Connecticut May Not Win Much On The Gridiron, But They’re Ranked Number One In Common Sense

August 7, 2020

by John Furgele (The Brilliant 228)

The trolls are out once again, in full force. On Wednesday (Aug. 5), Connecticut announced that they will not play college football this fall, or in the spring of 2021, becoming the first FBS school to drop out.

And, as per usual, they were blasted for it. Sure, it is easy to make fun of Connecticut’s 6-30 record over its last 36 games, but that doesn’t really matter when it comes to making a decision about playing college sports.

All across the country, conferences are cancelling fall sports, yet college football is still planning on playing. We all know why—money—but somebody needs to explain to me that if Vermont’s cross country team cannot run and compete for a now-cancelled America East championship, how can Massachusetts’ football team travel the country and play 10 to 12 college football games?

The NCAA, quick to issue sanctions is so afraid to call these conference commissioners and tell them that playing this fall, during a pandemic is more than risky; it’s dangerous. They are just sitting back and doing nothing. Their lack of of a spine is unsettling.

Yes, we know that the NCAA doesn’t run college football. The Power 5 schools broke away from the NCAA and they can essentially, do what they want. In March, it was the NCAA that made the relatively quick decision to cancel March Madness. They won’t do this with college football; they’ll let the Big Ten, Big 12, ACC, Pac 12 and SEC make the ultimate decision to play, not play and for whom to play.

Since March, we Americans have not been told the truth about Covid-19. There have been 158,000 deaths due to Covid-19, but we’ve been told that hospitals were incentivized to label a death as Covid. Reports say they were paid $35,000 for each Covid cause of death, so that guy who succumbed to lung cancer was killed by Covid. For the guy, it didn’t matter—he was dead—but for the hospital, $35,000 is $35,000

We were given conflicting information about wearing masks. In the beginning, we were told by the CDC, the NIH, and the Surgeon General that wearing masks was not effective of reducing transmission of the virus; now, we’re being told to wear them. What gives here?

Common sense says that wearing a mask has to help; it has to keep droplets from being sprayed into the air, but since they were not definitive from the start, Americans grew skeptical and now, a substantial portion of Americans believe that they are useless and refuse to wear them.

There has been one consistent thread from the outset—social distancing. From the get-go, the experts have said that the virus can’t travel more than six feet; so, if we can social distance, we could flatten the curve.

We were doing a decent job in March and April when much of the country was experiencing cold weather and staying inside. Then, it got warm and once that happened, Americans’ desire to get together and have fun took over and as a result, the infection rate started to spike. That’s not me judging, that’s just what happened.

We know that college football teams can’t social distance and the same goes for college students. They live in small dorms and they like to socialize with their friends, yet we’re going to try to play college football?

The University of Connecticut will be made fun of for weeks to come and if there is a college football season, it will be merciless. But, are they the smart ones here at the FBS level?

FCS schools are cancelling football by the day, to date seven of the 13 conferences have canceled, but FCS schools don’t get the big TV contracts, don’t get stadiums full of 90,000 people, so, for them, it was easy to trust the science and call things off. FBS schools want that money, so they’ll wait and wait to see if there’s a miracle here.

We are sports fans; we want college football back. Personally, the fall is my favorite season. From hot, sunny September weekends to crisp fall October days, to darkness at 4:50 pm, it’s all good. I like to get in my old car and go to FCS football games—Harvard, Holy Cross, Marist, Albany—it doesn’t matter, it’s just fun driving on the highway with the fall foliage to my left, right and center. Who doesn’t want that on a Saturday in September and October?

But, the world has changed, thanks to Covid-19. Even if the games are played, 20 percent capacity will be the maximum, yet we all think that’s a positive. Think about that for one second. If only 20,000 can get into Ohio Stadium for a Buckeyes game, how can we let the 150 players run onto the field and play the actual game?

Those attending have to social distance, but those playing do not? Does that make sense for 10 seconds? 20? 30?

The commissioners believe that they do not have to cancel anything on Aug. 9, but how much longer can they hold off? Already, the soccer seasons at many schools has been cancelled and at at many schools, most students will continue their education online.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. From masks, to lockdowns, to reopenings, we have been misled and we haven’t gotten it right. We’re supposedly the world’s best country, yet other countries have handled this much better. Don’t forget about American entitlement and the belief that we should be able to do what we want and live our life. How dare a Governor tell us that we can’t go to a bar, a restaurant, a casino or Disneyworld?

Personally, I’m against lockdowns; let Americans do what they want. If they get sick because they went to a crowded bar, that’s unfortunate, but this isn’t China or the USSR. I do, however, believe in social distancing. If you go to the bars and then want to come over and visit, please stay eight feet away which is something college football players can’t do, and neither can colleges and K-12 schools with full capacity.

I think the 50 percent plan is a good. If you take capacities and cut them in half, it can work. We see that at Wal-Mart; we see that in restaurants and in a high school that has 1600 students, I think cutting that to 800 each day can work. That means, students are in one day, home the next or in one week, home the next. Yes, that sucks, but the virus loves crowds, loves yelling and screaming and close talkers. By using the “50 Model,” you’re telling the virus two things:  one, I respect you, and two, I’m still here, I’m still going to function even with you here.

Until a vaccine can work for at least 50 percent of the population, the virus is going to be around and will continue to wreak havoc with our lives. Once a vaccine gets to 75 to 80 percent, only then, can things really return back to what they were in February, 2020.

I hope Connecticut football will return in 2021 and I believe they will. I don’t buy that the school is using Covid-19 to drop football altogether now that they’re back in the Big East for all other sports, including basketball. They have a TV deal with CBS, and even though they don’t win much, football does increase your school’s profile. Believe it or not, many kids want to go to a school that has a football program. They may not go to its games, but when they’re 42, they’ll swell with alma mater pride if State U wins on a Saturday.

Clemson is becoming harder to gain admission to. Why? Because of football. When the team wins, applications increase and when that happens, the percentage of admitted students drops. It happens everywhere. Siena, a Catholic school in suburban Albany made the NCAA basketball team several times in the late 2000s, beat Ohio State and Vanderbilt in successive years and saw a spike in applications.

I have used the Doug Flutie Effect for 36 years now. In 1984, the 5-9 quarterback won the Heisman Trophy and led the Eagles to a 10-2 record. Applications doubled and still, 36 years later, have never returned to pre-1984 levels. My point—-sports matter at colleges and universities and will continue to.

Taking one year off for college football will not destroy athletic departments; in many ways, they’ll save some money. The ones that say use it as a reason to play, when reality says that it’s too risky to play college football this fall.

It’s really simple—if Connecticut’s cross country team is idled, it’s football team should be as well. And, in this case, it is.

We Really Don’t Deserve Sports

July 19, 2020

Americans have failed to respect the Coronavirus; they might be in for a rude awakening when things “get better.”

by John Furgele (The Annoyed 228)

Kudos to Canada. You should be applauded and respected for not kowtowing to “American sports.”  In case you don’t know what that means, the Toronto Blue Jays have been denied permission to play their 30 home games in Toronto this summer. The city said yes; the province said yes, but the country said no and as a result, the Jays will likely play their games in Buffalo, NY in 2020.

