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Thinking out loud: What will football look like this year?

John Rooke
July 10, 2020 - 8:14 pm
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Thinking out loud…while wondering what plague upon our land comes next…

  • Tweet of the Week I, from @KevOnStage: “Beating this pandemic is a group project. This is why I always hated group projects.”

 

  • If we get to the point where the Patriots’ offer of free parking next season actually is a thing, that’ll be something.  And quite the perk for those who normally shell out that cash.

 

  • But the handwriting on the wall is beginning to tell us a tale no one wants to hear.

 

  • The Ivy League’s decision to cancel all fall sports, including football, appears to be reasonable on the surface considering the news making our headlines every day.  Maybe this will work for them.  Ivy football isn’t an attraction anyway, as a money-maker or revenue-driver like it is elsewhere. 

 

  • The Big 10, while not quite throwing the baby out with the bath water, followed with their announcement of reduced schedules this week – with no non-conference games.   Which effectively means – ‘to hell with schools like Northern Illinois, Ball State, Central Michigan and UConn.’

 

  • UConn? 

 

  • This is turning into a battle for survival.  We’re in this together?  Hardly.  With the coronavirus crushing us right now in so many ways, sports have been a large part of our fight to return to normalcy.  The need to help each other has been obvious, like the need to #maskup – in order to succeed and reach that goal. 

 

  • But the Ivy League, the Big 10, the Pac-12 (according to The Athletic), the ACC (says Stadium) and whoever follows them next…

 

  • …just don’t care.  Instead, they’ve become vigilantes scrapping for their own turf.  They’re not healing, they’re hurting.  They’re infecting others through their ideas and actions.  And they’re certainly not interested in helping others. 

 

  • They don’t see the big picture.  They could care less about the other 200-or-so schools and countless thousands of student-athletes affected by this myopic decision-making.

 

  • The Ivies do this because it doesn’t affect anyone other than themselves, and maybe Army – the only FBS team to lose a game (with Princeton),  But the Big 10 decision to pull back on their scheduling…if ever so slightly…sets a domino effect into motion. 

 

  • It will be a painful and costly one. 

 

  • Including in Storrs, CT.  NIU (Iowa, Maryland), Ball State (Indiana, Michigan), Central Michigan (Nebraska, Northwestern) and UConn (Illinois, Indiana) are each losing two huge road trip paydays with the Big 10’s decision to cancel. 

 

  • Paydays that can help the rest of their athletic departments remain fluid, if not solvent.  At UConn, with the school trying to climb out of a $40 million athletic hole, these cuts could result in added peripheral damage…on top of the four sports already slashed from the program.

 

  • The Ivy smaht-guys simply don’t know what they’ve started.  It starts with an uncanny ability to remain oblivious and obstinate at the same time.  They had to know someone would follow them down this rabbit hole, just like everyone followed their decision to shut down hoops in March. 

 

  • Not their problem?  That is precisely their problem.  Turning a blind eye to it is no excuse.

 

  • Notice, however…that the Big 10 and Pac-12 aren’t cancelling EVERY game.  $$$ and the TV networks are the reason.  Even the big boys and their athletic departments need the TV money, and the networks need the game inventory – and the advertising inventory, too.

 

  • Too many schools need the cash infusion that football brings, especially from the network payouts.  Too many deep-pocketed donors also need the socialization that football brings. 

 

  • Think the Big East is glad to have pulled out of the football mess now?

 

  • Save your high-and-haughty Ivy standards here for another argument.  What’s good for them this time, ain’t necessarily good for anyone else.

 

  • FYI – Brown and URI won’t meet for a 105th time in the Governors’ Cup football game this fall – and it will be just the second time in the last 75 years the two rivals won’t play.

 

  • The Pac-12’s Stanford – yes, THAT Stanford – is dropping 11 varsity sports by the end of the 2020-21 school year.  The same Stanford that produces more Olympians annually than any other college in the country and thinks of itself as a west coast Ivy-caliber institution. 

