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Thinking out loud: Some thoughts on coronavirus and sports

John Rooke
June 26, 2020 - 5:39 pm
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Thinking out loud…while wondering if our ‘inalienable rights’ have impeded our progress toward achieving common sense…

  • Are we making viral progress?  Or should that be ‘virus progress?’

 

  • Over the past three months, we’ve gone from “oh no, he/she has caught the coronavirus,” to “oh, he/she has tested positive, it’s no big deal.”

 

  • What does this mean, exactly?

 

  • I’m not one to play ‘Chicken Little’ or anything, but it could mean our comeback trail for sports’ return gets stopped cold...before it ever really heats up.

 

  • Tweet of the Week I, from @mooretosay: “People who boarded the Titanic had plans too. The ocean said ‘not so fast.’ Covid-19 is like the ocean. Vast, somewhat unpredictable, and not at all apologetic. And it has no concern for your plans.”

 

  • As much as we love to bag on local politicians, for now it seems – they mostly got this right around here, despite the damage to businesses, the unemployment, self-quarantine and shelter-in-place rules.

 

  • Massachusetts and Rhode Island, in particular, are among the states now reporting the lowest growth in the number of active cases.

 

  • So if we did “this” right, and other countries have done or are doing “this” right, why can’t other states simply follow the leader(s)?

 

  • It ain’t that easy.  We’re finding out there are too many agendas, too many unconcerned with anyone other than themselves and their own personal liberties, and not enough with common sense to take this pandemic – likely to hit 150K US deaths in July – seriously. 

 

  • So this is still a hoax?  The rest of the country is just now catching up to our earlier delusions and chicanery from March?

 

  • This won’t bode well for re-starting the sports world next month and into the fall.

 

  • The NFL has already had spring workouts and OTA’s cancelled.  Staff has been banned from facilities and stadiums.  Players now reporting are turning up positive for the virus, and already some are being told to stop private practices and workouts.

 

  • Something which the once-and-still beloved TB12, now in Tampa, completely ignores.

 

  • Multiple NFL teams apparently are considering a delay to the start of the season, by perhaps flipping the September slate of games to January and trying for an October kick-off.

 

  • One thing is certain about the upcoming season – if we still have one.  It will look and feel differently than any other season or seasons we’ve ever experienced. 

 

  • Rosters are likely to fluctuate more than usual with players testing positive.  Entire position groupings could be quarantined.  The PUP list could look like my weekend “honey do” list around the house, which is long and never-ending.

 

  • We may, and more likely may not, have fans in the stands.  Certainly not sell-out crowds, not for a while.  You want to be shoulder-to-shoulder with someone who could infect you?

 

  • We have had work stoppages, strikes and postponements in our seasons before this.  But not because people are getting sick and dying from a disease. 

 

  • We’re actually going to try and play a football season, with and perhaps without fans, in the middle of a once-per-century pandemic.  That’s a little bit nuts.  Just sayin’.

 

  • But we need to, so we can move forward toward ‘normal’ again, whatever that means today.  But there was no marathon, no baseball (to speak of) no hoop or hockey around here when we should have had them…and still we’re going to go ahead and do football?

 

  • Let’s hope we’re smart enough – and wise enough – to pull this off, before the sky falls on us.

 

  • Not for nuthin’, but the PGA, NBA and NHL have all had players test positive before their seasons can re-start.  The #1-ranked tennis player in the world tested positive.  The Red Sox reported a positive test on their 40-man roster this week. 

 

  • The NWSL’s entire Orlando Pride team dropped out of their league Challenge Cup, scheduled to start this weekend, because they had six players and four coaches test positive.

 

  • And college football?  Whoa.  With voluntary summer workouts starting in many places this summer, some programs have already had to shut it down due to positive tests…and with players not adhering to social distancing or protective measures.

 

  • Defending national champ LSU has had a quarter of its’ roster in quarantine.  Clemson has quarantined 23 players, Texas has quarantined 15, Kansas State eight (and counting).  Alabama, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Florida, Houston, Boise State. 

 

  • It’s happening all over the country.

 

  • The Patriot League, of which Holy Cross is a member, is only allowing their student-athletes back on campus when the rest of the student body returns.  They will not fly to any competition, nor will they stay overnight – for any sport.

 

  • Which means early-season, big non-conference football games may not be played (like Colgate at Syracuse, for instance).  This will certainly have a trickle-down effect on some major programs, and their budgets.

 

  • Seems a bit like a fools’ folly, doesn’t it?

 

  • But we can say this – the exact circumstances that might shut down a football season have not yet been determined.  There will be different standards per school, per state and per sport (college and pro). 

