The Mystery Of Talladega

It is easy to state and suggest that the sports world in the year 2020 is a mess, that it has gotten too political, too out of whack, or whatever. But an incident that took place at the Talladega superspeedway in Alabama has shocked the country. Someone placed a noose in the car of Bubba Wallace, who is the only driver of color in NASCAR’s highest racing circuit.

The race was postponed to rain yesterday and rescheduled for today. On this day, NASCAR closed ranks in a show of support for Wallace in a moving ceremony, narrated by who I consider the voice of NASCAR, Mike Joy.

The FBI is said to be investigating the incident – and with the noose left in a secured area that few should have access to, the question of “who did it” needs to be answered, and quickly. As a civilian, I’m not up on hate crime law – but I assume it is possible that the perpetrator could wind up in jail.

Until we know otherwise, I treat the incident as a stain on the sports world. Regardless of how you feel politically, we have all the stains on society that we can handle right now. The last thing we need is more division – no matter who or what is at the calculator.

The Post Virus Sports World

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NASCAR has been back nearly a month now – but it remains the only sport that has returned after the COVID shutdown back in March. Other sports have announced general plans to return, but haven’t exactly been forthcoming as to when they return.

The NHL has been the most ambitious, announcing a 24-team playoff – but again, no one is saying exactly when they will return. If that’s true – how will the NFL came back in August for pre-season games when no one outside of NASCAR has? It would just defy logic that the least socially distant sport makes a return like nothing had happened – whether or not whatever is left out there in terms of COVID is politically fabricated or otherwise.

It looks very likely that MLB may not have a season in 2020 – which would devastating to the sport, perhaps worse than the 1994-1995 strike that produced no World Series champion in 1994. Owners want to pay the players less, while the players contend that they should be fully compensated.

As for the national pastime, they made their bed in the 1990’s when Fay Vincent was ousted by the owners – and had an owner in Bud Selig who bid their bidding for a couple of decades. If the 1994-1995 strike didn’t wake up the baseball public in terms of the need for a commissioner who would serve everyone’s interest – they deserve what they get in 2020 with this “failure to launch” scenario taking place.

Sports will continue to be on the backburner in the maelstrom 2020 has become – and probably so. It seems everyone can agree there are bigger items on our plate in present times. Once that is figured out, if it ever is, the games should rightfully continue on.

America’s Green Flag

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It’s now the week before Memorial Day – and the media is telling that more than 90,000 have died from the COVID virus that has plagued the world these last few months.

The good news is that there are signs of life emerging. Between the UFC, golf, and a NASCAR race in Darlington, South Carolina, there were some honest to goodness sports to watch for a change. Kevin Harvick won the NASCAR event – an actual event, no computer simulation – but no fans allowed to attend. If you missed the race yesterday, no problem – there will be another televised race from there Wednesday night as stock car racing’s biggest circuit tries to give everyone the seat time lost over the past ten weeks.

Personally, I think it’s a good idea to keep some resemblance of sports going – World War II didn’t stop baseball from continuing on, albeit with the best players joining the war effort. There’s an ongoing fight and debate as to what to reopen and when, but I have to tell you – I root for America and the America of old to return. While it’s always best to be safe while doing so, safety is up to all of us individually. When we ask government to intercede in those efforts, they overstep their authority.

Everyone’s Got A Hobby

With some added free time thanks to the ongoing (and hopefully, nearly concluded) virus, I’ve once again started up a “sister” blog. This one is called Big Pauly’s World Of Sports Sims, which will be a companion blog to the YouTube channel I started at the same time.

It’s just a handful of posts for now on each front for the moment – but with there being no sports going on in North America to speak of, this was the right time to give it a try. There are tons of replays, hypothetical situations, and matchups the void of sports is bringing us at the moment – so why not play some of these scenarios out?

One such scenario I’ll be revealing shortly on that blog – something I don’t think anyone has attempted before. How’s that for a teaser?

The Future Arena

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The weekend that just passed was out sixth weekend without sports going on, except maybe professional wrestling and the E-Sports that take place on computers and gaming systems.

With COVID being out there, I really haven’t given a lot of thought lately to the question of what sports looks like in the post-COVID world. I have a hard time imaging things will be the same in the immediate future – or maybe for a long time.

Most of the popular sports have some form of contact in them – even baseball has the potential for collisions at home plate and contact by runners onto fielders to break up double plays at second base. I guess you can safely forget about social distancing in any of these sports.