The USA, our homeland, has done such a terrible job with the Coronavirus that I’m not sure we deserve anything at this point. We have been told to avoid large gatherings. We have been told to avoid bars, restaurants and other indoor settings. We have been asked to social distance. We have been asked to wear a mask.

But we’re Americans, we are entitled and we are allowed to do what we want when we want. Meanwhile, the number of positive Coronavirus infections continues to rise and as long as that continues, the major sports will face constant obstacles.

Canada won’t let you and me into their country at least until August 21 and already there is word that the border closure will be extended through at least August. 31. Can you blame them for this?  If I was Canada, I would do the same thing; in fact I might wait for a year before I let you come in “for fun.”

We are a self-absorbed country. We love ourselves—-a lot.  We feel sorry for ourselves. As long as I don’t get Covid, do I really care who gets it? I just want to go to my bar, go to my restaurant and go on my vacation.

We have a lot of First World problems of course. When I hear friends say that they’re sad because this is the first time they haven’t taken a vacation in 15 years, I cringe. You’re not losing your life here; you’ve been asked to give up some things for one summer, but Covid be damned, I want my vacation.

People are calling this the second wave, but in reality, this is still the first wave and because we’re not doing enough to flatten the curve, I’m sure the second wave will not be pretty.

Despite this, we keep hearing that college football will be played this fall, to which I say……how?  Unlike the NFL, these are kids who don’t get paid, yet, we want them to play so we can be entertained?

I love college football. I miss sports. Badly. I want to see the Stanley Cup hoisted, the Larry O’Brien trophy given to the NBA champs and I want the NFL to start in September, but how can this be done with the way things are going?

This week, MLB will start their truncated 2020 season. Unlike MLS, the WNBA, the NBA and the NHL, MLB teams will not be playing in “the Bubble.”  They will fly in for three games, and then fly out.  They will try to quarantine themselves in hotels, but they won’t be totally restricted because there is no bubble.

College football is already in disarray. Many conferences at the FCS level have already called off fall sports and some say that they may try to play some football in the spring. The Power 5 conferences—well, at least the Pac 12 and Big Ten–have announced that they will play conference only schedules—if they play—this fall.  As a result, you will see some teams play 12 games, others 10 and some as few as seven or eight, all while the Coronavirus rages on.

We can’t force everybody to wear masks, even though we all should when we’re out in public settings.  I think we’re in for a rude awakening. We think this is nothing more than a bad flu, yet we’re afraid to let our kids go back to school and many colleges are going online only for the fall, yet we expect LSU to play Alabama this November.

Eventually, the virus will weaken, but the new norm is going to limit spectators and require game goers to more than likely wear masks. I’m not sure fans think that will happen, but I think it will.

I can see all stadiums and arenas playing at 50 percent capacity for a long time—and with masks required for all attendees. Take your 60,000 seat stadium. You better get used to 30,000 capacity for the next few years until there is a vaccine or until Covid-19 fades away like SARS and H1N1. If that does happen, the fans will bitch and moan and claim that this isn’t fair; that they’re getting jobbed; that the Coronavirus is a hoax.

And, the truth is that yes, you are getting jobbed and guess what—-it’s your own fault. We were asked to do a few things and we couldn’t do them successfully.  The Governor of Florida decided that because he didn’t get hit hard in March and April, that he could open everything up; now, they’re getting 12,000 to 15,000 infections per day.

Most Americans are following the rules, but it’s not enough. When sports come back, most of us will avoid bars, stadiums and arenas will be content to watch the games from home.

Many think this is not a big deal and it will only be a matter of time before 60,000 seat stadiums have 60,000 fans in them.  I’m no scientist, but even if things get better, get used to limited capacity for the foreseeable.

It can be done. The independent American Association is playing baseball games right now, with 25 to 33 percent capacity. For the Chicago Dogs, a team that plays in a 6,000 seat stadium that means 1,500 tickets can be sold for each game. So, when 800 show up, the new reality says the place is half-full.

Americans will be livid, they will scream that their civil liberties are being violated and they will bitch about it each and every day. The one thing that they won’t do is look themselves in the mirror and ask, “Did I do my part to help quell Covid-19?”

I’m sure many are already giving Canada a tongue-lashing because they won’t let us, the Great Americans into their “second-rate” country. The one thing Americans are good at is saying that we live in the greatest country in the world. If you notice, we’re the only country that says it constantly, a sure sign of our own insecurity.

Canada did the right thing, while America has done the wrong thing. Maybe we will wake up and decide that for this year, why not invite friends over, sit six feet from each other, have everybody bring their drinks and socialize rather than go to a crowded bar and breathe all over each other.

I feel bad for those that own bars and restaurants; they don’t deserve this, but sadly, this is out of their control and while the term new norm is already overused and tired, it will be the reality. Get used to 50 percent capacity because if you waiting for this to just go away and have 100,000 fans at Tennessee’s Neyland Stadium in 2021, you’re going to be in for a lengthy wait.




Time To Follow The Leader

July 9, 2020

The Ivy League chooses safety over season, the other conferences should do the same. Football can be played in the spring.

by John Furgele (A Frustrated 228)

The Ivy League—they’re snobs.  They’re elitists. They don’t give academic scholarships because—–they don’t have to.

That said, they do exhibit leadership and today they announced that no fall sports will be played at their eight schools—in the fall. That doesn’t mean fall sports will not be played. They could be played in the spring, well, at least some of them.

I’m not sure what that means for the cross country runner. In the winter and spring, cross country runners run track and it would be very difficult to run cross country and track and field at the same time. I’m not sure what this means for men’s and women’s soccer either.

The Ivy League football scenario is an interesting one. Reports indicate that the Ivies will play a seven-game conference only schedule beginning in March, something that was not addressed by the Ivy League today.  What if other FCS conferences and schools follow suit, which I think is the right thing to do? If the Patriot and Pioneer Leagues decide to move football to the spring, would that open the possibility for Ivy League schools to play three nonconference games to get to their usual 10?

The Patriot League has already announced travel restrictions for its seven football members this fall and that has caused some juggling of the respective schedules. Would anybody be surprised if the Patriot League follows the Ivy lead and goes to a spring football schedule?

You know my take on all of this college sports stuff. No college sport should start practicing until the fall semester officially begins. It’s bad optics to have football players back in August during a pandemic when the rest of the student body is still at home readying for their return.

If FBS schools put profit ahead of student safety then it might be time to reevaluate college athletics. I can’t speak for you, but I am certainly tired of hearing that FBS schools “have” to play football or face the ruination of their athletic department. If that really is true, then maybe it’s time to get rid of most if not all sports.

Most FBS coaches appear to be in the Dark Ages when it comes to many things. We have seen Mike Gundy’s act. We have seen Kirk Ferentz’s act and I think even Dabo Swinney’s aw-shucks act is wearing thin. The only coach that seems to get it is Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley as he seems to be the only FBS coach that is open to playing football in the second semester.

The second semester will be telling. As bad as the Coronavirus might get, the days of total lockdowns are over. Now, that doesn’t mean bars and restaurants will be open, but forcing them to be closed—those days are gone. We can’t even agree on masks so there is no way we will agree on shutdowns like we had back in March.

