Olympics And Baseball Today…

I don’t know what the status of the Sports Section in your local paper is today, but I can tell you that the lack of activity in the sports world has shrunk the Washington Post Sports Section down to 3 pages and it is now appended to the Style Section.  The only good news to come out of such a situation is that there is more room for the Post’s talented writers to fill and many of the columns go deeper into subjects than they typically were able to do.

With that as a prelude, let me point you to a column by Sally Jenkins that appeared in the Washington Post earlier this week.  The overall thread of the column is that the USOC sought to get money from the Congress as part of the recently passed relief legislation and Jenkins argues that what the Congress should have done was to dissolve the USOC as an entity that gets any Federal support.  This column should be read in its entirety.

Speaking obliquely of the Olympics, there are reports that the “sport” of breakdancing is close to attaining Olympic status.  There will be a meeting in December 2020 where a vote will be taken regarding the inclusion of breakdancing in the Paris 2024 Games.  Breakdancing was labeled a “provisional sport” by a unanimous vote by an Olympic committee a couple of years ago.

The US seems to be in the mainstream of whatever efforts there are to gain acceptance for breakdancing.  An organization called USA Breaking seems to be setting itself up to be the country’s governing body for breakdancing as a support to the point where USA Breaking has developed a rulebook for the sport which sets out that scoring system that would be used in events sanctioned by USA Breaking.  The current idea is to have the competitors scored by 3 judges and then to average out the 3 scores given.

As you might imagine, breakdancing as a sport will hold exactly none of my interest even though the participants will be accomplishing athletic feats.  Dwight Perry offered this analysis of breakdancing as a sport in the Seattle Times a while back:

“There’s talk that breakdancing might be a medal sport at the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris.

“Just think if it as Mary Lou Retton at hyperspeed on pavement.”

Regarding MLB, there is still plenty of uncertainty regarding the 2020 season – if there is to be one.  We don’t know when it will start, how many games will constitute a regular season, if there will be fans in the stands for all the games, what the playoffs might be like and etc.  However, we know a few things.  ESPN reported that the players and the owners have agreed on some general principles for starting the baseball season; according to those reports, the season should not begin until:

  • Any existing travel restrictions are lifted.
  • Medical folks assess that the risk to players and fans is minimal.
  • Restrictions on mass gatherings are lifted.

The first two of those general principles will probably hold; the third one may need to be modified because the ban on mass gatherings may continue to exist after the first tow conditions have been met.  If that were to be the case, MLB would likely choose to play in an empty stadium rather than sit back and wait for the mass gathering restriction to go away.

A couple of other “baseball happenings” deserve some comment here simply because they run counter to a lot of what is considered “normal behavior”.  MLB owners are often portrayed as ultra-rich people who exploit players and fans simply to make their fat wallets even fatter.  When it comes time for contract negotiations and/or CBA negotiations, the players are often portrayed in similar ways because they make so much more money that typical employees do in other industries.  Well, today, there are three items that run counter to those portrayals:

  1. The MLB owners will extend $400/week as stipends and will continue to offer full medical benefits to their minor league players through 31 May.  Minor league players are not represented by a union; the MLB owners are not obligated to do this; $400/week represents about what a minor league player would earn in a normal season so this is close to “full salary” while not working.
  2. Additionally, MLB has shelved – at least for now – the idea of getting rid of about 40 minor league teams that are affiliated with MLB clubs.  What that does is to preserve about a thousand of these admittedly low-paying minor league jobs for the time being.  MLB owners are in a time of lower revenue and they have stopped pushing for a way to reduce their costs at the same time.
  3. Texas Rangers’ outfielder Shin-Soo Choo will give every minor league player in the Rangers’ farm system $1000.  According to a report I read, the Rangers have 190 minor league players under contract so you can do the math here pretty easily.

One piece of “certainty” exists for the 2020 MLB schedule.  There were to be 6 regular season games played outside the US – two in Mexico City, two in Puerto Rico and two in London.  All six of those game have been cancelled; if any of them are eventually played, they will not take place in the originally scheduled venues.

