By Sports editor Brian Hoffman
It’s now day 148 AG, or “After Gobert.” Can you believe it’s been 148 days since Rudy Gobert came down with COVID-19 and the sports world as we knew it came to a halt?
Next week will be four months and things aren’t back to normal in the sports world, but at least they’re better. We’ve had pro golf and auto racing for a while, and having no fans in the stands hasn’t been a big deal in that regard. Now we have Major League Baseball, NBA basketball and NHL hockey games to watch while college and pro football teams are opening camp. Are we back to normal? I think not.
I’m waiting for the bubble to burst on baseball any day now. The MLB is playing a 60 game schedule with few off days, and the Phillies and Marlins have already missed an entire week of games due to the virus. Through Tuesday the Phillies were three games behind the 8-4 Atlanta Braves in the National League East but, at 1-3, they were one game ahead of the Braves in the loss column.
I love baseball, but I don’t see how you can call this fair competition. Players are dropping out in fear of getting the virus. Teams like the Marlins, who had over a dozen players test positive, are just trying to field a full team. How can it be fair when one team is playing the Yankees and trying to catch a division rival who is playing what amounts to a AAA team?
I covered “The Last Inning” baseball event for high school seniors at Salem Memorial Saturday night and the rumor going around was that baseball was going to be shut down after Sunday. It wasn’t, but who knows what’s going to happen by the time this column comes out.
The struggles that baseball is having certainly don’t bode well for NFL football. You have about 20 more players per team, and a whole lot more contact. That’s a much higher chance to spread the virus, even with great precaution. Eagles coach Doug Pederson was saying how safe he felt at the practice facility last week, and a couple days later he tested positive.
College football could be even worse. First of all you’re dealing with younger people, who don’t seem to fear the virus as much as the older folks do. Also, they’re used to being the big men on campus with lots of party opportunities, and that’s a recipe for disaster. I’m sure every precaution will be taken, but when it gets down to it the college season depends on players in their late teens and early 20s behaving. And, it only takes a few to spoil it for the rest.
The best case is the NBA, where the players are in a bubble and have a real chance of staying away from the virus. Unless a lot more players start going to strip clubs to buy chicken wings(see Lou Williams) the NBA should relatively safe.
Of course, that’s okay for this season but how about next season? If things aren’t any better will these players and surrounding game personnel be willing to spend nine months in a bubble for a safe regular season? Would you want to be away from your family for that long? I think not.
We’ve already seen the high school sports throw in the towel until Christmas and the more sane college conferences, like the ODAC, are doing the same. Personally, I don’t see it getting better any time soon until there’s a vaccine that will keep everyone safe.
And the guy who is responsible for that should get one of those Patrick Mahomes-type contracts.
WHO IS THE ROUND MOUND OF REBOUND?
Do you every watch the TV game show “Jeopardy?” It’s my all-time favorite because you really have to be smart to win, and not just guess how much a bottle of ketchup costs or spin a wheel for a trip to Paw Paw, West Virginia.
As most of you know, Jeopardy host Alex Trebek is battling pancreatic cancer. He’s taken some time off of late and last week they aired five days of “Celebrity Jeopardy” from 2001.
One day last week the three contestants were Martha Stewart, “Survivor” host Jeff Probst and basketball star Charles Barkley. Charles played in the NBA through the 1999-2000 season so he was just starting his broadcasting career.
On the show, Charles didn’t buzz in once during the whole first round, giving him zero points heading into Double Jeopardy. He picked it up a little bit in the next round, and of the five or six times he actually answered he only missed one.
As usual, he was funny. He kept trying his buzzer to make sure it wasn’t broken, then he jokingly threatened Stewart, who was beating him to the punch with regularity. It was all in fun and when Charles missed his “Final Jeopardy” answer he ended up with zero points, but the charity he chose to play for still received $10,000. And, by the way, Martha Stewart won.
Charles has come a long way in the past 20 years, becoming one of TV’s most recognizable celebrities. I thoroughly enjoy the NBA show on TNT with Charles, Shaquille O’Neal, Kenny Smith and Ernie Johnson. Charles always says something colorful, and maybe a bit off color, but he gets away with it because “he’s Charles.”
One of my favorite lines from Charles was a few years ago when Vince Carter had to hurry back from Chapel Hill, North Carolina for an NBA playoff game. He had gone back to UNC to finish his education and went through the graduation ceremony to receive his diploma.
Smith, a fellow Tar Heel, revealed that he had also gone back to finish school. Then Kenny turned to Barkley, who left Auburn early for the NBA, and asked Charles if he had his diploma.
“No I don’t,” replied Barkley. “But I got a bunch of lawyers who work for me that got theirs.”