 

  • It is also likely, at least in the college game, that if schools are opening campuses in the fall, football (and other sports) will return in some form.  If there’s no in-person schooling, however, there’s probably no in-person attending of games.

 

  • Boston College football players returned to campus this week under a mandatory two-week quarantine.  They’ll be tested for Covid-19 after eight days and undergo daily temperature checks. 

 

  • Euro soccer leagues are playing, showing us that sports can make a relatively safe return.  But other countries are also showing that social distancing and mask-wearing are working…and sadly, we haven’t been able to hammer that point home yet.

 

  • Because civil liberties are being violated?  Please.  How about because you could sicken someone?  Or worse?  C’mon, man.  I’d like to believe we’re smarter than that.

 

  • If everyone could wear a mask in public, for about 6-to-8 weeks, we could put this thing away. 

 

  • The Los Angeles Lakers’ (and ex-Celtic) Avery Bradley made his own news this week by saying he won’t take part in the NBA’s Orlando re-start.  He has a young son with a history of respiratory illnesses.

 

  • Bradley won’t be the only pro athlete to take a pass on sports starting up again, is my guess.

 

  • Need some good news?  Baseball is back.  Sort of.

 

  • But will you be back for baseball?

 

  • Sixty games, beginning on or about July 24, universal DH.  Fine.  Runner on second to start extra innings?  Not fine.  Continued acrimony between players and owners?  Also not fine.  Mookie Betts still with the Dodgers?  Definitely not fine.

 

  • But health and politics be damned, we’ll finally have summer baseball played in about a month.  Or we can hope we have it.

 

  • Tweet of the Week II, from @PeteAbe: “#Redsox were 10 games out of first with 60 games remaining last season. Now they’re tied for first. Chaim Bloom, getting things done.”

 

  • Give the Newport Gulls summer college baseball team credit.  They’ve learned how to turn chicken (bleep) into chicken salad, at least. 

 

  • Gulls’ management has started the Newport Collegiate Baseball League, beginning July 9th, with players from area schools and other NECBL teams that shut down operations for the season.

 

  • Four teams, 18 games apiece, at Cardines Field in Newport, RI.  Great to see.  Wish ‘em luck…and lots of good health and fortune.

 

  • The Futures League is still scheduled to begin play next month, including the Brockton Rox at Campanelli Stadium.  Considering some of the spring events that have happened in that town, huge ups to the Rox crew for keeping their eyes on the prize – an actual baseball season.

 

  • Maine’s Bowdoin College and UMass-Boston have announced they will not have sports this fall.  UMass-Boston is going with remote learning – both are Division III programs.

 

  • D-II Morehouse College in Atlanta has cancelled its football season due to Covid-19.

 

  • Wake Forest head coach Dave Clawson is isolating from his wife for the entirety of the football season, due to Covid concerns.  And before you call him a ‘lucky guy’ – his wife is a cancer survivor.

 

  • It was expected.  But still a bit shocking.  UConn announced this week they will cut men’s swimming and diving, men’s tennis, men’s cross country and women’s rowing…after the 2020-21 season has completed. 

 

  • The Huskies will have 20 varsity sports for ‘20-21 but will also look to reduce scholarships in golf and track & field, as well as emphasize regionalized scheduling to cut travel expenses.  The announced moves will save approximately $10 million.

 

  • UConn ran a $42 million athletic deficit last year.  The projected deficit for the 2021 fiscal year ranges from $47 million to a staggering $129 million, says the Hartford Courant.  Seems like they’re trying to put out a fire with a squirt gun.

 

  • UConn alumni are raising funds in an effort to try and preserve the track & field and golf programs.

 

  • Providence assistants Ivan Thomas and Jeff Battle have teamed up with a group of 21 Big East assistants to create ‘Coaches for Action,’ using their platform to educate and bring awareness to social injustices.

 

  • Every Big East school is represented in the group, which will support awareness of Black Lives Matter, create scholarship opportunities and voting awareness among their student athletes.  There are also plans for each school to have a player representative involved.

 

  • Lawrence, MA native and ex-St. John’s shooting guard L.J. Figueroa announced this week he’s transferring to Oregon.  Unless he decides to go pro, which he still might next week. 

 

  • Maybe he needs to major in Making Up Your Mind at his new school?  If he gets there.

 

  • Former Kansas State guard Brian Patrick will play next season at DePaul, after playing last season at Purdue-Fort Wayne.  He’s a 6-5 grad transfer and averaged 11 points per game, so he’ll fit in right away.