Once the second semester is here, we will see how bad things are. We know that the flu season runs from October through April and this fall/winter, we will be wondering who has the flu and who has Covid. If Covid is out of control, than the possibility exists that there won’t be winter or spring sports at colleges. If things have leveled off, perhaps we can enjoy them.

We’re just not comfortable with the Coronavirus like we are with the usual winter maladies– the flu, sinus infections, bronchitis, pneumonia, and of course the common cold. We don’t fear those so we don’t test everybody for them before going to work or heading to the gym. Could you imagine waking up, running three miles and then going to your doctor to get a flu test? You would get laughed out of the office.

We need to get there with Corona. Once we’re comfortable enough to test only those that exhibit symptoms, it is only then that sports can resume in a normal fashion. Imagine if the Buffalo Bills make it to the Super Bowl and a healthy Josh Allen tests positive three days before the game—the whole integrity of the sport just vanished like a fart in the wind (Sam Norton).

If everybody is healthy and showing no symptoms, then don’t test them; it’s that simple. You wouldn’t test healthy people for the flu, for bronchitis, for strep throat or for pneumonia. We don’t test people for SARS and for H1N1 and those viruses still exist, so that’s where we need to get with Corona.

I predict this will happen right around November 4. The CDC will relax the guidelines come that time, likely saying that those who are asymptomatic can’t spread the virus. It’s just my hunch but if you’ve been awake since February, then surely you know what I’m talking about.

I understand why colleges are reluctant to kill fall sports on July 8, but football practices need to get going by the end of July, so decisions need to be made sooner than later. Colleges want to play, but what if a player contracts Covid-19 and dies?  It’s easy to hide behind the data that says that young people’s recovery rate is 99.9999 percent, but what school wants to be the one that has a Covid fatality?

I’m waiting for real leadership here. I want to see and hear a college president at an SEC school or a Big Ten school step up and say we’re not playing sports this fall until we can get all the students back to school and monitor what the Coronavirus does in September, October and November.

The Ivy League has leadership. They don’t always think money first and to be fair, most Ivies have endowments of at least $1 billion. That means that they’re not going under in the next ten years. Endowments are earmarked by the donors, but if Harvard needed to $375 million to keep its doors open, those that earmark would relent.

Some may follow the Ivy lead and in some ways, the Ivy going first may provide some relief. It is always tough going first and had the SEC cancelled fall sports, the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac 12 might have gotten really mad, but being second does not distinguish you.

The money will always be there. The networks say that they would struggle finding room to get the games on in January and February, but in reality, they won’t struggle at all. If Alabama visits LSU in late February—ESPN, CBS, Fox or NBC—they’ll find room to get the game aired and they’ll write the checks, too.

We need leadership and we need it now. Deep down, the players are worried, but they are in a Catch-22. They’re on scholarship; that means to keep it, they have to play when told to, but I’m sure if you asked them about moving football to the spring, they’d be relieved and more than happy to do it.

And, since they’re the talent, I sure hope they’ve been asked.


Changing Team Names? Not a Big Deal

July 4, 2020

Like humans, the first name is more important than the last

by John Furgele (The Thoughtful 228)

Last week (for the 155th time), I was watching Major League (the movie) which starred Tom Berenger, Corbin Bernsen, Wesley Snipes, Charlie Sheen and James Gammon as crusty, but likeable manager Lou Brown.

Like the ballclub, the movie wasn’t expected to do well. I remember going to see it on a Friday night back in 1989 and there was hardly anybody in the theater. But, we all laughed and the movie turned out to be a pleasant surprise.

When you watch the movie, you do take note of some of the things that were in it. One is the packed stands. We can only hope that stadiums and arenas will be packed again when we (or maybe if) get the Coronavirus under control.

The other thing you notice is the name Indians. Back in the 1980s, seeing Chief Wahoo sending out smoke signals was dismissed as “not a big deal,” but today, that is insensitive. In fact, Chief Wahoo has been retired by the Indians with those images replaced with a big C on hats and uniforms.

Now, 31 years later, seeing some of those things make you cringe and in this day and age, it is time to correct our wrongs. I know there are some that say history is history and we can’t change everything, but we certainly can change things that are—-easy to change.

Take sports nicknames for example. Why are people so loyal to them? They’re just names. Think about this:  for the most part when people get married, one person drops their original name and takes the name of the other. Most of the time, the woman drops her maiden name and takes the last name of her husband, so, if a real, live human being can change their whole identity after years and years, then certainly a sports team could do the same.

For 30 years, my ex-wife had one last name and then changed it to mine for 13 years, After we divorced, she changed it back. If she can do it, why can’t the Washington Redskins, Cleveland Indians and Florida State Seminoles do the same?

The Washington Wizards did it. Known as the Bullets for years, then owner Abe Pollin didn’t think Bullets was appropriate, so he changed it. I don’t think they lost a significant number of fans–if any–because of it.

Those people are out there of course. When Redskins owner Dan Snyder realizes that it’s time for a new moniker, there will be protests, there will be crying and there will be a large number of fans that will vow never to watch another Washington football game again. The same goes for fans of the Cleveland Indians and the Florida State Seminoles.

Names are names.  I’m sure you’ve played this game with your kids before. You name your son John, but after years of reflection, you say things like, “I wish I would have named you Patrick or George.” The other kids respond with something like, “He doesn’t look a George or a Patrick, Dad.”

Of course he doesn’t; he’s 19 years old and has been known as John for all 19 of his years, but if his name was George or Patrick, you’d say the same thing about the name John.

Sorry for the diversion, but I really don’t understand the name debate.  Being from the Buffalo area, we have the Bills, Sabres and our Triple-A baseball Bisons.  Those are our teams and their names, but if the Bills became the Bearcats, Bobcats or Ramblers, I’d still root for them on Sundays. I’d still cuss when they blow 16-0 leads in Wild Card playoff games and I would have still cried after losing four straight Super Bowls.

We all know why people become attracted to teams. The primary reason is locale. If you grow up in Philadelphia, it’s only natural to root for the Eagles, Flyers, Phillies and 76ers (names which appear pretty safe right now). Sure, there is always that one friend, that can’t stand all the attention that the local teams get, so they venture out and root for the Bengals and Cubs because they like their names and the uniforms.

It’s those fans that will struggle the most. If you live in the DC area, you’re rooting for Washington, if you live in Nevada, you might be a Redskins fan. The same likely goes for Cleveland. The gal in Parma probably cares less about Indians name than the Indians’ fan that lives in Maine.

We have seen high schools and colleges change names plenty over the past 30 years. In 1987, I was accepted to Eastern Michigan University. Back then, they were the Hurons, but just a few years later, they became the Eagles. We have seen Miami of Ohio go from Redskins to RedHawks and in Albany, NY, Siena College changed from Indians to Saints.

I’m not a fan of Eastern Michigan’s Eagles name, but it doesn’t prevent me for rooting for them when they’re playing a football game. Heck, they showed how wise they were by accepting me into their school, how can I turn my back on them over their name!

For years, I thought Indians was okay for the Cleveland baseball team, but as I’ve matured, I no longer think that way. There is nothing wrong with re-thinking and analyzing what we have done and what we’re doing going forward.