Assuming everything comes back up by June (and there are some that say this is very optimistic) – I’d think the NBA and NHL will try to finish their seasons with some form of abbreviated playoff. MLB would likely go half a season, while the NFL and college football would go on as scheduled. The various leagues will have to workaround a few problems – such as what to do in the New York and New Jersey area, where COVID did the most damage. Will the new NFL stadiums in Las Vegas and Los Angeles be ready for the start of the season – and what’s done if they can’t finish construction as scheduled?

Then there’s the other extreme – either there’s another COVID outbreak among athletes, or the virus returns in the civilian population somewhere in America. Then you’ve got a much darker situation – where no league will be safe to operate. I could see in that scenario one of the big four North American leagues (NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL) folding, or having to reduce the number of teams through contraction. I could see teams merging geographically, and spreading their reserve players throughout their respective league somehow.

Does New York need three NHL teams? Does Florida need two MLB teams? Those are the questions that would need answers if things don’t resume normally. All in all, I have a hard time things in the sporting world will ever be the same, and that’s a reality that will soon have to be dealt with.

Wally World, The Virus, And You

The bad news and cancellations keep coming. Yesterday, 912 people in the US died of COVID, with another 20,297 testing positive for it – each figure a new one-day record, at least for now. When the pandemic ends in a few months, the death toll is expected to be well into five digits and maybe six within the United States. Wimbledon was just cancelled today – their next tournament will take place in 2021. The resumption of the NBA and NHL seasons look very doubtful to me – and who knows if Major League Baseball will even play a game this year.

I went to Walmart with my mother again today – more and more people wearing masks. What continues to amaze me is that I’ve been to Walmart three times the past week – and every time I go, there is no toilet paper, and no paper towels. Walmart’s usually very much on top of their supply chain – so for this kind of lapses to occur is amazing.

When we went to check out – the cashier strongly pointed out that until the cashier counter was clear, I could not be closer than six feet to it as indicated by these blue tiles now in existence. I quickly apologized – as no such rule was in place on Monday when I was last there. It’s a good rule, bur perhaps Walmart should have recorded messages while you’re there, explaining such sudden rule changes.

It’s going to be a rough few weeks ahead – if the University of Washington models are any indication. We’re just going to have to hang on the best we can.

Bucco Brady

In the midst of all of the terrible news out there with the virus comes perhaps one of the biggest sports stories in local history. Tom Brady, one of the all-time great NFL stars, is about to become a Tampa Bay Buccaneer.

Many of you no doubt wonder how I feel about this – and I’m kind of in the “meh” category about it. It might give Tampa Bay a shot at the playoffs this year – the year that Tampa will host Super Bowl LV – but we’re assuming a lot of things.

The biggest problem: will there be a 2020-2021 NFL season? Everyone is going on the assumption that life returns to normal in a few months. In that time, how many NFL players wind up getting the virus – even if they take the best of precautions? How bad will the economy be once it passes?

Secondly, Brady has never been a mobile quarterback – so unless the Bucs upgrade their offensive line, that’s a huge problem. Aging quarterbacks changing teams in the twilight of their careers rarely works out. It did for a few years when Joe Montana went to Kansas City – but not for Johnny Unitas when he played in San Diego, or when Joe Namath played with the Rams.

The Bucs are making the gamble because it will give the beleaguered franchize a buzz, but it should be noted that there is very little upside to this big move in the long term. Tom Brady might wind up being Tampa Bay’s trojan horse.

Here Come The Choppers

For historical purpose, let me do a quick recap – for those of you living in the here and now, pardon me a moment.

The Coronavirus has been in the news since January when there was a huge outbreak in China. If the reporting from China was accurate (and that’s a big “if”), over 3,200 people died over there. In the past few weeks – the virus has spread worldwide, with things getting real here in the States when athletes and celebrities of note began testing positive for COVID.

It’s looking increasingly likely that all adult Americans will get a $1,000 check from Uncle Sam, or in this case Uncle Donald. If that happens, let me the first person to thank President Trump – and maybe the Democrats like Andrew Yang who suggested it on a campaign trail long before the necessity for it arrived.

The number of cases and deaths per day are going up with each day that passes. My prayers to all of you so afflicted and condolences to those who have passed.

Name a sporting event – any sporting event – it’s probably been cancelled. Even Wrestlemania 36, that was going to take place in Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium – has been reduced to a performance in their developmental facility in Orlando.

