Today, the college basketball season begins. There are 357 schools in Division 1 college basketball; even in a shortened season and even with games having to be cancelled, there will be a large number of college basketball games before the NCAA Tournament begins whenever and wherever it begins in what form. We are not out of the woods here with regard to the pandemic, but the pharmaceutical industry – you know, those guys who are only out to make obscene profits at your expense – seem to be closing in on a way to make COVID-19 into a minor concern. The season will have its fits and starts; teams will experience outbreaks and then more normal circumstances. From my perch here in Curmudgeon Central, these are my three hopes for the season that begins today:
- All COVID-19 cases that befall players, coaches, officials and team staff are mild cases and leave no long-term deleterious effects.
- The NCAA exhibits foresight and flexibility when it comes to scheduling for its tournament because that flexibility will allow for schedule disruptions for teams to be more readily accommodated.
- The media covering college basketball refrain from nonsensical pieces such as “Bracketology” and “Mock NBA Drafts” until at least Valentine’s Day.
I will give genuine thanks if Number 1 above comes to pass. I will be shocked and amazed if Number 2 happens and the NCAA acts like a rational adult. As far as Number 3 is concerned, that will happen only after Sisyphus gets that rock securely to the top of that hill.
Tomorrow we will experience Thanksgiving Day Football. There will be three NFL games and two college games on tap for tomorrow. Long ago, there were plenty of college games on Thanksgiving Day and only one NFL game – the one in Detroit. In fact, the first football game that I saw was on Thanksgiving Day in 1948. My father took me to see Penn play Cornell at Franklin Field on the Penn campus; that was the traditional and final game of the season for both teams and it was always played at Franklin Field – – much the same as the Army/Navy game was and still is the traditional end to their football seasons.
Bob Molinaro of the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot has a view of Thanksgiving Day Football that is a bit less nostalgic than one might hope for:
“No thanks: Grandma’s sweet potato casserole and collard greens haven’t given Thanksgiving Day revelers as much gas over the years as the Detroit Lions. Why must the NFL subject football-loving Americans to a Lions game — this year against the anemic Texans — each and every turkey day? Tradition? The only tradition worth recognizing here is the one that outlaws cruel and unusual punishment.”
Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times seems to be equally unimpressed by what he is likely to see from this year’s Thanksgiving Day Football:
“Tryptophan might not be the only thing putting you to sleep on Thanksgiving Day.
“The first two games in the NFL’s Turkey Day lineup? Texans (4-5) at Lions (2-7) and Washington (2-7) at Dallas (2-7).”
Unaccustomed as I am to the role of cheerfully seeing the best in meager situations, let me try to adjust the perceptions of Messrs. Molinaro and Perry toward a more positive direction.
First, after sitting through what ought to be a meaningless and miserable early game (Lions/Texans), the second one is a rivalry game that often – not always but often – delivers interesting results. So, if you ignore the records for a moment and consider that this game has serious playoff implications – as I outlined in yesterday’s rant – and that it will likely be “energetically contested”, there is reason for interest in the Cowboys/WTFs game.
Second, the night game will certainly be interesting between the Steelers and the Ravens. It has been a long time since a game between these two teams was meaningless and the rivalry between the Steelers and Ravens is deep and intense. This year, the Steelers show up in Baltimore as the only undefeated team in the league; the Ravens have been in a tailspin for about a month and need to recover from that condition tout de suite to save their season.
And finally, there is genuine reason to give thanks for one aspect of the meaningless and miserable Lions/Texans game that starts the day of Thanksgiving Day Football:
- There will be no fans allowed in the stands in Detroit on Thanksgiving for the Lions’ game. That is something Detroit fans can be genuinely thankful for.
There are things that these 9 NFL teams and their fans ought to be thankful for as we get into the final stages of this 2020 season:
- Bills: When Sean McDermott took over in 2017, the Bills had not been in the playoffs since 1999. Looking at the standings now, it appears as if the Bills will be in the playoffs again this year making it two of three years under McDermott.
- Bears: They have 4 excellent linebackers – – I think they are the best linebacking unit in the NFL. Khalil Mack, Robert Quinn, Roquan Smith and Danny Trevathian keep the Bears in games despite the anemic offense in Chicago.
- Browns: Nick Chubb is an excellent running back worthy of thanks, but I think the thing fans in Cleveland should give thanks for is Kevin Stefanski. Finally, there seems to be adult supervision on the sidelines in Cleveland.
- Cards: These fans should be thankful for Bill O’Brien who gave the Cards DeAndre Hopkins in exchange for a bag of beans.
- Chargers: If Charger fans do not embrace Justin Herbert and give thanks that he was available when the Chargers turn to draft came around, they should turn in their credentials as NFL fans.
- Dolphins: As with the Browns, fans in South Florida should give thanks for coach Brian Flores who has brought organization and discipline back to that franchise.
- Raiders: They should be thankful for Derek Carr. He has been physically beaten up in previous years and has taken many slings and arrows of outrageous fortune from Raiders’ fans too. Derek Carr is the reason the Raiders are in playoff contention this year.
- Steelers: Look at the way the Steelers played last year with Ben Roethlisberger on the shelf and compare to how the Steelers are playing now with him at the reins. He may not be around all that much longer so fans in Pittsburgh need to give thanks for his 2020 season.
- Vikes: Fans in Minnesota must give thanks for Dalvin Cook; he is the best running back in the NFL now. I do not want to debate that issue.
Finally, as we approach Thanksgiving Day, let me close with this entry from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:
“Fear: Anxiety or dread caused by the certainty that something terrible is about to happen such as when walking alone down a dark alley or heading home for Thanksgiving.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………