 

  • Transfers?  CBSSports.com says the Friars have two of the top ten transfers in the country coming in for next season – guard Jared Bynum and forward Noah Horchler.  Both are expected to play major roles, in the absence of four graduated seniors.

 

  • Brown’s Mike Martin announced a six member freshman class for this fall, which includes Juco guard transfer Tyler Brown, an all-Jayhawk Conference pick from Hutchinson CC in Kansas.

 

  • The athletic department also suffered a tragedy this week, as incoming freshman football recruit John Holmes, a defensive lineman from Grand Rapids, MI was killed in a weekend car accident.

 

  • Bryant’s men’s basketball team and men’s soccer team both finished with the highest team GPA’s among NEC programs for the just-completed spring semester.

 

  • Basketball Hall of Fame inductee Barbara Stevens is retiring after four decades and more than a thousand wins at Bentley.  34 years, 31 D-II tournament appearances and the 2014 natty, too.  That’s a serious run, and undoubtedly she has Edward in East Providence’s seal of approval.

 

  • Stevens retires as the 4th winningest coach in NCAA women’s history, behind Pat Summitt, Tara VanDerveer and UConn’s Geno Auriemma. 

 

  • ACC commissioner John Swofford has announced he’s retiring in the next year.  That’s a major gig in a major college league that is certain to draw major interest.

 

  • How, exactly, do Boston College fans feel today about Swofford and his ‘poaching’ of the Eagles from the Big East 16 years ago?  Can money still buy love?

 

  • Not entirely certain what to make out of NASCAR’s Bubba Wallace episode of the past week, except to say it was one heck of a showing of support for him.  It was powerful.

 

  • The entire world – or at least our slice of it – is hyper-sensitive to racism and unequal treatment under the law, as you might expect.  That someone would consider a rope pulley to be a noose, however – it did look like a small noose – from a garage to which Wallace was randomly assigned says something, doesn’t it?

 

  • Yeah, we’ve still got work to do.

 

  • If you’re into esports or the gaming world, you know that your virtual reality is not unlike anyone else’s.  Hundreds of streamers took part in a Twitch ‘blackout’ this week, in response to a wave of sexual misconduct allegations against notable gamers and esports personalities.

 

  • Yeah.  It happens in the virtual world, too.

 

  • The New York Marathon is also cancelled. But on the positive side, participation in running and jogging grew by 1.2% during the pandemic, and treadmill workouts grew 5.7% says the Sports & Fitness Industry Association.

 

  • Are you a Patriots’ season ticket holder skipping over 2020?  The team says you can skip this season for 2021…which may (or may not) solve some upcoming social distancing issues at Gillette Stadium. 

 

  • Way-too-early picks for Patriot roster surprises?  Since we have yet to see anyone actually play or practice.  But if (and when) things do get started, eyes should be peeled on free agent WR Jeff Thomas (from Miami) and FA TE Jake Burt (from BC). 

 

  • And the pick of the line for a valuable swing role is rookie center and 7th round draftee Dustin Woodward from Memphis.  A potential back-up to David Andrews, and depth at both guard spots.

 

  • Hard to believe Joe Thuney is going to actually play this season for nearly $15 million under the franchise tag.  For a team that has zero cap space, it makes fiscal (and Belichickian) sense to sign him to an extension and lower his number or trade him for another need.

 

  • But how do the Patriots actually receive any value in return for what he’s worth?  They don’t.  And barring injury to a starter on another contender, he’ll play in New England.  July 15 is the deadline for a long-term deal.

 

  • My buddy “Big E” sez this pandemic and subsequent ‘shutdown’ of our lives is exposing those who have never been told “NO” before.  Helluva way to learn a lesson that – like Mick Jagger and the Stones once sang – “you can’t always get what you want,” ain’t it?

 

  • As we step toward the great unknown, or off into the abyss, here’s the bottom line:  If you’re signing up for sports’ reboot, either as an athlete or as a fan – you’ll need to either learn to manage the risk you take, or simply don’t take part.  At all. 

 

  • We’re beginning to see this with some athletes, both pro and college, as our sports seasons work through this stop-start-maybe stop again movement.

 

  • Can we follow this lead?  Getting back anywhere close to normal, whenever and whatever that may be, likely depends on it.

 

  • 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!  Would appreciate the follow on Twitter, @JRbroadcaster…and join in on Facebook, www.facebook.com/john.rooke ...

 

Don’t forget to tune into Providence’s 103.7 FM, every Saturday from 7:00-9:00 am for Cordischi and Coit!  Call in at 401-737-1287 or text at 37937.