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Thinking out loud: Coronavirus thoughts relating to sports

John Rooke
March 13, 2020 - 3:22 pm
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Thinking out loud…while wondering if there’s a ‘pause’ button somewhere I can smash to bits…

  • Tweet of the Week I, from @JoeGiza: “Shutting down everything everywhere is one way to stop Tom Brady from signing with another team.”

 

  • It’s madness, alright.  But not the kind we’re used to experiencing at this time of year.  COVID-19 has stolen the spotlight and has begun the process of creating a new ‘normal’ for the sports world, both near and far.

 

  • While the upheaval in our sports lives still has some shifting to do over the next few weeks, I can’t help but feel that much of the decision-making process in trying to decide the right thing to do has been put under extreme pressure.

 

  • Some will make decisions wisely.  Some already have.  And still others will blow this thing to the moon and back. 

 

  • Thursday was a terrible, yet historic day.  One few people inside the business of sports, especially college sports, will ever forget.  But do we understand ALL the reasons behind why it had to happen?

 

  • The pros will rebound, literally.  They make good money for playing games.  College athletes have, perhaps, four years to succeed and most put away the gear forever thereafter.  Sports are the heart and soul of a college campus, whether anyone in the Ivy League (or elsewhere) wants to realize it. 

 

  • That’s why Thursday was such a bad, bad day.  Yes, we should be taking precautions and doing something about a worldwide pandemic that we’ve most likely only experienced a fraction thereof thus far.  

 

  • But remember, we’re trampling on promise, hope and a lot of hard work along the way.  People are, because of sports shutting down, also losing out on paychecks.  We’re watching the demise of hard-earned gains and savings in the stock market. 

 

  • There is a lot of collateral damage left behind as we shut the doors and lock the gates to our stadiums and arenas.

 

  • Lesson learned, at least by the Friars and Portsmouth, RI’s Drew Fonts, via Twitter: “If there is one thing this year has taught us, it is how to handle adversity. From being arguably “the worst high major team in the country” to being the most talked about team in the country by the end. The Friars in February were something special and that’s something they can’t take away from us!”

 

  • That these players had to learn this lesson at all, is what is sad about all of this.  Necessary, I suppose.  But sad.

 

  • I know, we’re in an unprecedented period of time here – a first since the Great Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918-19, right?  I’ll wager few people remember it.  Zen question: Have we not advanced science (or society around science) in more than 100 years though? 

 

  • The Ivy League decision to cancel everything – well in advance of everybody else pulling the plug on sports, and hammered by pundits from everywhere – is looking prescient right now, isn’t it?  For a bunch of smaht guys, especially.

 

  • It was the smugness in the way they did it that got me, that’s all.  And I do feel for their student-athletes and the seniors like I do for so many others. 

 

  • But if I’m a smaht high schooler, and I really love playing and I’m really good at what I do, there’s only a little chance I’m considering an Ivy school.  And recruiting against the Ivies just got a lot easier, quality education aside.  You can get that in a lot of places these days.

 

  • Maybe it’s just me, but isn’t it still dumb to cancel, rather than simply restrict attendance?  And yes, I know campuses are quickly moving to online teaching for the foreseeable future.  But again, couldn’t we just call a “time out” on these seasons, give this a chance to improve, and maybe get back to our lives?

 

  • It just seems that too many have put the cart before the horse, under the pretense of “leadership.”  Final decisions were rushed without letting things calm down first, before deciding to further alter the landscape.  And those that might like to remain normalized and live their lives as they choose have been pressured into following suit.

 

  • In other words, there are no choices.  Just do it.  Sorry to steal that one, Nike.

 

  • Sports leaders, like those in politics, can overreact, too.  The NCAA.  The Ivy League.  The CIAC in Connecticut.  The MIAA.  The NESCAC, NCAA Division III small colleges, NCAA big schools now shutting down spring athletics.  College and pro teams and leagues in all sports, all over the country.

 

  • Ever put a video game on ‘pause’?  We need a big pause button right now, not “Game Over.”

 

  • Those that have said ‘shut it down’ have managed, from this point of view, to throw the baby out with the old bath water.  There’s an old cliché for ya’.  Just sayin’.

 

  • On the other end of the spectrum, the RIIL’s Open State hoops tourney is still underway.  The DI and II hockey tournaments were moved to URI from Brown because Brown has announced restrictions for on-campus events.  Fans are restricted, but they’re playing.

