I don’t work on my car. I do sports. Having said that, I’m cautiously pessimistic that we will have sports in full force this calendar year. With so many varying view points and the virus seemingly regaining a bit of traction, I’ve crossed the line from optimistic to pessimistic.

I’m certainly not jumping in the end of the pool with the people that think we should never return to normal and wear masks forever.

I’m just saying you may want to be careful down at the other end of the pool, where the guys are pounding their chests like Tarzan. When you dive in, you may find that end doesn’t have as much water in it as you think.

Two Cent Takes

Baseball

~Speaking of gimmicks, baseball is suddenly all about them. The universal DH isn’t a gimmick, but it is stupid. Okay, I know I’m in the minority there.

How about starting extra innings off with a runner on second base? Having a re-entry rule for extra innings? Allow games to end in ties?

Wow. Baseball continues to amaze me. Just when I think their bulb can’t grow more dim, they pull the chain one more time. The game needs fixing, but the rules don’t need changed. Maybe they should just flip a coin once it goes to extra innings and be done with it.

College Football

~Is Mike Gundy still employed at Oklahoma State? If he is, someone start the clock. With the current social climate in our country and people being much more aware of inappropriate attitudes, it is hard to see Gundy sticking in Stillwater. How on earth does he go in to the living room of a black player and convince his family he will have his best interest in mind. Gundy is building a laundry list of stupid, ill advised comments. Who thought his haircut would be the least offensive thing about him.

~Chip Kelly just isn’t working out at UCLA. The latest issue is the fact his players don’t trust him with their injuries. With a pandemic at hand, the players want a third party health official monitoring the players’ health concerns and injuries. They cite past transgressions by the current coaching staff.

Here is the most damning quote from the players’ letter:

The document says that as the result of precedents set by former and current athletics staffs, the players will no longer leave the topic of their health and safety in the hands “of those who have perpetually failed us.”

A new athletic director may see Kelly for what he is…washed up.

A Penny For My Final Thought…

Father’s Day.

Dads take you hunting. Dads take you fishing. Dads teach you to play golf, how to drive, and how to treat a lady. They check homework, drive for miles to see a game, a band competition, a choral concert, or any number of events.

My dad did many of those things, but our biggest bond was over sports—specifically baseball. Our bond over baseball began when I was 6, and it lasted 42 years. Our bond ranged from my dad coaching me, to telling me stories of when he played, to watching game after game after game together.

When we weren’t watching together we’d call the other when the Pirates hit a big home run, made a great play, or if a controversial call occurred in the game. We didn’t even say hello. It was usually something like, “Hey, how about that Andrew McCutchen.” Boy, do I ever miss those calls.

One of my favorite parts of our baseball bond was listening to stories from my dad’s minor league days in the St. Louis Cardinals organization and on the local fields of Juniata County.

Here is my yearly ode to my dad. I wrote this two years ago, revised it last year, and plan to always post it on Father’s Day. If you haven’t read it I hope you do, and I hope you enjoy it.

Father’s Day Special: Behind the Mask

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads reading this. If you aren’t a dad, share a piece of you with a niece, nephew, friend, or neighbor. Those shared experiences are what people will always remember.

Just my two cents…