 

  • Also with a $27.7 billion endowment.  Whoa. 

 

  • Endowments aren’t simply a plug-and-play mechanism on campuses, but still.  It’s a bad look.

 

  • Not for nuthin’, but Harvard has announced they’re going online for the entire 2020-2021 school year – at the same sticker price of on-campus learning at about $50K in tuition.

 

  • The Crimson powers-that-be in making this decision are deaf, dumb and blind.  This reeks of elitism.  Which is their right, but it also contributes mightily to the issue of soaring education costs in this country.

 

  • Which is also fair game.  They have a right to make their bank.  What happens when Harvard is forced to kick-out its foreign students, many who pay full-freight and who are being told they cannot stay, online or otherwise?

 

  • And talk about dense – yes, a Harvard degree means something on the marketplace.  But college students today demand way more than just the piece of paper that says they’ve graduated for the price they pay. They crave the experience, the growth, the relationships – if not the dining halls. 

 

  • In other words, they crave the whole campus, not just the laptop.

 

  • To think anything less is tuning out and turning a deaf ear to the very reason you exist in the first place – the students – and the height of brainlessness.  Ironic for an institution of ‘higher learning,’ don’t you think – especially in light of their stated ‘efforts’ to protect their student athletes from the pandemic? 

 

  • Just sayin’.  Stupid is as stupid does.

 

  • Tweet of the Week II, from @BigDSports19: “So Harvard is saying that the entire value of their education is their Brand and their Professors; not the real estate, community, experience. So Professors should be asking for significant raises now?”

 

  • How about some good news?  Stadium completed its rankings of the top assistant hoop coaches in the Big East, and selected Providence’s Jeff Battle as Number One.

 

  • Can’t disagree with that choice, at all.  Smooth, savvy, smaht.  Coach Battle has game, and the players love him.  And I love his love for the Crabby Fries at Chickie & Pete’s in Philly.

 

  • Two recent PC hoop grads have signed on to continue their careers professionally – Maliek White is headed for Georgia (not the state, the country) and Kalif Young will play in Canada.

 

  • Former Friar coach and Bryant AD, and current NCAA VP of Basketball Dan Gavitt told Sports Illustrated this week there was some thought to starting the college hoop season earlier – in October – if only because there are likely to be postponements and cancellations due to the pandemic down the line.

 

  • It makes sense.  Front load the schedule.  Take time away and/or restrict travel during the holiday time period when many college students will be off campus.  And before expected vaccines can begin to circulate.

 

  • The idea has cooled late this week.  Could conferences adjust their plans to accommodate?  Best guess – the football ‘issue’ will be dealt with first.  There’s still time for hoops.

 

  • Rick Pitino’s idea of college basketball playing just conference games beginning in January only cuts at the heart of the program he now coaches at Iona. 

 

  • Mid-to-low major teams rely on one or two BUY games per season (or more) within their non-conference schedules, to help foot the bill for their own program needs – and to assist other sports on their campuses.

 

  • Just like they do in football.

 

  • As we mentioned last week, pre-conference tournaments (like in Maui and others) also raise money for local charity and help bolster smaller-school athletics around the country.

 

  • Pitino said that, obviously, as someone who has resided on Mount Olympus within the college game for quite some time.  Welcome back to the bourgeoisie of the rest of the world, Coach.

 

  • Oh, ICYMI – athletic workouts have been suspended at Ohio State and North Carolina.  Dartmouth (Ivy League, hello!) dropped five sports.  Vanderbilt cut its athletic communications staff. 

 

  • Just wait, with where we’re presently headed, there will be more.

 

  • The ACC, and Boston College, won’t be starting any athletic event until at least September 1st.  The Northeast Conference, home for Bryant athletics, won’t begin until September 10th.

 

  • NFL Network reported this week owners want to escrow 35% of player salaries this year, to make up for lost revenue.

 

  • To which the NFLPA replied, go “kick rocks.”  Yeah, good faith start there.

