Paul Hornung died last weekend. The “Lombardi Packers” of the 1960s have now lost 4 key players in 2020 from those championship teams: Hornung, Herb Adderley, Willie Davis and Willie Wood. Hornung was a Heisman Trophy winner, and NFL MVP winner and a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. In addition to his running and throwing skills, he was also a placekicker and with all those talents he set a record for points scored in a season at 176. That record no longer stands because the NFL season has been expanded; Hornung scored those points in a 12-game season (14.7 points per game). On a less positive note, Hornung was suspended for a year by the NFL for involvement in gambling.
Rest in peace, Paul Hornung.
Late last week, the Ivy League announced that it has canceled its winter sports seasons. As was the case back in March when the Ivy League was the first conference to cancel its spring sports, the basis for the announcement last week is a spike in the number of coronavirus infections. The announcement says that this decision was made by the Ivy League Council of Presidents and it declares that “intercollegiate competition for spring sports is postponed through at least the end of February 2021.”
As much as I would wish that we could have some sort of cobbled together college basketball season, I think the Presidents in the Ivy League schools have made a rational decision here. Neither colleges, conferences or even the NCAA can afford to create and maintain “bubble environments” for teams even if any of those entities were willing to admit that academics must come second for the student-athletes in those bubbles. And because “bubbles” are impractical for colleges, there is no argument to be made that they can or should follow the NBA approach which produced lots of games and few if any coronavirus infections.
We should all acknowledge that there are some “student-athletes” at some schools playing certain sports who are not really students at all; however, many of the players on most of the teams actually try to take advantage of the educational opportunity afforded to them by their scholarship status. Those actual “student-athletes” need to go to class and need to interact with others in the campus community – like professors. And those “other folks” involved in the interactions are not bubbled and are part of the vector by which the coronavirus spreads.
The NCAA has decreed that the college basketball season will commence on 25 November; that is nine days from now. Given the public health data and the trends extant today where there are almost 100,000 new cases of coronavirus infection tabulated each day, it would seem to be only a matter of time until college basketball games run into the same fate that college football games have encountered. The college football season is a mess; it is only a matter of time until the college basketball season faces the same reality.
Moreover, there is another thing that is very wrong with the NCAA’s messaging with regard to COVID-19:
- Public health officials have warned for months about the need for social distancing and mask wearing as actions that can slow the spread of the virus.
- Public health officials have determined that close contact involving cheering, singing and heavy breathing encourages the spread of the virus.
- NCAA football games violate virtually every one of those public health warnings and when you add “field-storming events”, tail gating and post-game celebrations/commiserations you realize that the NCAA is enabling super-spreader events every week.
Moving on … I have pointed out in the past that you cannot spell “corruption” without an “I” and an ”O” and a “C”. A Reuters report this morning makes me shake my head as I recall that statement. According to the report the IOC maven, Thomas Bach, declared that “no IOC rules were broken” by payments of about $8M from the Tokyo Olympic bid committee to an executive of the Tokyo organizing committee. The person involved as the recipient of the $8M, Haruyuki Takahashi, said that his work for which he received that $8M included lobbying IOC members and that lobbying involved his giving gifts to specific IOC members to include digital cameras and a Seiko watch.
Try not to think that you will be able to understand all of the financing involved here and the various ways that money moved about through various international financial houses; you would need to be the financial version of Sherlock Holmes to get to the bottom of it all. However, when someone “lobbies” a decision maker by giving him/her “presents”, it conjures up a circumstance that some might call “bribery”. Digital cameras and Seiko watches may not sound like big ticket items – but that fact alone raises an interesting question:
- What else did that $8M “buy”? If it bought only Seiko watches, there must be a storage unit somewhere chock full of those puppies…
But do not worry. The IOC guys in charge have declared that there is nothing to see here and we should all just move along. After all “bribery” probably does not in fact result in any IOC rules being broken…
By the way, the IOC president also said over the weekend that he is confident that the Tokyo Games will be held safely and with fans in attendance. He said that the IOC would strive to assure that all fans will have been vaccinated against the coronavirus before arriving in Tokyo. [Aside: He did not say how the IOC was going to assure that a vaccine existed and was approved in time for people to be vaccinated prior to arriving in Tokyo; that is obviously, still TBD.] If you are thinking of attending some of the events in Tokyo next summer that sort of statement might make you feel confident that the folks in charge there have a concern for public safety. Juxtapose that with a few other statements and you might still have some doubts. According to BBC reporting:
- When Mr. Bach was asked if he had gone to Tokyo to discuss contingencies for canceling the Games, his answer was a firm, “No.”
- Japan’s Olympic minister Seiko Hashimoto similarly said that the Tokyo Games must be held “at any cost” in 2021.
Finally, Dwight Perry explained in the Seattle Times why MLB did not punish Justin Turner when he ”stormed the field” to celebrate the Dodgers’ World Series victory:
“MLB announced it won’t discipline Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner for returning to the field to celebrate his team’s World Series championship after testing positive midgame for COVID-19.
“Hey, it was either that or suspend him for 10 spring-training games.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………