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What you need to know about COVID-19: September 30, 2020
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman.
Washington Nationals pitcher Sean Doolittle (63) celebrates after defeating the Houston Astros in game six of the 2019 World Series at Minute Maid Park.
A helmet sits on the sidelines during an Edmonton Eskimos’ practice at Commonwealth Stadium.
Let’s look at the bright side of the COVID-19 pandemic: the B.C. Lions are still undefeated. While we’re spreading the positivity around here are the Monday morning musings and meditations on the world of sports.
• If the scope of the NHL’s restart plan hasn’t fully registered, take a moment to consider everything in play as the league frantically tries to salvage some semblance of a season.
For starters, the NHL and the Players’ Association are essentially negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement on the fly to reflect the new world order. Highlights, as per The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun, include a flattened salary cap of $81.5 million for 20-21; a reworked formula for calculating escrow, deferment on players’ salaries; and an increase in the playoff pool.
If ratified by the PA the new agreement will run to 2025-26. For a league which has endured four work stoppages over the last 28 years that’s encouraging news. But it’s contingent on the NHL returning to some form of normalcy in 2020-21 and that’s hardly a foregone conclusion.
Come to think of it, so is the fate of the proposed Stanley Cup tournament which is supposed to begin later this summer. The league has already pushed back the start of training camps from July 10 to July 13 as it attempts to address the myriad of health and safety concerns posed by the COVID-19 health crisis. News broke on Sunday evening that the league and PA have agreed on the return-to-play protocols which will now be put to a vote by the full membership of the union.
But if anyone call tell you when exactly players will be reporting or where this is all headed, they’re guessing.
Now here’s the best part. The NHL’s plan actually looks reasonably organized compared to the other North American professional leagues which are attempting a restart. Major League Baseball is in chaos. Major League Soccer is even worse. The NFL has managed to avoid the spotlight but that will change in about a month.
As for the CFL, who knows what they’re doing.
This doesn’t mean the NHL will succeed in its grand ambition. It just means it has a marginally better chance than some of the others but, after all this time and effort, there are still too many variables in the equation, too many things which are beyond the league’s control. The only thing we knew for certain about the novel coronavirus is it will charge through any crack, no matter the precautions, and wreak havoc on its surroundings.
In the end the NHL can guarantee nothing which leaves you with an anxious feeling as it tries to cram everything which needs to be addressed into an uncomfortably tight window.
You hope it succeeds. But the risk-reward ratio here is hard to justify.
0 One other item to consider from the negotiations between the NHL and the PA. It was revealed NHL players will take part in the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing and the 2026 Games in Milan. That’s a massive development for the league, the players and fans and the issue consumed the media since the league opted out of Pyeongchang in 2018, But this week it was merely a sidebar to everything else that was going on. Strange times.
• Two things I didn’t know about baseball until this weekend.
One, when and if play resumes, relief pitchers will have to face a minimum of three batters or pitch until the inning is over.
Two, the game and the lockdown have produced some of the most enlightened voices in all of sports. Last week Colorado’s Ian Desmond gave his reasons for opting out of the upcoming season, citing family concerns, the political climate in America and the state of the game.
This weekend, it was Sean Doolittle’s turn to open some eyes. The Washington Nationals’ reliever noted his team is still waiting on N95 masks and gloves, and test results have been slow. This was before observing the following on American’s response to COVID-19.
“We haven’t done any of the things that other countries have done to bring sports back. Sports are like the reward of a functional society and we’re just trying to bring it back even though we’ve taken none of the steps to flatten the curve,” said Doolittle.
“If there aren’t sports it’s going to be because people are not wearing masks, because the response to this has been so politicized. We need help from the general public. If they want to watch baseball, please wear a mask, social distance, keep washing your hands. We can’t just have virus fatigue and think ‘Well it’s been four months. We’re over it. This has been enough time, right?’ No there’s things we have to do in order to bring this stuff back.”
Sports are like the reward of a functional society. Someone please put that on a T-shirt.
• This tells you all you need to know about the impact of the pandemic on our games. Bryson DeChambeau, who won the Rocket Mortgage Classic after a controversial encounter with a TV cameraman earlier in the tournament, is likely the most compelling athlete in the world right now.
• And finally, if you don’t understand why the term, ‘redskin,’ or ‘eskimo,’ is offensive, especially when used as a symbol or logo for a professional sports team, there’s little I can say here which will change your mind.
But the issue isn’t what you or I think. It’s what the Native Americans and Inuit — the people who’s culture, heritage and history are at the root of this issue — think and on that basis, it’s hard to believe changing a team name still encounters resistance.
This has nothing to do with political correctness or optics. It has everything to do with decency and respect. Indigenous people in North America have been denied that decency and respect for centuries. They’ve also been subjected to brutal, dehumanizing treatment by a society which has attempted to eradicate their culture even as it trades on the stereotypes of that culture.
It’s just time to change that. Actually, it was time 50 years ago but if sports are supposed to represent something meaningful in our world, this has to happen.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020