The time of saying that we can’t change a team name because that’s been the name since 1915 is over. As for the Cleveland Indians, I’d love to see them pick Spiders. That was the name of the first baseball team that called Cleveland home and think about how cool the logo could be?

And, I’m sure the Spiders would approve.



Dear Baseball: Don’t Be Afraid to Change

July 3, 2020

Placing a runner a second for extra-innings this year—-not a big deal at all

by John Furgele (The Evolved 228)

MLB is coming back—we think. As of this writing, plans are for a 60-game season, the universal DH, ten playoff teams and—in extra innings, starting the inning with a runner on second. I think it’s sad that there won’t be expanded playoffs this year; it could have made October really fun, but so be it.

It is quick to say that a 60-game season will “not really count,” but to me, that’s too much negativity. Some are afraid that an undeserving team like the Detroit Tigers could get hot and steal the World Series to which I say—–so what. Every team is going to play 60 games, so that makes things fair, and once the games begin, fans will be watching.

I’m sorry, but I’m done listening to the purists. Baseball needs a pick-me-up and those that live by saying “there’s more strategy in the National League,” are just saying that because that’s what they’ve always said.

The DH is far from a new concept; the American League has been using it since 1973, and today’s pitchers don’t even take batting practice. They don’t hit in high school, they don’t hit in college and they don’t hit in the minors. When two NL affiliates play at the minor league level, they go up and other stand there or wave at three pitches and walk back to the dugout.

There is more strategy to a National League game, but let’s remind Washington Nationals’ fans that the main reason they won Game 7 of the 2019 Fall Classic was because of DH Howie Kendrick’s big home run. Had that game been played at Nationals Park, that doesn’t happen.

And, for all you St. Louis Cardinals fans, I will remind you of the 1982 World Series when the DH was used in all seven games. (from 1976-1985, pitchers batted in odd numbered World Series, DHs were used in even) Dane Iorg hit .529 (9 for 17) as the Cards bested the Brewers in seven games. He hit four double, drove in one run and scored four more.

In the first all DH World Series (1976)—Cincinnati used Dan Driessen who batted .357 with a homer, two doubles, one RBI, 2 bases on balls and four runs scored.

The one rule that most are displeased with concerns extra innings. This year, when the 10th inning starts, a runner will be placed on second base. I can hear the purists howling already as this could ruin pitchers ERAs.  Teams can score a run without a hit, something that will undoubtedly ruin the game’s soul.

They are making the tired and old comparisons, saying things like, “it’s like ending a football game with a punting contest,” or “ending basketball games with a free-throw shooting contest.”

I understand—but we do see some “trick” endings in sports already with hockey leading the way. For their overtimes, teams take off two skaters, going from 5 on 5 to 3 on 3. If they game is still tied after five minutes, they go to a shootout.

Anybody who has watched a soccer game knows that if the score is tied after 120 minutes, penalty kicks are used to decide the outcome. Remember the US Women winning the 1999 World Cup at the Rose Bowl? That game ended scoreless and was decided in penalty kicks and last I checked there were no asterisks in the record books. The game came down to that “tricky” ending. Of course, had the USA lost, many would have howled, but alas, that didn’t happen.

I kind of like the baseball extra-inning idea, but I believe in tweaking things to make sports better. Baseball has become a boring game and this is coming from one of its biggest fans. There is no sport better in the world than baseball. It’s the ultimate team sport that relies on individual parts at the same time. You have the pitcher-batter battle, yet you need nine guys to work together to win games. And, unlike the other sports, everybody has to contribute.

Mark Belanger batted .228 (that’s where the 228 comes from for Johnny228) for his career, but won eight Gold Gloves as a shortstop. His teammate, Frank Robinson, batted .294 with 586 home runs, yet in the games, each came to the plate four to five times. In basketball, LeBron James and Michael Jordan can touch the ball more, take more shots, but baseball is not like that.

Today’s game has become stagnant and really is defined by the Three True Outcomes—home run, walk or strikeout. That’s what batters want to do; batting average is not that important as long as they are swatting homers and walking. Frank Robinson was a slugger, yet never stuck out 100 times in his 21-year career. In fairness, more pitchers today throw in the upper 90s than ever before but we all see that no hitter gets cheated at the plate. 

It will be interesting how teams approach extra-innings this year. All 30 teams know the rule, so there is no excuse if the Atlanta Braves go 2-9 in extra-inning games. Some teams will play it normally; they’ll send their guys up there to swing away. Other teams may use the sacrifice bunt and try to “manufacture,” that run. We all know that scoring one run doesn’t guarantee a win, so who knows what strategies will be employed by the teams and which ones will work the best.

As for scoring a run without a hit, does that not happen now? What about a scenario where a batter reaches via walk, then moves to second on a wild pitch. The next batter hits a deep fly to right that allows the runner to move to third. The next batter than hits a chopper and is thrown out at first while the runner scores from third.  That stuff happens all the time in baseball.

Baseball is the one sport that is held hostage to its past. When basketball introduced the 3-point shot, very few complained. I think it has ruined basketball, but I also don’t think they should get rid of it.

Football moved extra point kicks back to 33 yards. Again, I didn’t like it, but I’m okay with keeping it. I dislike hockey’s overtime rule, but I’ll still watch the games and will accept the results because all 31 teams know the rules.

You can make the argument that baseball ranks third on the sports hierarchy. Football is clearly first with baseball and basketball running neck and neck for second. But, baseball still holds cache that basketball doesn’t. I think that’s because baseball goes back to the Civil War days and because of that longevity and history, Americans will always care about it.

Baseball holds a unique place in American history that no other sport does.  As the great essayist Gerald Early stated, “When the world ends, America will be remembered for three things:  The Constitution, Jazz music and baseball.”

He isn’t wrong and because of that, baseball is held up to a higher standard and that’s why people step in to protect the old traditions.  That’s all well and good, but this is the 21st century. The world is changing and changing at warp speed.

It’s okay for baseball to change, too.






Has The Bubble Burst?

June 22, 2020

American sports don’t know whether to wind their watch or look at the sun and it makes them all look bad.

by John Furgele (The Frustrated 228)

The Bubble. That’s the solution. That is Anthony Fauci’s solution to resuming American sports. Major League Soccer will employ the bubble; the NBA will employ the bubble; the NHL wants to employ the bubble; and at one time, MLB thought about the bubble.

As we know, “The Bubble,” is where we take an entire sports league, put them in one city and play all the games. Both the MLS and NBA have targeted Florida as the place to install the bubble, but recently, we have seen a serious uptick in positive Covid-19s in the Sunshine State.

This is not a surprise. Most of us have been exposed to the Coronavirus. We either have it with symptoms, have it with no symptoms or had it and now possess antibodies, and because more and more are being tested, there are more positive results. The ones that have never had it are getting exposed, but their immune system is winning the battle—for now.

There is cause for concern upon hearing 28 players tested positive here, 21 there and 5 more there. And, to be frank, it is scary. The good news—if that’s an appropriate word—is that  many who have tested positive felt great, were working out and showing no signs of what is an awful virus. In short—they didn’t know they had it.

