The Olympics from Hell; Conference Realignment Returns; NFL Plays Hardball; Giannis
Welcome to the COVIDlympics, where all the merchandise reads “Tokyo2020”.
Unfortunately, as everyone knows, it’s 2021.
These Olympics were suspended last year because of the virus, and they should’ve been postponed again.
Can you imagine the world’s best athletes competing on the world’s biggest competitive stage in front of…empty seats? In a country where COVID is running rampant and only 22% of the people have been vaccinated?
Athletes who have spent their entire lives training for this event are isolated in 121 square foot rooms, sleeping on cardboard beds, eating alone and trying to avoid each other.
Japan spent at least $15.4 billion to host these Olympics. Now its hotels are looking at a million room cancellations because no fans are allowed to attend the Games. The country’s largest sponsor, Toyota, has pulled its ads. The Japanese people are unified in their opposition to the event.
Already, many athletes have tested positive and been forced to withdraw. It’s quite possible that entire event competitions could be cancelled. Entire teams could be sent home.
And indeed these Olympics do seem cursed. In the first few days of competition, the seemingly invincible U.S. women's soccer team lost to Sweden, the men's basketball team was embarrassed by France, and unbeatable swimmer Katie Ledecky was beaten in the 400 freestyle. Even Simone Biles, the greatest gymnast in history, had a couple of costly missteps in her qualifying round.
Meanwhile, the director of the opening ceremonies was fired for a Holocaust joke and the composer of the music for that ceremony resigned because of bullying his classmates.
The whole thing is a mess.
Cooler heads should’ve prevailed. But IOC officials, who no doubt had accepted hefty bribes from Japan, insisted that the show must go on.
Conference of Olympians: The Pac-12 has long identified itself as the “Conference of Champions”. Most of those championships have been won in Olympic sports.
So it should come as no surprise that the two schools with the most representatives in these Games are USC and Stanford. According to the conference, the Trojans have 64 past, present and future athletes and current coaches participating in Tokyo, while Stanford has 63.
Both schools have bigger groups than 162 of the 206 national delegations competing.
Conference Realignment Returns: In a year marked by dramatic changes in college sports—new transfer rules, the approval of compensation for name, image and likeness, plans to expand the college football playoff, and a 9-0 NCAA loss in the Supreme Court—nothing should surprises us.
This morning, Texas and Oklahoma informed the Big 12 that they will not renew their grant of media rights to the conference when the current agreement expires in June 2025.
In simpler language, adios.
This one seemingly came out of the blue. The Houston Chronicle dropped the bombshell at the SEC media days last week, reporting that Texas and Oklahoma had reached out to the SEC about joining the conference. The “denials” from Texas, Oklahoma and the SEC were all timid non-denials, with both schools refusing to “address anonymous rumors.” Translation: the rumors were true. Over the years we’ve learned that “where there’s smoke, there’s usually fire” in these matters.
A defection of its two most high-profile schools will decimate the Big 12, which would have to backfill with the likes of Houston, Cincinnati, UCF or BYU.
Meanwhile, the 16-team SEC will include Alabama, LSU, Georgia, Florida, Texas A&M, Oklahoma and Texas. Yikes! It’s not unreasonable to assume that the conference will get four or five teams in the expanded 12-team College Football Playoff each year. At this point, the earliest Texas and Oklahoma could play in the SEC would be the 2025 football season. But don’t bet against an expensive buyout that would fast-track the move to 2023.
Ironically, at Big 12 media days last week, commissioner Bob Bowlsby said he believed the subject of realignment was “moot” because leagues were no longer motivated to add TV markets in the shrinking cable universe: “Not to say it couldn’t happen, but it’s not one of the things that keeps me up at night.” Trust me, realignment is keeping Bob up at night right about now.
On the other hand, if I were new Pac-12 Commissioner George Kliavkoff, I’d be on the phone yesterday to Oklahoma to see if they’d consider joining the Pac-12 rather than the SEC. The Sooners have regularly played Pac-12 opponents, their current QB is from Arizona and their stud recruit QB is from California. Not to mention the lower level of competition would facilitate their league championship and playoff aspirations.
NFL Plays COVID Hardball: The NFL has informed its teams that if a game has to be cancelled because of an outbreak of COVID among unvaccinated players, the team with the outbreak will forfeit the game and players from both teams will lose their game checks.
For the Ages: Giannis Antetokuonmpo's performance in Game 6 of the NBA finals is one of the best I've ever seen in any sport. He scored nearly half of his team's points (50 out of 105), grabbed 14 rebounds, and blocked five shots, many in spectacular fashion. With the game on the line, time and again, he delivered clutch baskets and defensive gems. He also plays with a passion and a joy that only make his performances more endearing.