It’s an easy headline to grab, because it’s been the case every day for eight months. And the havoc the virus is wreaking in sports pales in comparison to that which it is doing in everyday life. But yesterday seemed to be a thorough illustration of everyone’s failing to come to terms with what a pandemic means in the sports world.
College football saw a raft of cancellations, to the point where Washington and Utah simply just invented a game for this weekend because neither had anything to do. Or Wisconsin simply not being allowed to play in the Big Ten championship, because it won’t have played enough games. For the first time in 113 years, they won’t play Minnesota for Paul Bunyan’s axe. It was so predictable.
College basketball, which had to cancel its NCAA Tournament in the spring, has had the most time of just about anyone to watch everything unfold, see how impossible it is to thread this needle, and yet is still intent on plowing ahead into the swamp. As my compatriot Carron Phillips said, it’s a bad sign when Rick Pitino is your voice of reason.
The Columbus Blue Jackets have several positive tests at their facility, and the NHL isn’t even back in training camp yet as it tries to sort out how it will even craft a partial season. The Ravens have a plethora of positive tests, too, and almost certainly shouldn’t play on Thanksgiving night vs. the Steelers but you can bet they probably will. What’s NBC going to put on instead, after all? Can’t piss off NBC. That’s clearly the priority.
It’s an indictment on everyone, as the prevailing attitude of the entire country is to have whatever it wants without actually doing the things necessary to have it, no matter what you’re talking about. College football could have had a season in the spring. It would have been so easy. With word of the progress of a vaccine, it feels even stupider that it didn’t even try. As Pitino points out, May Madness is not that hard to achieve. And yet here we are. The NFL could have slid its schedule back to whenever they needed to and the networks would have set up with paws curled like your dog when you’re eating dinner, waiting for anything to fall off the plate.
But no, football goes in the fall, both college and pro, dontcha know? That’s when they and we want things. And it doesn’t matter if it shouldn’t happen, because we want things how we want them. Well, we get them. I don’t like it any more than you.
Anyway, on to trivial matters. MLS finished up its first round of playoffs, and as unwieldy as playoffs are in the sport, and as farcical as this season has been, the league has been rewarded with an absolutely bonkers start to the postseason. It has been filled with late goals, controversy, penalties, and memorable quirks like in Orlando.
Tuesday night saw the East’s top two seeds eat it. Toronto lost in extra time, and they’d been pretty awful all night, as it let Daniel Rios simply traipse onto a rebound with no one any closer to him than a beer vendor would have been had there been fans. There are four Toronto defenders and not one of them could do better than the stupid kid who is the tree in the school play. The top-seeded Philadelphia Union also face-planted against New England, giving up two early goals and never looking like it would get back into it afterwards.
Soccer really doesn’t do single-elimination games well. The knockout games in the World Cup or European Championships are usually total stalemates because in a game that’s sometimes decided on a single moment, no one wants to be responsible for that single moment going badly. It’s even more unfair in MLS, where a whole season can be undone and rendered meaningless by any number of types of mishegas.
But seeing as how this season was a joke anyway, we might as well enjoy the zaniness of it all. Thankfully, most every playoff team has gone into their games hammer-and-tongs and really tried to grab it by the throat, which has led to soccer as close to NBA Jam as we’ll get.
Ride the snake.