 

  • CIAC, MIAA not playing.  RIIL playing.  Good, or bad?  I’m actually confused on this one.

 

  • Even Disneyland and Disneyworld are closing.  Mickey and Minnie, say it ain’t so.  But it’s now understandable.  NASCAR has also joined the postponement club.  Will UFC follow suit?

 

  • Did you see this week when the University of Dayton closed campus Tuesday, and a “large gathering” of students immediately protested?  Riot police are called in, pepper balls fired.  Yeah, someone in authority thought that one out really well.  Stupid is as stupid does.

 

  • I’m saddened, but not surprised by the NCAA’s decision to cancel March Madness, the first time since 1939 we won’t crown a basketball national champ.  And of course, following suit with the cancellation of all sports for the remainder of the academic year, from hockey to baseball and softball and well, all of it.

 

  • The media is needed, more than ever, to help tell these stories, complete with memories that can still last a lifetime.  Because right now, there’s nothing else.

 

  • I was reminded on my way out the door at MSG this week that this really wasn’t the first time we’ve had to deal with cancellations.  Who recalls the snowstorm that threatened the 1993 Big East finals?

 

  • Our hotel, where the Friar team stayed as well, ran out of food.  I remember trudging through the middle of Lexington Avenue with no taxis on the roads, in two feet of snow, pulling my radio equipment through the slush trying to reach the Garden. 

 

  • Georgetown’s John Thompson looked right at me during a press conference, too, when asked about cancelling.  You’ll recall the PC-Georgetown game was postponed due to weather earlier that season, and Big John wouldn’t travel.  He didn’t want to do that again.  He wanted to play.  Everyone did.

 

  • Oh, and how about the 1989 Siena basketball game against Hartford played with no fans in Albany over a measles outbreak?  One player from each team actually had the measles, but they didn’t cancel that one.

 

  • What the NHL, MLB, NBA and MLS have also decided to do to in limiting media access, before they postponed their seasons, is fine in the short term…if it makes these leagues and teams feel like they’re contributing to society, or whatever. 

 

  • But the fear is this will become a crutch and an excuse for limiting media access over a longer haul. Which is not good for a trust-damaged Fifth Estate (i.e. journalism) in this society. 

 

  • We need the ability to question.  You need the ability to gain the truth, and to see the human side of stories – which will become much more difficult with limited access.  The Globe’s Dan Shaughnessy was r-r-r-right about the issue this week. 

 

  • Did I say that out loud?  We’ll see how it plays out.  When we get our games back, of course.

 

  • Heard from several sources this week the Big East Presidents took a vote on Tuesday to decide to play the Tournament at MSG or shut it down, well before the shutdown actually occurred. 

 

  • The vote was 9-1 to play on.  The “no” vote came from a prez whose school wasn’t likely to reach the postseason.  Now, no one is reaching the postseason.  Clearly, circumstances changed.  Sad.

 

  • Tweet of the Week II, from @corenrichard: “Friars 27th in (Monday’s) AP poll. There are not 26 teams playing better than Providence right now.”

 

  • Not for nuthin’, but Joe Lunardi’s last bracketology – PC was a 7-seed against 10th seeded Arizona State in St. Louis, with the winner to face Kentucky or N. Dakota St.  Xavier was the first team OUT.

 

  • Like you, I’d love to see the Selection Show on Sunday go through the brackets anyway. March Madness is the one, true national event that can galvanize the entire country – even in pro-dominated New England, there’s big interest.

 

  • And teams, coaches and players all deserve recognition for their successful play this season.  At the very least.  We need to make chicken salad out of chicken (bleep).

 

  • I doubt they will, largely because there’s no way to gauge the automatic tournament qualifiers.  But if they would simply give those spots to regular season champs, we’d have a pretty accurate look at how it might have been, amiright?

 

  • And, teams would have the ability to call themselves NCAA teams – which is good in recruiting, for PR, prestige…and might salve some of the hurt out there.

 

  • No surprise with postseason honors in the Big East – PC’s Alpha Diallo earned 2nd team for a second straight year.  Player of the Year Myles Powell (Seton Hall) was deserving, largely due to his team’s success, compared with Marquette’s Markus Howard.

 

  • PC’s Emmitt Holt shared the Big East Sportsmanship Award.  There have been some good stories and really good kids come through here, and Emmitt has been one of the best.

 

  • The USBWA all-District I team (the six New England states), for which I cast a vote, included PC’s Diallo and David Duke and URI’s Fatts Russell – who was also named the MVP. 

