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A woman wearing a protective face mask, following an outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), walks past the Olympic rings in front of the Japan Olympics Museum in Tokyo.
This will make those long hours of self-isolation seem even longer: the Monday morning musings and meditations on the world of sports.
• On Sunday, Canada became the first country to pull out of the Tokyo Olympics. But even as the International Olympics Committee contorts itself into a pretzel trying to escape the inevitable, there is only one ending for this story.
The Canadian Olympic Committee, apparently tired of watching the IOC dither, announced it wouldn’t send teams to either the Olympic or Paralympic Games in Japan this summer. More will likely follow in the upcoming days, forcing the IOC into a position it’s done its best to avoid.
On Friday IOC president Thomas Bach said different scenarios are being considered with regards to the Summer Games set for Tokyo without identifying what those scenarios might be. When that position was met with howls from every corner of the globe, Bach came back earlier on Sunday with a new statement.
The IOC will now take a month to consider all possibilities, including postponing the Tokyo Games but cancellation still isn’t on the table.
Fine. Whatever. The opening ceremonies for the 2020 Games are set for July 24 and I have a better chance of medalling in the marathon than the Games have of starting on time. They will be postponed. The only question is will they be held later, much later, in 2020 or put off to the summer of 2021 when a full training and qualification cycle can be held.
That would be the sane thing to do here. But, remember, this is the IOC. The mere fact that they’re still contemplating inviting some 10,000 athletes from all over the world to live and compete in close quarters is one thing. The mere fact that they’re considering holding their 17-day sports festival in front of, literally, millions of spectators and 100,000 volunteers (the number from Beijing) is an obscenity.
In an open letter Bach wrote on Sunday: “We have made our leading principle to safeguard the health of everyone involved and to contribute to containing the virus.”
If that’s the case, there’s only one decision. They’ll eventually get to postponement because they really don’t have a choice in the matter.
The COC, meanwhile, should be commended for making a stand that might not be popular with the IOC but is unquestionably the right thing to do. There’s a complicated history between our country and the IOC – Dick Pound has long been a dissenting voice on the committee, Beckie Scott has been a leading figure in the anti-doping movement, Hayley Wickenheiser has gone public with her criticism of the IOC’s stance on the pandemic. But this is about something else. We were the first. We won’t be the last.
A giant watch for Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games is pictured in Tokyo.
• On a related note , called Dr. Doug Clement to get a comment on the cancellation of the Harry Jerome track meet, an event he and his wife Diane have helped organize and run for five decades. The good doctor, who competed in the 1952 Olympics, wasn’t particularly interested in exploring that subject.
On the subject of COVID-19 and the IOC, he was a little more expansive.
“I’m exposed to both worlds, as a medical person and the athletes,” Clement said. “And I understand (the IOC) is very reluctant to focus on the reality.
˚But from the medical point of view, this thing (the pandemic) won’t be blunted. There’s no chance the Olympics will take place. It’s not going to happen. This thing is coming like a freight train.”
• It’s been 11 days since the NHL announced it’s suspending its season and it feels like 11 months.
Now think of what it’s going to feel like two months from now.
You’d love to think the NHL can hold a Stanley Cup tournament beginning in June and, at this point, few would care what it looks like. But with everything going on in our world, it just doesn’t seem possible.
• This is better. While we’re all in lockdown mode, here’s a list of one columnists 10 favourite sports books. In the interests of objectivity I’m disqualifying my own even though all three would make any reputable top-10 list
1. Loose Balls, Terry Pluto
The oral history of the American Basketball Association and the best writer on his best day couldn’t create the characters which the rebel basketball league churned out. Come for Wendell Ladner. Stay for Marvin Barnes.
2. Ball Four, Jim Bouton
The Sgt. Pepper of sports books. Bouton’s diary of the 1969 baseball season remains as vital and hilarious as the day it was published.
3. The Historical Baseball Abstract. Bill James.
The godfather of analytics, this is the most comprehensive history of baseball and the best part? Dude can write.
4. The Game. Ken Dryden.
Going to limit the hockey books to just one and this is the gold standard.
5. Fever Pitch. Nick Hornby.
Same rule for soccer. Hornby’s account of his tortured relationship with Arsenal is universal.
5. Stengel: HIs Life and Times. Robert Creamer.
Leigh Montville on Ted Williams, Richard Ben Cramer on Joe DiMaggio or Jane Levy on Sandy Koufax could have make the list but Creamer’s bio of Casey Stengel is a personal favourite.
6. Heart of a Goof. P.G. Wodehouse.
A collection of short stories with golf as the subject matter by one of literature’s great humorists.
7. Friday Night Lights. H.G. Bissinger.
Hard to believe it’s set in 1988. Still packs a punch after all these years.
8. Instant Replay. Jerry Kramer.
One of the first books to take readers behind the scenes. The scene, in this case, was Vince Lombardi’s Packers in the 1967 season. If you’re a Lombardi fan David Maraniss’s bio — When Pride Still Mattered — is superb.
9. The Book of Basketball. Bill Simmons.
You have to get by his annoying Celtics uber-fan persona but it’s a rollicking account of the game’s history.
10. Wheelman. Vanessa O’Connell, Reed Albergotti.
The Lance Armstrong blood-doping scandal spawned a couple of great books — notably The Secret Race by American cyclist Tyler Hamilton — but this account by two Wall Street Journal reporters is the place to start.
• First started watching the NCAA men’s basketball tournament in 1971 when UCLA (Sidney Wicks, Curtis Rowe) beat an underdog Villanova team led by Howard Porter. Of all the events which have been cancelled by the spread of COVID-19, it’s the one which hits the hardest.
• And finally, Twitter can be a cesspool but, these days, it’s also the repository of hope and inspiration.
In the last week or so I’ve watched a flash mob perform Beethoven’s Ode to Joy at a public square in Spain — it’s from 2012 but who cares; The Band’s Robbie Robertson lead musicians from all over the world in a performance of The Weight; the celebrity rendition of John Lennon’s Imagine; impersonator Conor Moore’s rendition of golf stars performing Imagine; and Al Foran, another impersonator, doing DeNiro, Pesci and Pacino watching The Irishman for the first time while discussing social distancing.
The clip is just over 90 seconds long. Watch it. Watch any of them. For a few moments they take you to a different place.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020