 

  • The NFLPA also wants to eliminate the entire preseason, with the league holding out for two games.  Players want daily virus testing, the league says 3x per week works. 

 

  • We’ve got a long way to go before we ever get to a season.

 

  • 2020 certainly won’t ever qualify as a ‘bad’ year in Patrick Mahomes’ memory book.  A 10-year contract extension with Kansas City is the richest deal for an athlete, ever, in any sport.  Could be worth north of $500 million, if he hits all of his incentives.

 

  • What did he give up, besides possible free-agency?  Hey, good for him.  But perhaps not-so-good for the Chiefs.  Can they sustain the talent around him over that time? 

 

  • It seems the Patriots laid out the blueprint for others to follow, much to TB12’s displeasure – and that ain’t the way to build a lasting dynasty.  Big bucks to the QB = little bucks to the rest. 

 

  • Time will tell, but the Pats have been in this spot – they may even still be there – and already done that.

 

  • The Chiefs, clearly, have not.  But hey, you do you.

 

  • I’ll still take the field – which includes New England – over the Chiefs for the next 10 years.

 

  • Taking this mega-deal into context, anyone still have a problem with the Patriots picking up Cam Newton for a comparative pittance? 

 

  • I don’t know about you, but I’m kinda liking Newton’s “I’m tired of being humble’ feistiness.  Let’s just hope there’s a season in which he can show it on the field.

 

  • Zen question: If athletes are opting out, why are we still considering playing these seasons?

 

  • For our amusement?  Our entertainment?  Russell Crowe in “The Gladiator” comes to mind.  Or maybe Joe Pesci in “Goodfellas.”

 

  • Pros are more willing to shut down their seasons because they earn paychecks, of course, and some of them are quite large. 

 

  • But there has been such a deep sense of loss for so many others in the sports world during the pandemic – some pros, but collegians, amateurs and fans, too – our sense of commitment to keeping normalcy (whatever that is) continues to drive us forward.

 

  • Unless you’re Harvard, or the Ivy League.

 

  • Isolation and inactivity, or sports?  Is that the choice?  And at what cost?

 

  • If we are able to get back to some sense of ‘normalcy,’ before a vaccine becomes available…think of sports and sporting events like a fan attending a baseball game, where foul balls are hit, and baseball bats also sometimes fly into the stands. 

 

  • There will always be some assumed risk involved in attending the game.  The sport, the stadium, the team will not be held liable for anything that might happen. 

 

  • But you will be. #maskup

 

  • The Red Sox have had a relatively eventless training camp thus far.  But then the Sox joined the rest of baseball’s sick bay upon learning the news Eduardo Rodriguez has Covid-19.  Bobby Dalbec, too, joins Darwinzon Hernandez and Josh Taylor on the infected list. 

 

  • It will be a painful, as expected, road back to the playing field.  Can E-Rod return in time for Opening Day?  And should anyone really be asking that question?

 

  • Other teams haven’t been as lucky as Boston.  Which should tell us all that getting through this 60-game season, all the way to the end, might qualify as the upset of the year.  Or of any year.

 

  • The Brockton Rox of the Futures League opened up this week at Campanelli Stadium with fans in the stands.  Not many, but they were there.  Scouts, too.  The push to return to some sense of normalcy is admirable.

 

  • The Newport Collegiate Baseball League at Cardines Field, born from the ashes of the cancelled NECBL and Newport Gulls’ season, is full of local players and coaches. 

 

  • FC Dallas and Nashville SC dropped out of this week’s “MLS is Back” tournament, with players and coaches testing positive for Covid-19.  So that begs a couple of questions.

 

  • Is the MLS really ’back’ if not everyone can play?  And, what in the world were those players and coaches doing (or not doing) to get to this point?

 

  • But the event for fans at Gillette Stadium, pulling their cars onto the field to watch the Revs’ first game Thursday night in Orlando on the big screen like a drive-in movie…looked like fun.