There’s news outside of the virus as I type this: Tom Brady is now a Tampa Bay Buccaneer – more on this tomorrow, if the rumors are true. Yep, I may actually do a non-COVID blog entry for a change.

Until then, God bless.

Daytona’s Miracle

A rain-plagued 2020 Daytona 500 produced it’s first repeat winner in 25 years in the form of Denny Hamlin. It is quite more likely, however, that this most recent “500” will be remembered for something else – how Ryan Newman got caught in a harrowing crash and somehow survived it.

Watching the race at home as the climactic laps clicked off, I saw the crash as it happened on TV. I thought the worst, because often when you watch an auto race – it seems natural that the mind goes to that place. I happened to watch the Formula 1 race on ESPN back in the 90’s when Ayrton Senna died as it happened, and watched the 2001 Daytona 500 where what looked like an run of the mill crash claimed Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s life.

FOX’s telecast went off the air without any real word of Newman’s condition shortly after 8pm East Coast time Monday night – but word came a few hours later that his injuries should prove to be survivable. Yesterday brought news that Ryan was alert and talking – more good signs.

Some are already calling for NASCAR to make changes to its races in light of the near tragedy. For the moment, let’s just enjoy the fact that for once – a tragedy did NOT take place before moving on, shall we?

This Is (Once Again) The XFL

Another new football league has once again made its way to stadiums across the country and on the various television networks. This time, it’s a reboot of the XFL – the name of the same league that lasted one season back in 2001. The owner of the league is the same now as it also was 19 years ago – wrestling mogul Vince McMahon.

I’ve seen six of the eight games played so far – with my local Tampa Bay Vipers losing their first two contests in a ten-game season. Unlike as was the case in 2001, the league sought out markets with NFL teams already in place, with the exception of St. Louis – who recently lost the NFL’s Rams who decided to return to Los Angeles.

The games have been for the most part compelling – mainly because the league doesn’t restrict access as the NFL does in terms of interviews. This past Saturday afternoon, a 27-0 rout by DC’s Defenders over the New York Guardians kept my attention because the New York quarterback (Matt McGloin) argued in interviews that he and his offense weren’t on the same page. When coach Kevin Gilbride yanked him from the game later in the second half, fans watching on ABC got to hear the verbal exchange between the head coach and the QB as it happened. If this happened in a NFL game, fans would have been clueless as to what had happened – but in the XFL, there’s no such speculation.

There’s one thing I don’t really like about the XFL – and that’s doing away with kicked extra points. I wrote last year when the AAF failed that there’s this very odd correlation between leagues playing around with extra points and how quickly they fail. It’s a “gimmick” every league seems to play around with, like the PAT is some sort of shiny toy.

I’d love to see the league succeed, though it’s not really up to me – as I think there’s room on the sports calendar for spring football. But I don’t think we will ever see the day the XFL goes to a fall season, or becomes the premier pro football league in America – at least not in my lifetime.

The Year I Didn’t Watch The Super Bowl

Another Super Bowl is in the books. This year brought the 54th edition of the big game, won by Kansas City 31-20 over San Francisco after a furious fourth quarter comeback. The Chiefs emerge as a possible dynasty team of the 2020s, and quarterback Pat Mahomes may have risen to become the league’s best player.

People who know me would be shocked – shocked, I say – to know that there was one year I missed watching the Super Bowl, or at least the first half of the game.

The year was 1981 – the Super Bowl in question was the 15th such game between Oakland and Philadelphia that the Raiders prevailed in, 27-10. The nine year-old version of yours truly was a big Flintstones fan at the time, and I noticed that a movie called The Man Called Flintstone was running on TBS at the time the Super Bowl was starting. So, I went to my bedroom and watched that instead.

Like I said, I was nine – but I don’t think I’ve ever shared the fact that I skipped the first half of one of the 43 Super Bowls out of 54 I’ve seen.

Oh, wait. I have. Well, when you’ve done nearly 2,000 or so blog entries, you tend to forget a few things.

Kobe

Just heard about the passing of basketball legend Kobe Bryant in a helicopter crash, and I wanted to make note of it here.

My interest in basketball has waned in the past few years, mainly because the NFL season has gotten longer. Once the Super Bowl ends, there’s a few weeks before the start of MLB season. Not a lot of room in-between for the other sports.

There’s no denying Kobe was (and it is so weird to use the word “was”) a tremendous talent to the game of basketball and to the sports world – and it is incredible that his life after basketball has now been cut short as it has.

My condolences to his family and to the sporting world in general – this loss is going to sting a bit.