4th and a Mile with Paul Muth

Coronavirus has officially changed the game

Expect a lot of empty stadiums in the coming months. Photo by Paul Muth.

Here's what we know from the major sports leagues so far (UPDATED 3-13-2020)

  • NBA: Season suspended indefinitely.
  • NCAA: Tournaments have been cancelled.
  • NHL: Season suspended indefinitely.
  • NFL: Not currently affected. Draft still scheduled to go on in public as planned.
  • XFL: Season has been cancelled
  • MLB: Season suspended for 2 weeks, spring training suspended immediately
For a more detailed list, click here.

Why it matters

It may seem weird for people to be so up in arms over sports being cancelled, but it shouldn't. For most, sports are seen as a constant. A lot of memories are attributed to "the year x team won the championship." Personally, I found a sense of comfort in streaming the Astros games from my zip-locked phone, tucked away in the chest pocket of my waders as my friend and I did welfare checks through neighborhoods in waist-deep water after Harvey. It was a semblance of normalcy during a week that was anything but. Now, we're beginning to lose even that.

It's also about community. It's about the legions of disjointed Astros fans anticipating opening day so they can finally be together after an off season where outsiders were hell-bent on ripping them apart. It's about taking nephews to the last basketball game of the season, or meeting up with pops to show him what that "newfangled XFL league" is all about. It's El Batalion and Texian Army. It's Red Rowdies.

Sports has always served a purpose beyond merely spectating athletic ability. We may now discover to what extent.

Moving forward

The NBA cancelling their season was just the first North American domino to fall. Expect other leagues to take similar precautions, either by locking fans out or cancelling the season entirely as early as today. I expect my Roughnecks season tickets to be affected, and I expect Astros opening day to be affected. If it doesn't happen, OK. I'll happily admit that I'm wrong, because I very much would like to go to these events. But in the event that I'm right, and no one is allowed to these events, there are alternatives.

Provided you are healthy, and exercise caution, go watch it at your neighborhood bar. The service industry is very likely about to take a beating and those ladies and gentlemen have taken care of all of us at one point or another beyond what we deserved. This is one of the few times you can chalk up throwing back a few cold ones with the boys as a legitimate community service.

The games are going to feel weird. It's hard to imagine a WrestleMania in a potentially empty stadium or a Tomahawk dunk reverberating like a solid putt to set up a birdie. It's an alien reality that never seemed truly plausible, but here we are. We may not have caused it, but collectively we're the only ones who can get everyone through it. And while sports may take a backseat to everything that is unfolding, they still matter for reasons beyond box scores.

Don't panic, but don't downplay

It's hard to find the right tone about something like this.

On the one hand, it's not productive to be an alarmist and shout from the rooftops that the sky is falling. Besides, there are plenty of other outlets that are more than happy to accommodate.

But on the other hand, it's foolish to downplay it's effects. As we speak, the economy is shuddering, the NBA is shuttering, and sports leagues across the country are no-doubt taking subsequent queues. Yet in spite of the physical evidence in front of us, we have people continuing to downplay the seriousness, claiming that coronavirus is simply another SARS or Ebola scare.

It's not.

Let's get two things straight:

  1. There is currently no vaccine.
  2. There are not enough testing kits available to identify and track it.

This is why things are shutting down. It's not because everyone will die. In fact most wont. If you're a thirty-something like me and in generally good health, it will probably just knock you for a loop for a few days and you'll be right back at it.

But it's not about you. It's about your grandma you go hug. It's about someone else's grandma using the same ATM as someone who was infected but didn't know. It's the unknowing.

If you don't agree with the measures being taken, that's fine. They might seem insane to some, but what is equally insane is telling everyone that it is being blown out of proportion, that it's just hysteria about nothing, or that it's some conspiracy. Preaching caution to a thing that might be overblown will simply result in over-preparedness. Downplaying and convincing people to let down their guard over a thing that could potentially be 10 times as fatal as influenza can have more dire consequences.

We're in uncharted territory. So if you're not qualified to read the map, please don't give out directions.