This is the dilemma for sports. If they test everybody several times per week, they will get a lot of positive tests, hundreds of them, if not thousands.  If they don’t test, we know that there will be asymptomatic players playing and practicing and they could infect others who will show symptoms.

For most, the symptoms, like the flu, are mild, but be fair, nobody wants to get this or the flu, so to dismiss it so flippantly is wrong. And, how long does it take to actually shed the virus? You may have a fever, sweats, head and body aches and a cough, and in 10 days, most of that goes away.

But, the cough may linger; the lungs may still hurt when walking upstairs, walking or running. You still may get that headache. Even though you’ve recovered, there are lingering effects that should not be ignored.

We see that with the flu. You get it and for three days, you can’t even move. In three days, the fever is gone, but you still feel like you’ve been run over by a truck. It’s not fun, and it takes time for the flu to shed from your body.  You hear it in the office.  Jenny tells all, “Yeah, it took me six weeks before I felt completely normal again, even though she was only bedridden for three to four days.

The Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) has been playing games since early May. They are not playing in a bubble; and it is pretty clear that they are not testing players often for Covid-19. Each day, temperatures and taken and only then, when there is an elevated temp is a test administered.

I say this because the KBO stated that if one player tested positive, the league would be shut down for three weeks. That hasn’t happened and my deduction is because they aren’t testing players unless they have to. I can only assume that if all 250-plus players were tested three to four times per week, they would find asymptomatic ones who are positive causing that three-week shutdown.

Is that the right way to do it?  I don’t know. Personally, I think it is because before Covid-19, that’s how the world operated. A person got up and if they felt fine, they went to work; if they didn’t they had to make that call.  Most of us know our bodies, we know when we’re off and if we feel off, we take our temps. We then call in sick and our boss wishes us a speedy recovery.

And, there is always that one person who works through the flu. They come to work, they hack, they blow their nose, and they trudge through while their co-workers beg for them to go home so they won’t infect them.

Of course, once they are sick, it’s too late; the incubation time (when they feel fine) is when the office was exposed to the cold, the flu or whatever the Superhero Worker is fighting.

The Bubble—I just don’t get. Let’s look at the NBA. All NBA teams fly charter. They arrive at a special parking lot, board directly onto the plane and fly right to their destination. They don’t stop in Norfolk and change planes. Once they arrive to their city, they charter a bus and head to the hotel, or the arena. After playing the game, they jump back onto the private jet and head to the next destination.

If the Chicago Bulls are going to play the Clippers, Lakers, Warriors, and Jazz, they would charter out of Chicago and fly to LA. They would check into their hotel into their single room and then bus to Staples Center to play the Clippers. After, they bus back to the hotel and the next night, they’d square off against the Lakers, before flying right after that game to San Francisco to take on the Warriors. After that game, it’s right to Salt Lake City.

How is that more dangerous than being in The Bubble? If teams were flying commercial, like they do in the minors, I could see it, but having roughly 325 players on an Orlando campus versus 15 on a chartered plane and sanitized hotel?  I don’t understand how The Bubble is the better plan.

To me, if you have to play in The Bubble, than maybe, you just shouldn’t play. Every day, I see people heading to work in grocery stores, at Wal-Mart, at doctor’s offices. These people are not living in a bubble, yet they go to work, some for 40 to 60 hours per week. They might be asymptomatic carriers of Covid-19, but they all seem to be working each day. And, while Johnny the Stocker isn’t tackling co-workers and customers all day, he is working in an indoor environment, where despite the heeded suggestions, not everyone is wearing a mask.

If teams can’t go to work like grocery store workers do that might indicate that it is too risky to resume and play the games. But, I see that soccer leagues in Europe are playing; I see the KBO playing, and last Friday, the NPB (Japan League Baseball) started their season. Yet, in America, we have what it appears to be mass disorganization when it comes to our sports leagues.

MLB can’t even agree on how many games to play, the NHL has the US-Canada border issue to deal with and the NBA and MLS want to Bubble up in a state where Covid-19 positives are on the rise.

The NFL says they will start in September while Fauci says that they should Bubble up. College football, desperate to play and make money, will ignore all the positive tests and do just about anything to get back on that field, including making players sign waivers that absolves the school should an athlete say, get Covid-19 and die.

Ugh.  This is about as ugly as it can get. It seems like American sports is now that “Gang that can’t walk straight.”  They don’t know whether to “wind their watch or look at the sun,” and frankly, they all look bad.

Again—if Johnny and Jenny can work at Wal-Mart, go home to their families and then go back to work the next day, then sports should do the same—or they shouldn’t play until they feel comfortable to do what Johnny and Jenny are doing.

There seems to be too many obstacles blocking the return of the sports. Perhaps, we are seeing the Bubble Bursting right before our eyes.


Will Less Be More Going Forward?

June 14, 2020

Will the next wave of stadiums and arenas be smaller, roomier than what we have now?

by John Furgele (The 228)

The Stadium. The Arena. If you love sports, as relaxing and comfortable as watching at home on a 70 inch HD TV can be, the true sports fan still gets tingles when they head into the venue to watch a game live.

I remember my very first NFL game. It happened in 1975 when the Buffalo Bills hosted and defeated the New England Patriots (yes, they really won) by a 45-31 score. In that November game, OJ Simpson scored four touchdowns.

Sabres tickets were tougher to get, but the Furgele family got very lucky in the fall of 1978 when we won a raffle and secured season tickets for the 78-79 season. We went from never going to going 37 times. And, each time, the tingles came.

In baseball, it was July 3, 1977; a scheduled doubleheader between the Texas Rangers and Toronto Blue Jays. Back in the day, Buffalo had the NBA Braves and those were relatively easy tickets to score because the team never sold out and my Dad’s friend had season tickets and rarely used them—so we gladly took the center court seats about eight times per season.

Of all the sports, football still gives you the whole experience. No matter the level, tailgating has become as important as the actual game. In Buffalo, the fans treat the tailgate like they do in college. Fans get there as early as allowed, and then the process begins.  The food gets laid out, the beer, iced from the night before, begins to flow and the cooking begins.

As good as Buffalo Bills tailgates are, the ones at the college level are better. I’ve been to some good ones—at Notre Dame, at Maryland, at Syracuse—and the thought that goes into planning is something to behold.

Covid-19 is going to change the game experience. When sports return, it is unlikely that games will be played to full capacity. In fact, right now, most sports fans would take 50 percent and would likely sign for 25 percent.

The stadium/arena itself is far from comfortable. We go to games for the atmosphere, not for comfort. Many college stadiums still have bleachers with no backs to them, so even the healthiest of person gets uncomfortable after sitting for over two hours.

New Era Field, home of the Buffalo Bills is amongst the most uncomfortable. It opened in 1973 and as we know, the American Person has gotten bigger and wider in those 47 years. The seats are very tight, there is hardly any leg room and though the sightlines are terrific, it is not cozy and comfortable.

The Bills’ lease with Erie County expires after the 2023 season. The NFL knows this and their preference is that the Bills build a new place to play in. In Western New York, the debate is threefold:  build a new stadium in downtown Buffalo; build a new one next to the current one in Orchard Park, or do a massive refurbishment of the current playpen.

