2020 has been anything but a “normal time” in history. Considering the existence of the COVID-19 pandemic, the global economic disruption caused by that pandemic and the social upheaval ongoing here in the US, it is hardly difficult to understand how and why 2020 is an “oddball year”. Normally at the end of June, this would be the way things were always meant to be in the sports world:
- We would speak of the Triple Crown in the past tense.
- In baseball, the focus now would be on who got snubbed for the All-Star Game.
- We would now know the NBA and NHL champions for 2019/2020.
- March Madness would be a fond memory.
- NFL teams would be getting training camps ready to open.
- Wimbledon would be underway.
- The Masters and The US Open would be history.
Exactly none of that is part of the sports commentary in the US. We do know about how MLB and the MLBPA have found creative ways to piss off baseball fans. We know that the NBA has a plan to play its games in the “Orlando Bubble”. We know that MLB has a plan to return to action – – but there are as many question marks involved there as there were back in mid-March before the league and the players got into their little spitting match. The NFL steadfastly holds that it will start its season on time and play it out until the Super Bowl in 2021. Meanwhile whatever life force oversees COVID-19 on Planet Earth seems to be saying:
- “We’ll get back to you on all that…”
I am on record with the following positions:
- I doubt that the NBA can maintain the “Bubble isolation” factor for every team and every player and every “essential worker” that needs to enter and exit the “Orlando Bubble” over the next 3 months. I would like to be wrong in that skepticism, but I will need to be shown that I am wrong.
- I am more doubtful that MLB can keep players and teams healthy under its health and safety protocols. We already know that any sort of “record” set in 2020 will have an asterisk on it the size of a planet; so, how many MLB players on a single team need to be sidelined by COVID-19 to take it out of the running – – meaning that the expanded playoffs may have been diluted even further?
- I cannot imagine a scenario wherein the NFL starts on time and plays a full 16-game schedule plus expanded playoffs plus a Super Bowl without major disruptions.
So, how can we take even a bit of solace from all this even if it is only for a brief interlude? Maybe the best way if to look back on an absurdity that was put forth since mid-March and to amuse ourselves with it.
Early on when MLB entertained the idea of starting up on June 1st, there was a debate about how many games would fit into its idea of a truncated season. Scott Boras put out a “plan” for a full season that would extend into December where all late season games and playoffs and World Series Games would happen in neutral warm weather cities. That is goofy enough, but he also had the World Series extending just beyond Christmas Day 2020. My immediate reaction there was to ignore it as being way beyond idealistic and I put it into the bin of dusty memories. And then I had a long “just catching up/checking in” phone conversation with a long-time reader of these rants…
He said that I had missed the point and that he was wondering if I was beginning “to lose my grip on delicious irony.” Here is why:
- If the World Series extended to Christmas, it would also be in play on 23 December and that is the celebration of Festivus. As my good friend said, can you imagine a scenario on MLB where you had the “airing of grievances” – – many of which might be directed at Scott Boras himself – – just two days before Christmas? Have the events of the last 3 months shown us that there are latent hostilities on both sides of the MLB squabble to make Festivus 2020 into an event only a tad more civilized than the Gunfight at the OK Corral?
- My friend is correct; even Jerry Seinfeld and Jerry Stiller could not write a scene that might eclipse that one for “crash-and-burn potential”…
Meanwhile, Bob Molinaro had this observation in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot recently:
“Only kidding: At a time when some big earners are taking financial haircuts, ESPN notes that the highest-paid public employee in 40 states is a football or men’s basketball coach. Clearly then, the priorities of the other 10 states need adjustment.”
While that stat alone indicates that there is indeed a wrinkle in the space-time continuum in many states, I wonder how much more pernicious this could be. Are there states where the Top 5 public employees in a given state are all football coaches and/or men’s basketball coaches? Without doing any research here, I would not be even mildly surprised to learn that Dan Mullen, Mike White, Leonard Hamilton and Mike Norvell all make more in salary that does the governor of Florida. So, might there be another coach in that state to fill out the “Top 5 Criterion”?
Finally, here is Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times filling us in on happenings in the life of Bob Uecker – the broadcast voice of the Milwaukee Brewers:
“’I’m doing what everybody else is doing, and that’s stay locked down, shut down and wear a mask if I do need one,’ the ex-catcher, 86, told MLB.com. ‘I went in the store a couple of weeks ago with a catcher’s mask, and they told me it was the wrong one. It helps when you get punched in the face, but that’s about it.’
“Punched in the face?
“’Yeah,’ Uecker said. ‘A lot of people are still living that saw me play.’”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………