Notes on a golf scorecard while setting a wakeup call for middle of the night Korean baseball (I’ll watch anything live at this point) …
… When sports started shutting down in March in reaction to the coronavirus pandemic, it was like watching a bowler deliver a strike. One or two pins went then the rest came tumbling down. Professional leagues were rapidly shuttered and sports staples like the NCAA tournament, the Summer Olympics and the Masters were canceled or postponed.
Those weren’t easy choices. Southeastern Conference commissioner Greg Sankey got emotional when he spoke of the gutwrenching decision to cancel the SEC basketball tournament after the first night’s play. But they were vastly easier calls to make than the ones now being wrestled with: How and when to reopen the sports, games and events we are aching to see return?
Everyone wants to get back in action, but no one really wants to cross the no man’s land of a decision potentially made too soon. And the logistical complexities are staggering. To name just a few: housing athletes and coaches, coronavirus testing (multiple tests), security, media and fans.
Still, like spring flowers, you are starting to see the first bold blooms begin to pop up across the sports map as leagues and franchises state their ambitions and plans.
Sankey said last week the SEC is planning to start the football season on time in early September and does not require nation-wide cooperation to do so. Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren recently said something similar. Arkansas athletic director Hunter Yurachek told the school’s Board of Trustees plans are for the Razorbacks to begin practicing football in July with an eye to opening the 2020 season Sept. 5, though he later qualified that by saying nothing is official.
The NFL is planning to announce it schedule Thursday. The Houston Texans have plans to hire a facility hygiene coordinator for NRG Stadium, where LSU is scheduled to play Rice on Sept. 19. Now come the Miami Dolphins, announcing how they plan to conduct home games in Hard Rock Stadium at 347 Don Shula Drive — Shula, who died Monday at 90, won an NFL record 347 games — with limited numbers of fans in the stands.
The Dolphins’ plan for their facility, which has gotten accreditation from something called the Global Biorisk Advisory Council, goes like this:
• Potential attendance of 15,000 fans (Hard Rock Stadium has a listed capacity of 65,326)
• Fans will enter at different times and gates and exit row-by-row to avoid congestion
• Markers on the ground will indicate proper distance in queues leading up to fan entrances
• All fans must wear masks and order food from seats.
Using the Dolphins as a blueprint, it makes you wonder if their procedures can be copied elsewhere. Of keen interest is how many fans could be allowed in the stands. Fifteen thousand fans is about 23% of Hard Rock Stadium’s capacity. Extrapolated to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, which has a capacity of 73,208 for Saints games, that’s just more than 16,800. For Tiger Stadium, which seats 102,321, that would be just more than 23,500.
Every stadium is configured differently, with its unique bottlenecks and limitations, but you could see how this might work for the Saints, LSU or other teams and schools. How you decide which 15,000 or 16,800 or 23,500 get to attend is another prickly matter. Fans of both teams annually snap up more than 60,000 season tickets. But the idea of games with at least some fans in attendance appears to be gaining steam now that someone is lighting the path.
… Speaking of the NFL schedule, I’ll be shocked if at least one Drew Brees versus Tom Brady Saints-Buccaneers game isn’t set for prime time.
… I feel like I’m the only one, but I haven’t watched a minute of “Tiger King” despite a lot of time on my hands to binge watch things (“The Crown” is on a nearly constant loop on one of our TVs, I must confess). I covered the true Tiger King last season, and can’t imagine Joe Exotic has anything on Joe Burrow.
… I again feel like I’m the only one, but I also haven’t watched a minute of “The Last Dance.” I saw all of Jordan’s career, from the game-winning jumper he hit for North Carolina in the 1982 NCAA final in the Superdome through his six titles with the Chicago Bulls and his dabbling in minor league baseball (some would call it NBA-imposed exile) with the Birmingham Barons. The Barons, by the way, then played at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium, where the SEC baseball tournament will, hopefully, return in 2021. But Jordan has turned out to be such a raging narcissist in his post-playing career, I just feel turned off to the whole thing, though I’ve heard it’s great.
Garrett Nussmeier didn’t commit to play quarterback for LSU as part of the 2020-21 class because he wants to come in and try to be the next Jo…
… LSU pulling in a commitment from a prized quarterback like Garrett Nussmeier on Monday and hearing him say the Tigers' offense is "unbelievable" is taking some getting used to. Assuming he signs with LSU in December or February, the Tigers will have two quarterbacks whose dads have NFL pedigrees: Max Johnson, son of Brad, and Nussmeier, son of former Saints quarterback and current Dallas Cowboys assistant Doug. Meanwhile, LSU is in the final three for 2021's top-ranked quarterback Caleb Williams, but expect him to sign with Oklahoma over the Tigers and Maryland.
… I know we’re all in this together, but I’m getting pretty fed up of all the commercials during the lock down that tell us we’re all in this together. I feel like I'm stuck in "High School Musical" with no hope of parole.
But, nonetheless, stay safe and take care.