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A change of seasons in the February sports abyss
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LeBron enjoying February as much as the rest of us. Pull your mask up.Image: APWhile basketball and hockey started at different times, there is a small sense of comfort and normalcy, as poisonous as those words can become, in the return of the February doldrums. The Sunday after the Super Bowl is always a comedown. The parades have been had, such as they were this year. Campaigns have worn off. They’re just there. We spent five months building to the biggest event on the American sports calendar, and then it’s over and it’s just a vacuum. An icy, grey vacuum in most places. NBA or NHL Sunday afternoon games don’t really center the whole week the way the NFL does, which is why it’s king. The speculation about next season has begun, but free agency is still a few weeks away. The NBA and NHL are still miles away from their playoffs, and even though they’re not even halfway through their seasons (NBA) or a quarter (NHL), the buzz of the start of their seasons has worn off.So you get a conference final rematch of the Nuggets and Lakers last night, and it feels like it should be a whole thing. But it isn’t, because both teams know that at this time of year, there isn’t anything that’s a whole thing. Although you get a moment like this from LeBron. Or the other one in the 4th quarter where he blocked a shot and then ripped a 30-foot bounce pass to Alex Caruso. Even when he’s in third gear LeBron will give you that. Or you get a game between two of the best teams in the NHL: Colorado and Vegas. Except Colorado hasn’t played in two weeks, and they each have 35+ games left, so it’s kind of a nothing-burger 1-0 win for the Knights because the Avs are without several of their weapons who are on the COVID protocol list. G/O Media may get a commissionOr a renewal of the NHL’s defining rivalry of the past decade in the Caps and Penguins kind of just floats through the ether. It’s why the NHL is putting up their made-for-tv Not Winter Classic next weekend with four teams playing outside on the 18th fairway of a Lake Tahoe golf course. It’s some kind of spike in the nothingness, just to rouse anyone on the couch. Maybe that’s why spring training is still eagerly anticipated for so many, even if 80 percent of MLB isn’t trying and is thoroughly uninteresting. We’re all buried in snow and polar vortexes (even in Texas!), so we just all want to see something on our TVs or laptops that looks like it might bring light to someone. When you can’t get your Vitamin D, you’ll pretend it comes through a screen of any kind. For some reason, I saw that Hubie Brown was trending on Twitter earlier. Every time this happens now your heart skips a beat, but then you see that all it is is people who at first thought the same as you did, and other people talking about how awesome that person is. And Hubie is the best, and it was all stemming from Hubie being all that he is on another national broadcast yesterday.So with nothing going on, I’ll share this tidbit. My father, a huge basketball fan, would tell you one of his best accomplishments was the voicemail greeting he did as Hubie Brown on his home phone. He left it on there for no less than seven years. Luckily, I still have it memorized.“The young man is not home. What does this mean? WHAT YOU DO is leave a backup communication. This is the only way you accomplish your goal, of scoring contact.”It’s how I got this way. .
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Stop the seasons now and let’s get sports right
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Sports are a total shitshow right now and it’s time to stop putting money ahead of health.Image: Getty ImagesWe learned this week that the Biden administration wants the start of baseball season to be delayed, a desire that at this point stands to go unfulfilled because the Major League Baseball Players Association is not willing to let ownership link such a delay with a reopening of their collective bargaining agreement.The MLBPA is right about this. If the season is to be delayed because of COVID-19, it shouldn’t be connected to other labor issues like the universal designated hitter and expanded playoffs. It should be about doing the right thing.The right thing is a delay, not opening spring training camps in another week and a half. We’re still seeing more than 100,000 new cases of coronavirus on a daily basis in this country, and losing 3,000-plus people a day. The situation with the pandemic remains far worse than it was 11 months ago when sports shut down. Pushing back baseball season would allow for more time to get people vaccinated, in order to proceed with a safer summer game.But if we’re talking about delaying baseball because it’s really not safe yet to go ahead with a sport where the vast majority of the activity is outdoors, and a game that’s reasonable to play while wearing masks, well, what the hell are we doing with the indoor sports whose seasons are underway?Hockey is a total shitshow right now, which anyone could have seen coming since October. The cold air at ice level and heavy breathing of players are a recipe for trouble, and the slew of cancellations in hockey, from various NHL games to the scrubbing of the NWHL’s Isobel Cup playoffs, are nothing more than that recipe being followed by continuing to play.G/O Media may get a commissionBut what’s really galling right now is basketball, where not only is the NBA trying to futz its way through a season, with ludicrous results — such as Kevin Durant being held out of Friday night’s game, then allowed to play, then pulled — but planning to hold an All-Star Game.LeBron James wants nothing to do with it. Same for Giannis Antetokounmpo. And De’Aaron Fox. And Joel Embiid. Friday night, Kawhi Leonard offered the most blunt take on the situation, pointing out that the only reason to be going ahead with the All-Star Game is money.Money over health has been the story of far too much of the past 11 months, and even longer than that in America, if we’re being honest. It’s time for the NBA and NHL to hit pause again, and for the baseball season to be delayed. We did it last year, and we can do it again now, especially with the light visible at the end of the tunnel thanks to a ramping-up vaccination program. It didn’t have to be this way, of course, but the entire country endured a much worse situtation than we could have had thanks to completely incompetent leadership under the previous president.It’s time to finally put health over money. Call off the All-Star Game. Stop the seasons. Get it right and stop sending athletes around the country to keep spreading the virus in the name of collecting television dollars and putting on a charade that we’re closer to normal than we really are. The lesson we should be learning is that the longer you screw around with a pandemic, the longer it takes to beat it. It’s time to stop screwing around. .
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