Certainly, the biggest news of the morning is that the Big-10 will play football in 2020 commencing an 8-game season on October 24th. Those eight games will take place in 8 consecutive weeks so there is no “postponing” possible; according to reports, there will be a Big-10 Conference Championship Game on December 19th. At the announcement of these new plans, the Big-10 mavens said that there will be daily and rapid testing – and presumably tracing – for all athletes and coaches starting on September 30th. More importantly, the Big-10 health and safety plan addresses the potential danger of myocarditis as a dangerous after-effect of a COVID-19 infection:
“Each institution will designate a Chief Infection Officer (CInO) who will oversee the collection and reporting of data for the Big Ten Conference. Team test positivity rate and population positivity rate thresholds will be used to determine recommendations for continuing practice and competition. All COVID-19 positive student-athletes will have to undergo comprehensive cardiac testing to include labs and biomarkers, ECG, Echocardiogram and a Cardiac MRI. Following cardiac evaluation, student-athletes must receive clearance from a cardiologist designated by the university for the primary purpose of cardiac clearance for COVID-19 positive student-athletes. The earliest a student-athlete can return to game competition is 21 days following a COVID-19 positive diagnosis.”
I think this is an enlightened approach to resuming college football. Yes, the underlying reason for considering playing football in these pandemic conditions is a cash-grab on the part of the schools and the conference itself. I am not trying to make these folks out to be dispassionate observers of the scene who have emulated Mr. Spock’s cool logic to arrive at this decision. Nonetheless, the Big-10 has not put its head in the sand and decided to carry on with its cash-grab and to let the chips fall where they may for the players and coaches who are making the cash-grab possible.
- The recognition of the potential for lingering myocarditis is an important plus for the Big-10 regimen.
- The 21-day removal of a player who tests positive from game appearances is a plus for the Big-10 regimen.
- The designation of a Chief Infection Officer at each school – – there just has to be a better title for those newly designated folks – – should not hurt anything but until I know what authority the CInO might have with team positivity and student population positivity data in hand, I will look upon this as window dressing.
[Aside: Call me a cynic, but when I read that the Big-10 Championship Game was scheduled for December 19th, I went and checked to see when the teams for the CFP would be selected. You guessed it right; the CFP filed will be announced on December 20th. What a coincidence…!]
The business of testing players and testing the student body at large and then comparing/contrasting those results is a losing proposition from a PR standpoint. Consider:
- If the positivity rate for the football team is significantly lower than the positivity rate for the student body at large, you may be certain that some professor in the sociology department will assert that this results from special advantages given to the football team and not available to the rest of the “university family”. Moreover, the NCAA has struggled for years to try to assure that “student-athletes” do not receive any special treatment based on their status as “athletes”.
- If the positivity rate for the football team is significantly higher than the positivity rate for the student body at large, you may be certain that some professor in the sociology department – – possibly the same person characterized above but with a different axe to grind under these circumstances – – will assert that this results from the exploitation of these unpaid, under-appreciated and greedily exploited children.
[Aside: This second hypothetical professor will conveniently ignore that these “exploited children” have been petitioning to be allowed to play football ever since the Big-10 chose not to start the season at the normal time.]
One more potentially annoying outcome from this decision could come to pass. It is a rare thing indeed when “sports” intersects with “politics and politicians” where the outcome is positive. This decision by the Big-10 Conference is likely to draw attention and support or condemnation from the President, sitting Governors, members of Congress, State Legislators and local pols who may be running for exalted high offices such as County Prothonotary. The chances that all that will end well are minuscule…
Yesterday, I tried to explain why the 10.3% decline in TV ratings for the NFL’s opening night game was not cataclysmic. After I posted yesterday’s rant, I ran across some TV ratings data for the US Open Tennis Championships over the weekend. The data is not flattering:
- For the entire tournament, ESPN’s ratings were down 45%.
- For the men’s final, ratings were down 48%.
- For the women’s final, ratings were down 43%.
There are plenty of explanations for ratings decline here but those percentages are too large to brush off. Consider:
- The top men’s player in the world, Novak Djokovic, “was defaulted”.
- Neither Rafael Nadal nor Roger Federer was in the field from the start.
- Serena Williams – the biggest TV draw – was eliminated in the quarterfinals.
- The men’s winner this year was Dominic Thiem. I could not pick him out of a lineup with the Marvel Avengers.
- The women’s winner was Naomi Osaka who has been ranked #1 in the world for a while making her recognizable – – but who is not as compelling a TV draw as Serena Williams.
Finally, Dwight Perry had an observation regarding the US Open Tennis Championship in the Seattle Times:
“Top-ranked Novak Djokovic got defaulted from the U.S. Open after a ball he struck in anger hit a line judge.
“On the plus side, he was immediately credited with a one-hit shutout.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………