NOTE: The beginning of the article has been updated to accurately reflect the current state of the leagues mentioned

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THE LEFT TURN

NASCAR: Quaker State 400 preview

Photo via: WikiCommons.

This week, the NASCAR cup series heads to Kentucky Motor Speedway for the Quaker State 400. Built in 2001, this track is a 1.5 mile tri-oval with a dog-leg on the front stretch. The most dangerous part of the track has to be turn three as the corner is flat compared to the other three corners that are banked. This has been a major point of contingency for these drivers as most of the cautions end up being there. Look for turn three to be a hot spot come Sunday. Last year, both the Busch brothers finished 1-2 in one of the most exciting finishes of the season so there will be a lot of hype for this race to live up to.

Last week at Indy, as we all expected the race was a crazy one. Over the course of the race's 160 laps, we saw many horrific accidents including a scary pit road accident involving Corey Lajoe, Ryan Blaney, Justin Allgier, Ryan Preece and others. The wreck started when everyone got stacked up entering the pits and the calamity was on from there. During the wreck Brennan Poole struck Rear Tire Changer Zach Price as he was trying to avoid the wrecking cars in front of him. After the incident fans and media alike all held their breath as they awaited news on his condition. But when the camera panned to him being loaded into the ambulance, there was a huge sigh of relief as he gave everyone a thumbs up signifying he was okay. Another scary moment was both Erik Jones and Alex Bowman's vicious crashes. Both cars had tire failures that sent their cars directly into the wall. Fortunately both drivers were okay but their days were over.

In the end, tire wear would end up claiming one more victim as it took out Denny Hamlin as well. With seven laps to go, the four-time winner this season was in prime position to get his fifth victory until his right front tire blew out, sending him hard into the turn 2 wall. This mishap handed the win to his main rival in the championship, Kevin Harvick, as he went on to claim his third Brickyard 400 victory and fourth win of the year. When it was all over, many questioned why there were so many tire failures and if new owner Roger Penske would make an effort to possibly widen the pit-road after the massive accident on Sunday.

Needless to say, there are a lot of questions on what will be different at Indy in 2021. When I talked to spotter Freddie Kraft on Tuesday, he gave a lot of good insights on both topics. When it came to the tire failures, he talked about how the increasing corner speeds at the racetrack has put a lot of pressure on these Goodyear tires which eventually led to them coming apart. As far as Pit-Road and what they can do to fix that, he talked about how it is difficult to make changes to a track that is so historical. Which makes sense, but he followed this up by saying that maybe it would be wise to give up a little history and move the wall over and make it wider. It will be interesting to see what NASCAR does in the coming months.

On Friday, Associated Press journalist Jenna Fryer revealed a bombshell announcement that 7-time champion and NASCAR's biggest name Jimmie Johnson, had tested positive for coronavirus. As everyone knows, the world is going through the worst pandemic it's ever faced in this lifetime. With the sport coming back and racing again, it was only a matter of time until one of the drivers came down with it. Unfortunately it had to be NASCAR's most recognizable driver. Thankfully, Jimmie made a full recovery and was cleared to return this weekend at Kentucky. This was a big scare for everyone in the NASCAR world, but I have to give a lot of credit to Johnson for being as forthright as he was about his diagnosis with everyone who he works with. It will be good to have Jimmie back on Sunday.

The driver that I have winning this weekend is Kyle Busch. While this season has been a disappointment for the defending champion, Kentucky would be a great place for him to turn it around. Ever since the cup series has started going there, Kyle has always been in contention to win. In fact, he won the first cup series race that was run at this track back in 2011. In his nine starts there, Kyle has finished outside the top ten only once and even then he finished 12th, back in 2016. Last season it appeared that Kyle was on his way to a third victory at this track, but he came up one spot short to his brother Kurt in a fantastic last lap duel. After a late race restart this weekend though, I see Kyle redeeming himself and capturing his first victory of 2020. Look for Kyle to get back on track come Sunday.


All stats and information used in this article are brought to you by the good folks at driveraverages.com and Racing-Reference.com, the best websites for all NASCAR stats.

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