If the Bills move downtown, the tailgating experience won’t completely vanish, but it will look completely different. If they refurbish the current stadium, they may have to relocate for a season or two while that takes place. Could the Bills actually play games in Syracuse at the refurbished Carrier Dome?

All of this has gotten me thinking. What will new stadiums look like going forward? The thing that makes me saddest (sports wise) when I watch old games during the pandemic is looking at the packed houses; people literally on top of one another. The 1986 World Series has been shown on SNY ad nauseam, but what one takes out of it is the loudness and closeness of the crowd.

In time, that will come back, but when it’s time to build a new place to play, will teams change things up? In baseball, stadiums have gotten smaller and I wonder if that will continue. If the Blue Jays build down the road, are they better off going with a 29,000 seat stadium with lots of room between seats; concourses with big lounges and more diversions to take in during the game, or will the 45,000 to 55,000 seat stadium be the choice.

Football will be the litmus test. No sport makes more money from TV than the NFL and even if games are played without fans, the NFL will suffer very little. TV ratings will skyrocket, advertisers will pay the bucks and fans will be home, glued to the set watching their team play that one game per week.

Could we see new football stadiums hold 40,000 or less? Cincinnati’s Paul Brown Stadium lists 65,535 as its football capacity. Let’s say they took out half the seats to make the new venue smaller and more comfortable. That would leave capacity at 32,767; we’ll use 33,000 for rounding purposes. Could that be the new norm?

There would be more room, more comfort and because you’ve decreased supply, hopefully you’ve created demand and the average ticket price would increase. Fans that can afford it and really want to go will find a way, just like they do now. And, yes, the blue-collar fan, already squeezed, will likely be pushed out, resigned to watch games on TV, or at best, find a way to one game per year.

Toronto’s Rogers Centre (which opened in 1989 as SkyDome) seats 53,506 for baseball. Could a new centre seat just 27,000? And, I believe teams were thinking this before Covid-19 hit, not because of it.

Until there is a Covid-19 vaccine, terms like social distancing will not be going away. The virus likes closeness; the experts have told us that the virus can’t travel seven feet (2 meters in Canada, which is actually 6.56 feet), so why would anybody want to attend a sporting event where you are inches apart from each other until that vaccine comes?

The obvious answer was detailed at the beginning of the article—it’s fun and spine tingling. But, TV rules sports and think about it; if teams reduce stadium capacity that means more people will have to watch games on TV and that will only drive up the figure for rights fees. And, for those that do go—teams could make the $75 ticket $150 and make just as much money, more when TV dollars are added.

Could you imagine Brent Musburger saying, “You are looking live at Buffalo Stadium where a sold out crowd of 35,600 is ready to watch the Buffalo Bills take on the Miami Dolphins. It may be a ways off, but it could be coming.

Expansion Could Help Baseball’s Woes

June 8, 2020

Adding two teams could could provide over $2 billion for MLB

by John Furgele (The More is Merrier 228)

Will there be a baseball season in 2020? While other sports (even though they are still scared) make plans to return, MLB can’t get out of its own way. Unlike the NBA, NHL, and MLS, MLB is struggling to find that accord that would result in labor harmony.

I remember the 1981 strike. For most of June, all of July and the first part of August, there was no baseball at the Major League level. As a 13-year old kid, Buffalo had a Double-A team, so there was baseball, but back then, I loved the Saturday Game of the Week on NBC and Monday Night Baseball on ABC and for parts of three months, they were nowhere to be found.

Many back in 1981 thought that the season would be lost. Each day, the players criticized the owners and the owners criticized the players. It seemed like they genuinely hated each other. We all know about the mistrust that exists between baseball players and owners.  For years, the owners had the upper hand; once you were signed by a team, they owned you until they decided to release or trade you.

Marvin Miller helped to change that, and before 1975 ended, the MLBPA was a big deal. They struck at the beginning of the 1972 season and three years later, they were allowed to become free agents. In the fall of 1976, the Yankees signed Reggie Jackson to a five-year $3 million contract.

Before free agency, many fans felt bad for the players because of the old ‘Reserve Clause;’ now, they were feeling sorry for the owners because once Jackson got that kind of money, who would be next?

The 1981 season was salvaged. Players and owners adopted the spilt season (a common practice in the minors) and those teams that were in first place when play was halted, were given playoff berths. The second half, which consisted of roughly 54 games, would allow teams to start over and make a push for October baseball.

If the same team won both halves, then the second place team in the second half would move up to compete in what MLB called Divisional Playoffs. That didn’t happen in any of the four divisions. In the AL East, the Yankees won the first half with the Milwaukee Brewers winning the second. In the AL West, the winners were Oakland and Kansas City; the NL East had Philadelphia and Montreal while the NL West saw Los Angeles and Houston capture titles.

The Divisional Playoffs were great and so too, was the quality of play. Only one series wasn’t competitive and that was in the AL West where the A’s swept the Royals in the best-of-5 affair.

The three other series all went five games—in the AL East, the Yankees beat the Brewers at Yankee Stadium; the Expos won Game 5 in Philadelphia behind the brilliant pitching of RHP Steve Rodgers; and in the NL West, the Dodgers dropped the first two games in Houston before coming back to Dodger Stadium and winning the next three.

When the smoke cleared, the Dodgers beat the Yankees four games to two to capture the World Series crown. The season wasn’t tarnished, after all the Dodgers and Yankees were familiar participants in the Fall Classic. They played each other in 1977 and 1978 with the Yankees winning both times. In addition, the Dodgers played in—and lost—the 1974 series, while the Yankees did the same in 1976.

The players and owners lost money in 1981, just like they did in 1994 and just like they are and will in 2020. Of course, when baseball returned in August, 1981 and April, 1995, fans were allowed to pack stadiums, something that will not happen this year.

In 1981, there were 26 (14 in the AL, 12 in the NL) teams in MLB. It took 12 years (1993) to add two more to the NL (Miami and Colorado) and then, five years later, they added two more with Tampa Bay and Arizona. After having 14 in the AL and 16 in the NL, they did some reshuffling with Milwaukee going from the AL to NL and Houston from NL to AL, and now both leagues have 15 teams.

Whether they play 48, 60, 82, or 100 games in 2020, money will be lost and the losses will be significant. ESPN’s Jeff Passan says that in essence, owners and players are fighting over $326 million and while that isn’t big compared to the $10.8 billion in revenue that the league brought in last year, $326 million is a lot of money.

How do you get the money back? The answer: expansion. MLB hasn’t added any teams since 1998, that’s 22 years and counting. When I was 9, I lived in the Buffalo suburbs and in 1977, the Toronto Blue Jays were born and yes, because they were “local,” (75 miles away), I became a fan. Adding two more makes sense and cents.

In the fall of 2021, Seattle will join the NHL and the expansion fee to get in was $650 million. Because MLB revenues surpass those of the NHL, experts figure that the expansion fee to join MLB will be at least $1 billion and that’s per team. That gives the owners $2 billion to divide right there.

The other elephant in the room is the situation in St. Petersburg with the Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays have been unable to get a new stadium and in the wake of Covid-19, that won’t even be talked about. The Rays lease ends after the 2027 season and while I’d hate to see a city lose a team, reality says that they Rays will be relocating.

