Start Me Up
As the coronavirus rages throughout the United States--with half of our states experiencing record highs in cases--and millions across the country protesting police brutality and racial injustice, undaunted sports leagues are getting ready to resume or start their seasons.
Many will start. Not all will finish.
You may recall that only three months ago, all sports in the U.S. basically shut down after one NBA player tested positive for the virus. Now, every sport is in the process of starting up despite hundreds of players across baseball, basketball, football and soccer testing positive.
As the wise man once said, "follow the money."
Here's the latest info on the various re-openings:
MLB: Teams will report for training camp this Wednesday, July 1. Opening day is scheduled for July 23-24, and the regular season will finish (positive tests and outbreaks notwithstanding) on Sept. 27.
Good luck with that.
Players will be allowed to live at home and play in their own parks against other MLB teams from their regions.
Numerous precautions are being taken, too lengthy to list here, but some of the highlights: no fans (in most parks), no spitting, no licking fingers, no bat boys or bat girls, no hugs or high fives or fist bumps, masks required for non-players in the dugout, pitchers must have their own rosin bags and hitters must use their own pine tar and bat donuts, and players on base at the end of an inning must go back to the dugout to retrieve their own gloves.
Of course, Commissioner Rob Manfred's pet project will be implemented. To keep games shorter, extra innings will start with a runner on second base.
Try explaining that one to your nine-year old when he asks where the guy on second came from.
NBA: NBA players will all be housed in a bubble in Disney World and play at the various on-site arenas. But with Florida now experiencing record highs in COVID cases on a daily basis, the league's decision to play its remaining regular season and playoff games in Orlando isn't looking so smart.
The interrupted season will resume July 30 with "seeding" games for the playoffs, which are scheduled to begin on August 17. Commissioner Adam Silver, who I have supported in the past, is optimistic that things will go well.
"We haven't worked through every scenario," he said, "but the notion would be that if we had a single player test positive, frankly, whether that player was an All-Star or a journeyman, that player would then go into quarantine. That team would be down a man, and we would treat that positive test as we would an injury during the season, so we would not delay the continuation of the playoffs.
"Of course, if we were to have a significant spread of coronavirus through our community, that might lead us to stopping."
I'm not a betting man, but if I were, I'd bet on a significant spread.
Silver is also collaborating with the players' union to allow players to wear personalized social justice messages on the back of their jerseys instead of their last names. So instead
of James or Curry or Antetokounmpo, you might see "Black Lives Matter," "I Can't Breathe" or "George Floyd."
As Larry David might say, that's pretty, pretty good.
NFL: The league plans to open on schedule at the end of August. Billions of TV dollars are involved, and the games will go on. No official word yet on what will happen if a locker room becomes a breeding ground for COVID.
At this point, kneeling for the national anthem will be tolerated, as Commissioner Roger Goodell has done an about face on the issue.
College Football: Conference Commissioners and Athletic Directors have decided to move ahead with the 2020 season. Too much money is at stake, so Presidents have (in some cases, reluctantly) agreed to proceed with caution.
Over the last few weeks, teams have been returning for workouts classified as "voluntary." That's "voluntary," as in, "if you want to play, you'd better be here." Already, teams are experiencing COVID outbreaks. At last count over 50 Clemson players have tested positive. Once contact drills and scrimmages start, the numbers could escalate very quickly.
A national parents' advisory group, headed by former NFL star Chris Hinton and his wife, Mya, is pressuring the NCAA to impose national guidelines and regulations. As usual, NCAA president Mark "it's not my responsibility" Emmert is resisting. This will get interesting. (The Hinton's son, Myles, one of the nation's top recruits, is an incoming freshman at Stanford).
NWSL: The women's national soccer league began play over the weekend, and I mention it because the players from North Carolina and Portland all kneeled for the national anthem while wearing "Black Lives Matter" t-shirts.
Reading List: Here's why we live in the Bay Area. The top ten non-fiction books in the Chronicle's Sunday listing were as follows: 1. "So You Want to Talk about Race"; 2. "The New Jim Crow"; 3. "Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America"; 4. "Born a Crime" by Trevor Noah; 5. "White Fragility"; 6. "The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America"; 7"Just Mercy" (the story of the successful effort to free a black man wrongly convicted of murder); 8. "Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?"; 9. "The Fire Next Time" by James Baldwin; and 10. "The Source of Self-Regard" by Toni Morrison.
Very impressive! If this makes me a Coastal Elite, I'll plead guilty as charged.