 

  • Tweet of the Week III, from @markjburns88: “End-to-end emotional swing for the Hunt family today, who own both FC Dallas and the Kansas City Chiefs. FC Dallas is out of the MLS is Back tournament, Chiefs sign Patrick Mahomes to richest deal in sports history.”

 

  • TB12’s sports performance company applied for, and received, a PPP loan from the government to keep his Foxboro and Boston operations afloat.  You might think that’s a bad look for a rich athlete.

 

  • But really, why should TB12’s business be treated any differently than any other, just because he’s personally ‘rich’ compared to most people? 

 

  • More than 500 sports teams, businesses and organizations were awarded Paycheck Protection Program loans, but no teams from the NFL, MLB, NBA or NHL were on the list, after the LA Lakers gave back their loan.  Two college conferences (Big Sky, CUSA) received loans, as did several USA national governing bodies.

 

  • Many minor league baseball teams, now with no season to play, also applied for and received loans, including the Pawtucket Red Sox, Lowell Spinners and Portland Sea Dogs.  All five of the Sox minor league teams received federal assistance.

 

  • Stop the presses: I think I’m in agreement with Dale Arnold – the NHL may have the best shot at pulling off a restart-to-the-finish line over our other major sports, including the NFL.

 

  • Slow and steady is getting it done for the NHL, hoping to launch games August 1st.  Jumping right into the postseason helps, even if it doesn’t really help the Bruins.  A month or so ago, hockey was out of sight and out of mind, as well as out of season.

 

  • And the fact there is now labor peace between the league and the NHLPA is icing on the cake – not on the rink.  Bonus:  Edmonton and Toronto as hubs in Canada, not the U.S. – where the virus continues to run rampant in many (other) parts of the country.

 

  • Bryson DeChambeau can hit the ball a country mile.  I’ve watched him swing, with awe, since the PGA Tour re-started, and he hits the ball with such velocity – and accuracy – that it’s almost unfair to everyone else who swings a golf club.

 

  • Maybe it’s the 40-or-so pounds he’s gained through his training program.  The one-time Northeast Amateur participant, NCAA champ and US Amateur champ and now six-time PGA tour winner has not only bulked up but showed some muscle-headed reaction by getting upset with a cameraman after he botched a shot last week.

 

  • Perhaps someone should provide a history lesson.  Who remembers John Daly’s game?

 

  • Bryson, you won the tournament.  No, the media should not just show your good side.  The Tour should “protect” the players, as you suggested?  How about simply owning up to your actions? 

 

  • My buddy “Big E” sez he went grocery shopping – with a mask – the other day, and Mrs. E asked him to buy organic vegetables.  So he asked the produce guy, “These vegetables are for my wife. Have they been sprayed with any poisonous chemicals?”

 

  • The produce guy answered him with a straight face – “No, you’ll have to do that yourself.”

 

  • Mike Golic has had a 22-year run on ESPN and ESPN Radio – which is ending next month.  His contract with the network expires at the end of the calendar year.  He’s been great to watch, listen to and work with…he’s as nice as he appears to be…and he’ll land on his feet.  Quickly, I would imagine.

 

  • Never been much of a country music fan, which probably belies my Texas heritage.  But I always thought Charlie Daniels pretty much rocked.  And he did, with his music as part rock ‘n roll, part country and always entertaining.  His fiddle playing almost made me want to take up the violin.

 

  • Daniels passed away this week following a stroke at age 83.  The devil may have gone down to Georgia, but by most accounts Daniels surely traveled in the opposite direction.

 

  • The airline industry continues to fill middle seats – and United this week sends out layoff “warnings” to 36,000 employees.  Doesn’t seem like they really care much, do they?

 

  • The bubonic plague has been found in China.  What’s next – leprosy?

 

  • Someone, or something, is seriously yanking our (human) chain here.  Please stop now.

 

  • Before EEE gets into our run-of-the-mill mosquito bites this summer.

 

  • Tweet of the Week IV (and maybe of the year), from @JoeGiza: “2020. The year no one could find toilet paper but everyone had fireworks.”

 

  • 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 ...

 

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