The owners would charge a relocation fee, adding to their coffers. If baseball were smart, the three cities should include Nashville, Portland and Montreal. Nashville is the up-and-comer; before Covid-19 hit, the city was seeing 1,000 people moving there each day. It’s in the south, it will be an economic engine and that’s important when selling high-end seats, luxury suites and wooing big corporations as sponsors.

Right now, the only team in the deep South is Atlanta and adding Nashville could give them a geographic rivalry. Since moving to Atlanta in 1966, the Braves had plenty of success on the field, but have always been a bit of misfit. They played in the NL West for years and only Cincinnati shared the Eastern Time zone with them. Their rivals, in addition to the Reds (which isn’t that close to ATL) included the Padres, Dodgers, Astros and Giants.

When they moved to the NL East in 1994, they had the Phillies, Mets, Expos and Marlins, better, but still not great. Adding Nashville might even help get peoples’ minds off college football, at least from April through August. Its metro area of 2.1 million is growing and growing fast and the city is now the 23rd most populous in the United States.

Portland makes sense because, like Seattle, it’s a tech-hub and its citizens make good incomes.  No team logs more travel miles than the Seattle Mariners, who coincidentally, have never played in a World Series, so having a team in Portland would help them out in that department.

The Portland metro area has nearly 3 million people and even Vancouver, with 2.5 million people is only 317 miles away which might make it appealing to Canadian fans in British Columbia. Now, Seattle is only 145 miles from Vancouver, but you get the point. Between the three cities, you’re talking almost 10 million people—with money—within a 5.5 hour drive.

Montreal should also get another chance, because, to be blunt, they were jilted. Think about what MLB did to Montreal. There was a three-ring circus that starts with John Henry. He owned the Marlins, but when the Red Sox became available, he sold them to Jeffrey Loria, who owned the Expos. The problem–Loria couldn’t find a buyer for the Expos, yet MLB allowed him to abandon Montreal for Miami.

MLB then “bought” the Expos so Loria could buy the Marlins and when former Twins owner, the late Carl Pohlad seemed willing to contract his team, MLB thought that they could contract them and the Expos. As we know, the Expos were eventually sold and moved to Washington, leaving Montreal without a baseball team.

To add insult to injury were all the threats, which are similar to those made to the Rays. For years, Montreal fans were told that they were going to lose their team, from 1995 to when it actually happened 10 years later.

Imagine that you’re married and for ten years, your spouse says that they are moving out and filing for divorce; yet 10 years later, the spouse is still there, eating corn flakes, sipping coffee on Saturday mornings and continuing to occupy space in the home.

That’s what happened in Montreal. MLB kept making threats and that caused Montrealers to stop caring about Les Expos, a team that in the 1980s and early 1990s, had a rabid following. In 2000, the Expos website had images of the new ‘Molson Park.’ Five years later, they were playing in RFK Stadium as the Washington Nationals.

This isn’t just sentimental—Montreal brings value. The metro area is 4.3 million, second biggest in Canada to Toronto. In addition, it’s an easy drive from places like Albany, NY (221 miles) and Burlington VT (95 miles). If Montreal is included in a division that includes Toronto, Boston and the Yankees, that would be fun. Vermonters would drive and root for the Red Sox; people from Upstate New York will root for Yankees and Red Sox and Toronto would have a Canadian rival and even the country of Canada would be forced to choose a side.

Like the US, there are cable companies in Canada that need inventory. Currently, the Blue Jay games air on Rogers Sportsnet, leaving TSN perhaps to bid for what I hope would be called the Montreal Expos.

Now, if for some reason, the Rays solved their stadium issue, how would you rank Montreal, Portland and Nashville? That’s not easy. Economically, Portland ranks first and for that reason, they should be a no-brainer.  Nashville is up and coming, but Montreal still has more people, more money and more corporations. But, it’s in Canada, where right now, one Canadian dollar equals 74 U.S. cents. That will always be a problem and frankly, that’s why Mexico City is not a viable candidate.

If the Expos sign a player to a $2 million deal, they’re paying him $2.68 million CDN. And, the team would be getting rights and sponsorship fees in Canadian dollars. Income and sales tax is higher in Canada which is problematic for players and makes it tough to attract free agents, but Toronto has made it work with two World Series titles on their mantle. And, don’t forget the Raptors winning the 2019 NBA title and Toronto FC winning the MLS Cup back in 2017.

The current CBA expires after the 2021 season and because of Covid-19, it will be even more about the money. Expansion helps both sides—more jobs for the players, more money to help offset 2020 for the owners.

Having 32 baseball teams would be good for everybody. Many think baseball is on the decline, but that’s been said for decades. People still pay attention, they still go to games and if you live near a market, you’re interested. Not every sport can be football.

A 32-team league would mean an even number of teams in both leagues and thus, interleague play could be greatly reduced, or, if they choose, eliminated. The DH would be universal because most of us are beyond tired of seeing pitchers hit.

With 32 teams, you could increase the number of playoff teams without people calling you out for watering down the product. Instead of five in each league, six would make total sense.

We shouldn’t hold our breath because that’s unhealthy for baseball fans. Look at what they’re doing now? If they had their act together, they’d be playing games this month and they’d have the stage to themselves, but with MLB, nothing ever comes easy.


A Triple Crown is a Triple Crown

May 21, 2020

If the same horse wins the Belmont, the Derby and the Preakness—Crown Him.

by John Furgele (The Exhausted 228)

The negative people are out and at it again. As soon as the New York Racing Association announced that the Belmont Stakes would run on Sat. June 20 at the truncated distance of 1 1/8 miles, the unhappy people came out in full force.

First, they decried the decision to cut the Belmont from its usual 1 ½ miles to 1 1/8 miles; that’s 3/8 of a mile shorter for those that are mathematically challenged. Time wise, that can range from 34 to 40 seconds, so yes, it will be easier for a horse to win this year’s Belmont than past and future ones.

Second, the Belmont will kick off the Triple Crown with the Kentucky Derby following on Sept. 5 and the Preakness on Oct. 3. Three races in 15 weeks as opposed to the norm of three in five weeks. Naturally, the negative people have already announced that should a horse win all three races, it won’t count as a Triple Crown.

As we used to tell people in the 1980s, “Who died and left you boss?” Who are these people? Twitter used to be an informative site, full of good articles, good stories and good nuggets to make you smarter.

Not anymore. Today, it’s littered with naysayers, negativists and those that demand that they are right. If somebody makes a tweet, responders never agree with it; they come back with something to shout you down and puff out their chest.

Tweet:  The 1976 Pittsburgh Panthers were one of the greatest teams in college football history.

Reply:  They would get killed if they had to play the 2001 Miami Hurricanes.

Why does it have to be this way? Why can’t those that reply agree and add to the point. Like this.

Tweet:  The 1976 Pittsburgh Panthers were one of the greatest teams in college football history.

Reply:  Yes they were. Their smallest margin of victory was eight points. Nobody came close to beating them.

