During the Worst of the Pandemic, Sports Continue
December 7, 2020

Hospitals are filling up, restaurants and other businesses are being shut down, states and counties are issuing stay at home orders, but turn on your television and you can still see live sports. Whether or not this is a good thing could make for an interesting debate, but sporting events, collegiate or professional, are still trying to muddle through, despite postponements, cancellations, and positive tests for COVID-19.

Talking about a football game that was postponed three times before finally being played on a Wednesday is trivial compared to the shrinking number of ICU beds available in American hospitals, but we are being told time and again in the world of sports that protocols are being followed, and many of the delays have been due to 'an abundance of caution'.

During tonight's Buffalo Bills-San Francisco 49ers game, which was played in Arizona because Santa Clara County invoked their own rules and banned sporting events for a month even without fans, it was pointed out that 14 different San Francisco players have tested positive for coronavirus this season, and three of those players were put on the Covid list twice. That statistic was also just thrown out there to illustrate the number of missed games the team has had, along with other injuries, not to illustrate how serious the virus is.

According to Sports Illustrated, 17 NFL games have been postponed this season, and that doesn't include moving the Baltimore-Pittsburgh game more than once. That game was supposed to be the Thanksgiving night game and then it was moved to Sunday, then Tuesday, and finally played on Wednesday. An abundance of caution is great, but people are getting sick.

College football games are being canceled or postponed as well. Saturday's intriguing contest between Coastal Carolina and BYU was created at the last minute because of coronavirus in Liberty University's program. They were supposed to play Coastal Carolina but had to bow out. The Alabama-LSU game Saturday night was rescheduled from an earlier postponement.

College basketball is trying to get started, but several non-conference games have been canceled, including Long Beach State-UCLA last week, and a showdown between top-rated Gonzaga and number two Baylor on Saturday. Again, the abundance of caution is a good thing, but it doesn't seem like the sports are actually taking the infections seriously.

What seems to be the trouble (in my humble opinion), is that if an athlete or coach contracts the virus, they go home, isolate for a few days, and then come back and everything is fine. University of Alabama football coach Nick Saban got Covid-19, and he's 69 years old. He missed one game, but was relatively asymptomatic, and returned this weekend. Most of the athletes involved are young and healthy, and seem to rebound well, but the affect of a positive test on their families and others is unknown.

NFL players are grown men, and while you can certainly accuse the people who run these sports of caring more about money than health, professional players have a union, and have a say. Everyone involved in the league seems to think playing is a good idea, even those who have tested positive. If they are willing to play, we are willing to watch. Perhaps, though, the caution that is being taken isn't all that abundant.

College players, though, are kids. Yes, they are over 18, but their parents are sending them to school with the notion that they are being looked after. A lot of college campuses are shut down or restricted, but athletes are still allowed to be there. Other campuses are open and have become natural super spreaders. Before September, when the college football season started, the Big-10 and Pac-12 conferences both decided they were not going to have a season. Both relented under pressure when other schools were playing, and making money, from being on national TV. College basketball lost out on its championship tournament in March, which resulted in billions of dollars in lost revenue, and you know that's not going to happen again.

It's been suggested, at least for college basketball, to delay the season. Have May Madness instead of March Madness. A vaccine is on the way, and maybe there will even be fans in the stands by then. It sounds like a radical idea at first, but then makes sense when you think about it. High school sports are not being played, at least not in California, where many campuses are shut down completely, or only open a couple of days a week.

It's a mixed message, and it's no wonder that the general public isn't taking the coronavirus threat seriously. One restaurant in Los Angeles can't have outdoor dining, but the parking lot right next to it is set up for a film crew to eat dinner. The governor urges us not to travel, then goes to a swanky dinner party in Napa. Stay-at-home orders are being issued because of positivity rates, but Covid cases in the NFL push a game back only a couple of days.

In our lives, all we can try to is what's right. We also have to hope that everyone else is doing the same.

All NFL all the time: Because of the Baltimore-Pittsburgh game last week was played on Wednesday, the Steelers game against Washington was moved from Sunday to this afternoon, and the previously unbeaten Steelers lost 23-17. That game was shown on Fox, but only in markets where viewers were originally scheduled to get the Sunday telecast. However, the Baltimore-Dallas game, moved from Sunday to Tuesday, will be seen nationally on Fox at 5pm PT. With a game last Wednesday, and some Saturday games and a Friday Christmas Day game coming up later this month, the NFL will stage games on every day of the week this year.

NBA schedule released: Just two months after the Lakers emerged from a Florida bubble with an NBA championship, pro basketball is set to tip off on December 22 with two games. Golden State will be at Brooklyn followed by the Clippers at the Lakers. The reason for that start date, of course, is the marathon of Christmas Day games to follow. They are, in order, New Orleans at Miami, Golden State at Milwaukee, Brooklyn at Boston, Dallas at the Lakers (5pm), and the Clippers at Denver.

Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day: Today is the 79th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, which killed over 24-hundred American personnel. There are two Pearl Harbor survivors still living, and one is in Nevada County. Lieutenant Commander Louis Conter is 99 years old, and told the local newspaper he was planning to attend the observance in Hawaii this year, but it was not held because of the pandemic. He says he plans to go for the 80th anniversary next year, when he will be 100.

Chuck Yeager dies: A Grass Valley and Antelope Valley connection. It was announced by his wife on Twitter this evening that Chuck Yeager has died. The first to break the sound barrier in a test rocket at Edwards Air Force Base in 1947, Yeager moved to Grass Valley when he retired. To throw in a sports note, former Dodgers catcher Steve Yeager is Chuck Yeager's nephew. Chuck Yeager was 97.

One more: Today is also the anniversary of the death of Bill Keigwin, who was my neighbor, my best friend's father growing up, and like a second dad to me. It's embarrassing for me that I can't remember the year that he died, but it's been well over a decade now. I do remember that we lost him on Pearl Harbor Day.

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