 

  • But a shoutout to Merrimack’s Juvaris Hayes, who made the squad, and coach of the year Joe Gallo – for a remarkable, memorable and record-breaking first-year ride into Division I and the NEC. 

 

  • Kudos to Associate AD Steve Napolillo and his marketing and promotions staff at Providence – attendance averaged more than 10K at the Dunk this season for the first time in 16 years.

 

  • And more kudos to the team and coaches, as their NET ranking improved from 146 to 36 from December to the end of the regular season.  That is quite the climb for one of those ratings.

 

  • The definition of teamwork – sacrificing the needs of a few for the needs of many.  I kinda think that’s what we’ve all done here, even if it has been done grudgingly.

 

  • Are we turning our lonely eyes toward the NFL off-season and free agency now?  Does anyone believe the NFL should also postpone the process, out of respect for every other sport on the planet shutting down?

 

  • Just asking the question.

 

  • Tweet of the Week III, from @chatham58: “If Tom Brady resigned with the Patriots today, a sense of calm would permeate the trading floors, a worldwide sign that an imminent return to normalcy was on the horizon…automatic market correction. It’s science.”

 

  • Brady, Brady, Brady!  Said in my best Jan “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia” Brady voice.  You’ll get this if you ever watched “The Brady Bunch” on TV.  If not, Google it.  But if you were sick of it a week ago – just wait.

 

  • Not for nuthin’, but I’m hearing from more than just one place that Tennessee wants Ryan Tannehill, not TB12.  Is that like a back-handed compliment?

 

  • Great for the Patriots to get those extra comp picks this week, but of course, they wouldn’t get them if they hadn’t lost players to begin with. 

 

  • Free agent I’d love to see stay but won’t:  1) Joe Thuney 2) Kyle Van Noy.  TB12 is a given.

 

  • Free agents available I’d love to see play for the Patriots but won’t: 1) Hunter Henry/Austin Hooper (too much $$$) 2) Randall Cobb.

 

  • That’s a black mark on Rookestradamus’ otherwise sterling record.  He said a month or so ago that either Henry or Hooper would play next year in Foxboro.  He might still be right…especially if they’re on another team.

 

  • Of the new rule changes that will be proposed, I like the 4th and 15 option instead of the onside kick.  At least, there’s a punchers’ chance on a 4th and 15 play.  Virtually zero chance these days with an onside kick. 

 

  • You want more excitement?  More entertainment?  There you go.

 

  • The NFLPA vote on the owners’ new CBA proposal has been extended to Saturday.  Ostensibly, so more players will have time to study it.  Or even see it…before they know what hits them.

 

  • Like Ed Cooley for hoops last year, PC’s hockey coach Nate Leaman has been tabbed to work within USA Hockey – named as the head coach of the USA 2021 US National Junior team.

 

  • Says something about the athletic program at Providence, does it not?

 

  • There’s also the Providence Bruins now on a franchise-record win streak, which has reached 12 straight victories.  Yes, the AHL is also on hiatus.  That win streak will be a long-lasting one.

 

  • Are the Red Sox playing?  Nope.  Spring training has also packed it in.  The regular season isn’t likely to start before the first of May.  And that will only delay the inevitable, at least where these Sox are concerned.

 

  • Excuse me while I put life on “pause.”  Can’t wait to hit the “play” button again.

 

  • @CDiSano44 tweeted at me this week on the unprecedented cancellations, especially in the collegiate sports world: “John, I agree. I would have suspended play and let the next few weeks play out. I know rescheduling would have been a logistical nightmare, but it might have been feasible to play with teams, ops/production staff and limited family attendees down the road. Kick the can down the road. Re-evaluate.”

 

  • Chris – the other major issue here is many college campuses closing – where would the student-athletes stay and continue to practice while on hiatus?  I’m like you, I’d like to kick the can down the road and feel the higher-ups were too hasty in their decision-making.  But I simply believe they didn’t want to create the nightmare(s) you speak of.  One nightmare was enough.

 

  • Interested in having your questions on local Rhode Island sports (and yes, that includes the Patriots, Red Sox, Bruins and Celtics, whenever they play again) answered in a somewhat timely fashion? Send ‘em to me! It’s your chance to “think out loud,” so send your questions, comments and local stories to jrooke@weei.com. We’ll share mailbag comments/Facebook posts/Tweets right here! Follow me on Twitter, @JRbroadcaster…and on Facebook, www.facebook.com/john.rooke ...

 

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