Here’s the truth:  if a horse wins all three races, they win the Triple Crown. There will be no asterisks, no detailed explanations, no nothing. Yes, you can make the notation that the Belmont, usually run at 1.5 miles was run at 1 1/8 miles, but that’s it. There are three races and if one horse wins them all, they win the Triple Crown.

And, it some ways, it might be more impressive when you really think about it—which nobody does because of today’s knee-jerk society.

Take Tiz the Law for example. He has run his prep races and his biggest score came in the Florida Derby. The pandemic forced him to dial back and start again. He will run the Belmont and if that goes well, the Travers, the Derby, the Preakness and if all that goes well, the Breeder’s Cup in November. That’s five races, all big and all important. Please don’t tell me if he won the Belmont, Derby and Preakness it wouldn’t count as winning the Triple Crown.

You would think that Covid-19 would have humbled us, would have made us more vulnerable, more understanding and more compassionate, but that hasn’t been the case. In fact, in many ways, it has divided us more.

The Triple Crown, in the grand scheme of things, is not a big deal, but I don’t believe that even for one second, if a horse wins the Belmont, and then the Derby that you won’t be watching when the Preakness airs on Oct. 3?

The difference this year is that much of America will be rooting against the horse going for the Crown. The purists, who believed that the races should be cancelled rather than be run over 15 weeks will be pulling hard for it not to happen

And guess what? That’s okay. You don’t always have to root for the story or, in this case the controversy. I never rooted for Lance Armstrong. I just didn’t like him; he just didn’t do anything for me and I always felt he cheated because if finishers two through 35 were cheating, how could the winner be clean. The clean guy finished 80th.

I never rooted for Tiger Woods, not because I hate him, I just never liked him enough to root for him.

I rooted for Funny Cide and Smarty Jones to win the Triple Crown; I rooted against Big Brown and California Chrome. That’s what makes being a sports fan great—you don’t have to have great reasons to feel how you feel.

If a horse wins the Belmont and the Derby, I may root against that horse in the Preakness, not because a win would taint the Triple Crown, but just because. If Baffert’s the trainer, I’ll definitely root against the horse, not because I detest Baffert. I just think he’s won enough big races AND Triple Crowns.

But if one horse wins them all, he wins the Triple Crown, no ifs, ands, or buts.




The Mixed Signals Continue: Wal-Mart Is Open, Sports Are Not

May 9, 2020

by John Furgele (The Confused 228)


That’s the one word that comes to mind when it comes to society and Covid-19. The sports world has ground to a halt, so each day, there are teases thrown out as to when some sports can start, when others can resume and whether others should be cancelled.

On one hand, single people can’t even go out on a date. If you’re single, how can you effectively take somebody out? Imagine the scenario. You ask somebody out, and they accept, so where do you take them? To the park, where you pull up in your car and talk on captain’s chairs that are eight feet part? What happens at date’s end? Do you wave, or do you kiss on the cheek with your masks firmly affixed?

On another hand, baseball isn’t being played; neither are Major League Soccer, the NHL and the NBA. Right now, the NFL is free from the pressure because nothing has been missed.

We know that NFL coaches, sticklers to routine and detail are pulling their hair out with the loss of control, but rest assured, if players report circa July 25, they could get everybody ready to play for the beginning of the season which is slated to begin on Sept. 10.

On the third hand, Wal-Mart is open, so is Lowe’s, Home Depot and collision shops, yet sports are not. “Jimmy McCormick,” the 33-year old Wal-Mart manager in Cincinnati can report to work, work a 10 or 12-hour shift, and then go home to the wife and kids, yet Joe Burrow and his Cincinnati Bengals’ teammates can’t go the compound to lift some weights and throw the football.

Rocco Ferlazzo can head to Valvoline Instant Oil Change and change oil for eight hours, yet Freddie Freeman and the Atlanta Braves can’t head to their empty ballpark and play the Washington Nationals.

That’s the difficult part to understand. We have different standards for different industries. The Wal-Mart workers are lucky if they’re making $13 an hour, but there they are, stocking those shelves so you can buy ten 12-packs of Charmin. And, these workers get disrespected and yelled at daily if items are out of stock or if they tell you to go one way in an aisle.

The term essential services has never gotten more play than it does today. You can bring your car in to get serviced by the mechanic, but you can’t come into the showroom to buy one from the guy or gal that sells them.

There’s no need to argue that sports are not essential, because, in a way they are. Teams employ hundreds and they get paid to sell tickets, luxury suites, get the venues ready, answer phones, communicate and process paychecks.

Times have changed. There won’t be a new normal, there will be just normal. We know that fans will not be permitted to attend a game for quite some time; and until we can quell the Coronavirus, life in the office, the bars, the restaurants and even with friends is going to be different.

We have to learn to live with the virus. Waiting for a vaccine is not realistic and even if one does come, it might not ever eradicate the virus, but again, when Wal-Mart, Lowe’s and the Hyundai repair shop are open, why can’t games be played?

Sports teams fly on charters. They have a special spot to park and they board the plane directly. They could fly to Cincinnati, go to the hotel and then head to the empty ballpark for a three-game series. They are at far less risk than Rocco Ferlazzo is.

But they are scared. Again, McCormick is driving to and from Wal-Mart, dealing with strangers each and every day and then he goes home, washes his hands like crazy and probably uses social distance with his own wife and kids–but he goes to work.

He is at much more risk than a Major League baseball player. And, if McCormick tests positive for Covid-19, the Wal-Mart is NOT getting shut down; but if one player tests positive in the Korean Baseball Organization, the league gets shut down for three weeks.

As for the NBA and the NHL time is really up. At this point, why bother? Is it that important to get the season in? You haven’t practiced since March 12 and even if you get the greenlight on June 1, you’ll need three weeks to get in game shape before starting games at the end of that month.

I guess there’s nothing wrong with playing in July and August; I’m sure people will care, but how many?  Why not just wait until November and start anew with the 2020-2021 season?

College football refuses to get out in front of it. They think they will play games starting in the last week of August and play with fans. We know that they really want to play with most saying that they need to play to make those all-important revenues.

We’ve heard throughout the pandemic that “college football monies,” pay for the entire athletic program, yet most athletic departments operate in the red. Does anybody really know?

Didn’t schools save a ton of money by not travelling to venues all spring? Think of schools like Binghamton University, located in upstate New York. By not sending their baseball and softball teams south to play games, think of the money they didn’t spend? We know sports are not money-makers for colleges, just look at your kid’s per semester athletic fee located on that very long list of “fees.”

Those that run college football should just come out and state that the season will not begin until the first Saturday in January. Teams can play 10 games and then they can have their playoffs and be done by the end of March.

Another option could be a tribute to nostalgia–each team could play 12 games and then the season would end and they could vote for a champion like they did for most of the 20th century. It’s 13 weeks from January 2 to March 27; that would allow everybody to play 12 games and have one bye week. The format would be the same for FCS schools–12 games and that is all, no playoffs, bowl games. Division II and III schools could play 11 and 10 games, just like they do every season.

I’d rather see everybody play 12 and be done then see 126 teams play 10 and then two play 11 and two play 12. This is not a normal time, so doing things like you always did isn’t required for this year.

Jimmy McCormick. He HAS to go to work and risk catching Covid-19, but the guys making $27 million per season to play baseball, do not.