Reaching Back…

Back on 7 August, I wrote about the risk to the integrity of sporting events in 2020 caused by the possibility of false-positive tests for the coronavirus which would lead to the unexpected inability of a star player to participate in a game where bets had been placed prior to the announcement of that player’s absence.  Please, scroll back to that date to see the scenario I proposed then.  I mention that here not to repeat myself but because over the last several days the NFL has had a rash of false-positive coronavirus tests.  Since the start of organized NFL activities, the Bears, Steelers, Lions and Chargers have experienced false positive test results

Let me be clear here; false-positive tests results are not nearly as bad as false negative test results; I presume that it would not take long for anyone to come to that conclusion.  Nonetheless, the NFL had better get the false-positive problem under control very quickly.  I realize that the first thing the league must do is to assure the players and the public that they are working the problem.  Here is part of the statement from the NFL from last weekend:

“Saturday’s daily COVID testing returned several positives (sic) tests from each of the clubs serviced by the same laboratory in New Jersey.  We are working with our testing partner, BioReference, to investigate these results, while the clubs work to confirm or rule out the positive tests. Clubs are taking immediate precautionary measures as outlined in the NFL-NFLPA’s health and safety protocols to include contact tracing, isolation of individuals and temporarily adjusting the schedule, where appropriate. The other laboratories used for NFL testing have not had similar results.”

That sort of statement was mandatory as the league learned of the problem.  However, statements and “working with our testing partner” are not enough.  This must be cleaned up such that every “positive” test is double, and triple checked before it is acted upon because this could turn into an issue that assaults the integrity of the games.

The NFL takes in its normal $15B a year because it is a television spectacle watched by more viewers than any other television production.  Networks and sponsors pay top-shelf prices for ad slots in front of all those eyeballs.  And here is the linkage to false-positive coronavirus tests:

  • More than a few of those TV viewers are watching any given game on any given Sunday because that viewer “has a little something riding on the game”.
  • Football gambling is directly linked to TV ratings; anything that could cause some folks to doubt that everything was kosher about the game they have wagered on will have a ripple effect on TV ratings – – and thereby on NFL revenue.

Last week – on 20 August to be exact – I wrote about the situation at UNC wherein the school reverted to online classes, but the football team remained on campus to continue to practice for its upcoming ACC season.  I said then that this was the tail wagging the dog and that it was particularly untoward for this to happen at UNC given the previous academic scandals there related to athletes and their “progress toward degrees”.  The student newspaper at UNC is The Daily Tar Heel; the editorial staff of that paper is clearly not pleased with the status quo at the school.  They announced that henceforth the paper will not use the term “student-athlete” anymore; the paper’s position is that the term is nothing more than a way for the school – – and for the NCAA as an overseer of collegiate athletics – – to foist an “agenda that these athletes are not employees.”  At the very least, the term “student-athlete” is redundant because the NCAA has a rule book on eligibility for college sports that mandates that every athlete be a student at the time of participation.

While I may disagree with the blanket statement that students who compete in intercollegiate sports are all employees of the school, I am in complete agreement with the editors here on the use of the term “student-athlete”.  It is disingenuous at the very least and should be insulting to anyone who attends a school and receives a degree from that school having not been involved with athletics.  Far too many people previously identified as “student-athletes” demonstrate publicly that they have never been – nor could they ever be – serious and full-time college students.

[Aside:  I presume that the editors would also not like my intentionally derisive label for some players as “scholar-athletes”…]

By the way, UNC is not the only college where the return of students to the campus has produced a rise in the number of COVID-19 cases.  This situation also obtains at Notre Dame and Dwight Perry had this observation regarding it in the Seattle Times last weekend:

“Notre Dame shut down football practice for a couple days and suspended in-person classes for at least two weeks after 154 new COVID-19 cases on campus in just two days.

“Updated Irish football motto: Wake up the echoes, guys, not the virus!”

Since I have spent time today looking back at recent content in various rants, let me continue that vector heading.  On 19 August, I wrote about the transgender cross-country runner who is challenging an Idaho law that would prohibit her from competing at Boise State.  Later, I received an email from a friend of 50+ years who was a college athlete (lacrosse) when he was an undergraduate.  Here is the pertinent text:

“For the schools planning on playing football this fall, I will be wondering how much attention the participants of the minor sports receive. Surely, it is as important for the cross-country runners (transsexual or otherwise) to be tested frequently to prevent Covid spread as it is for football players. Same for monitoring their off-field activities!”

Great point there.  I have not heard any mention by schools preparing to play football this Fall of the oversight they are giving to members of other athletic teams on campus.  It should not matter if they are competing or not; after all, it is the concern for the health and welfare of those team members that drives all the decision making in athletic departments.  Right?

Finally, here is another observation last weekend from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“Entering Friday’s play, the Astros were 6-1 against the Mariners — and 9-9 against everyone else.

“So would it be asking too much for Houston players to vote Seattle a playoff share?”

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



2 thoughts on “Reaching Back…”

  1. Yep, the UNC situation is indeed galling. As an old Alum…really old, over 50 years…the too recent academic stuff was an outrage and as a retired university academic/administrator it proved even more so with all the “splainin” away etc. etc. As for the NCAA…guess they just could not do without UNC BBall so they took a pass. Like you, and so many others, I bemoan the current situation and the lack of consistency that has emerged RE college sports. NCState has also had some recent COVID stuff that has interfered with their football as has East Carolina University.

    Not only did the Daily Tar Heel take a stand RE use of descriptive language…their headline from last week was also classic: RE the Clusterf***k unfolding.

    But don’t get ME wrong, I too love sports…..

    1. Gary L. in El Paso:

      It seems to me that some of the pro sports leagues have the financial assets they can throw at the COVID-19 problem and provide extensive testing and isolation. I just don’t see how that is going to work on a campus with thousands of college age students.

      There used to be “athletic dorms” where teams were isolated – – and overly pampered. The NCAA mandated that those “athletic dorms” cease to exist. They might be useful in 2020. Whatever…

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