Finally, let me close today with another item from Dwight Perry’s column, Sideline Chatter in the Seattle Times:

“Las Vegas’ Cosmopolitan casino is suing San Jose Sharks forward Evander Kane, claiming he failed to pay back $500,000 in gambling markers from April.

“Possible penalties range from a huge fine and restitution to two minutes for charging.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



No April Fool Pranks Here

If you came here expecting to find an April Fool prank, let me apologize in advance.

The NFL owners have officially ratified the 14-team playoff format for 2020.  The 2 “extra games” for the wildcard round this year will be televised by NBC and CBS and the format will be a TV triple-header on both Saturday and Sunday.  When the original idea was floated, I wondered if the NFL would consider putting one of the wildcard games in a Monday night slot simply to extend by a day the intense focus on the league and its playoffs.  So, that settles that … or does it?

The NFL used the opportunity of announcing this playoff change to make a few other announcements:

  • The NFL expects to play a full season in 2020 starting the week after Labor Day.
  • The NFL Draft will go as scheduled on April 23-25.  The coronavirus has changed the event from a Las Vegas extravaganza expected to draw hundreds of thousands of fans to the live event to a TV only event.  All the details for that telecast have not been finalized yet, but that’s what’s gonna happen.
  • The NFL “has begun planning” to establish rules that would “allow teams to conduct virtual offseason programs”.  No; I have no idea what that is all about.
  • The NFL is trying to develop contingency plans in case some games need to be played at a venue other than the originally scheduled venue.
  • The London Games are still the NFL’s “Plan A” and the schedule will be released on May 9th specifying those dates and the teams involved.

I hope every one of these announcements comes to pass without even a minor speed bump along the way.  However, I would like to offer a minor cautionary note as provided by Dr. Anthony Fauci when he has been asked to project the future course of the coronavirus pandemic:

“We don’t set the timetable; the virus sets the timetable.”

Earlier this week, I said that the game of football as we know it would be an effective vector to spread the highly contagious coronavirus.  The plans announced by the NFL yesterday seem to me to sit on a fundamental belief that something will be done to mitigate either the spreading of the virus and/or something will be available to treat effectively those who contract the virus and that either or both of those things will happen in the next 3 months.  For the record, I certainly hope they are correct.

Now, even if all of this comes to pass – paging the NFL’s fairy godmother – there are likely to be dislocations in the NFL games for this season besides potential schedule uncertainties and empty stadiums.  The fact is that the NFL has directed all teams to “postpone” all their offseason program activities.  Every team has already missed weeks of strength and conditioning activities and weeks of film study and playbook familiarity.  The mantra of coaches for decades has been that performance in the regular season flows directly from the focus of coaches and players on the offseason activities.  If that is true, then the 2020 season should be a bit haphazard.

Teams with new coaching staffs that are “trying to install a new system” should be at a disadvantage this year.  Quarterbacks taken at the top of the Draft in a few weeks will be expected to play well for the teams that draft them pretty quickly; without film study and OTAs leading up to Training Camp their learning cycle will have to be accelerated indeed.  [Aside:  Training camps should be opening in about 15 weeks.]  Offensive lines that have changed personnel should also be at a disadvantage since effective offensive line play needs choreography and cohesion; those conditions exist when the people playing those positions get to work together.

I hope the announcements made by the NFL yesterday are perfectly accurate.  My guess is that there will need to be some contingency plans inserted into the season along the way and I hope they are all minor tweaks…

I received an email from a reader yesterday that had an idea that I had not contemplated.  It requires a rather dystopian view for the sporting landscape for the rest of 2020, but this is only a gedanken experiment so no harm will come.  Here is the proposition:

  • Suppose the coronavirus forces the cancellation of the entire college football season in 2020.  [Take a deep breath here; exhale.  This is only a “what if” …]
  • How would that affect the NFL Draft in 2021?

The league GMs wanted this year’s Draft pushed back from the dates in late April because they did not get to interview players sufficiently nor did they have time to schedule private workouts.  But they did have a full season of tape to watch to see how players perform on the field.  Now imagine if they had to make decisions without having that game film…  Perhaps there would be weeping and gnashing of teeth?

Finally, let me close today with a Tweet from Brad Rock now retired from the Deseret News:

“This work from home mandate has really cut into my side gig as a porch pirate.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………