Every-Thing Sports

Gov. Abbott's soft reopen: what does this mean for sports?

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On Monday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott decided to let his stay-at-home order, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, to expire Thursday April 30. Per his orders, businesses like retail stores, malls, restaurants and theaters to reopen Friday May 1, but limits occupancy to 25%. Museums and libraries are allowed to reopen as well. I'm assuming they'll be under the 25% limit as well. Barbershops, salons, gyms and bars are to remained closed, but it's his hope to have them reopen mid-May. Some places have defied the stay-at-home orders. Culture Map's Eric Sandler wrote about a restaurant in Houston that decided to reopen its doors on Friday April 24. There have also been protests around the country about the right to gather, wanting to get back to work, and playing in public parks. So what are the possible effects this soft reopening will have on the sports world?

Trial Run

Allowing for some public places to reopen at a 25% capacity will let us see if we're ready to go back in public. If we see the number of positive cases go down or stagnate, it could allow for things open back up more quickly. On the flip side, if we see a spike, things will get shut back down. Maybe if the former happens, stadiums and arenas could reopen at the same 25% capacity with the same social distancing orders in place.

Texas Could Be A Host Site

Let's say all goes well and the soft reopen lasts for the month of May. Could we see leagues wanting to come to Texas to resume their seasons? Would the NBA consider using Houston and it's numerous world class facilities to finish its season? Would MLB follow suit? Other potential sites mentioned like Vegas for the NBA, and the traditional Spring Training states of Arizona and Florida may be behind in reopening. This could entice those leagues to come here and get some sort of revenue going.

Setting the Standard

This could set the standard for the rest of the country. If all goes well in May, standards loosen in June, we could see schools reopening soon after. If the schools are open, everything else would follow suit, more specifically, football. Football is as engrained in the fabric of this country as anything. Even if the NCAA and NFL seasons get off to a delayed start, it'll be a welcomed sight. Schools reopening is a major key. Maybe Gov. Abbott will reopen schools at a capacity limit. If that goes as planned, sports will be sure to follow.

This could always go south. Positive test numbers could spike dramatically leaving us in a worse position than before. That would restart the clock on quarantining. Sports have always been our escape from reality. During the Harvey aftermath, we had the Astros and football started soon after. When you're dealing with a worldwide pandemic, the game changes. Personally, I think this soft reopen is a bad idea. However, the capacity limits give me hope. But people are dumbasses and will find a way to ruin things. My family and I won't be out there standing in lines to get in any of these places initially. Besides getting live sports back in some form, I am looking forward to one of my guilty pleasures returning: mall Chinese food.

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J.J. Watt, the Houston Texans all-time leader in sacks (96.0), is entering his ninth season with the franchise ahead of what will certainly be an anomaly year for the NFL. Due to the ongoing pandemic of COVID-19, there is serious doubt that the NFL will be able to play a full 16-game schedule, while others express their concern with the league's inability to play any form of football come the fall of 2020.

There are a lot of uncertainties surrounding the league this coming season, which is becoming a theme for Watt's future in Houston.

The 31-year-old defensive end has two years remaining on his six-year, $100 million contract extension he signed in September of 2014. But as he prepares to embark on another year with the Texans through Zoom meetings with his teammates, a new contract is not on Watt's priority list.

"No, I don't think that's necessary," Watt told Houston reporters on Wednesday. "I fully understand and respect the situation that I'm in at the moment, and what's happened in the past few years, so I'm not gonna sit here and demand anything. I think if I went back and asked for an extension or more money, I think that would be the wrong move. I am just going out there to prove my worth and to help this team win games."

As of now, it is unsure what the future holds for Watt's career with the Texans. Should management re-sign the three-time Defensive Player of the Year winner (2012, 2014 & 2015), the question becomes: How much is Watt worth as he enters the twilight of his career? It's the subject that will be the driving force when discussing Watt's future with the team, and the segment that sparked a trade rumor of his departure to the Chicago Bears.

Although his on-field production remains extremely valuable, Watt has had a difficult time trying to stay healthy. Since 2016, he has missed 32 out of a possible 64 games due to an abundance of injuries. In 2019, Watt missed half of the season after suffering a torn pectoral during the Texans' 27-24 victory over the then-Oakland Raiders.

"My goal for every season is to do whatever possible to help this team win, and number one, that means staying healthy," he said. "You have to be on the field in order to help the team win, and then it is to play at the peak physical level I am capable of. It is just making sure I am in the best possible shape to perform that way."

Contract and injuries aside, the five-time Pro-Bowler is excited about his opportunity to play under new defensive coordinator, Anthony Weaver. During his introductory press conference two weeks ago, Weaver said Watt will remain the focal point for the Texans' defense in 2020, but acknowledged getting the future Hall of Famer through 16 games remains a hurdle.

After four seasons serving as Houston's defensive line coach, the Texans promoted Weaver to defensive coordinator in January to replace Romeo Crennel.

"I love [Anthony] Weaver... I think that he has a great mixture of knowledge of the game, experience, but also personality to be able to handle the players in the room," Watt said. "To be able to inject some fun and excitement into meetings, practice and everything, all while bringing the knowledge necessary to run a good defense."

Under the guidance of a new defensive coordinator, Weaver may be just the coach to help Watt rekindle the potential that made him an All-Pro defensive end. Regardless of the uncertainties surrounding his future at the conclusion of his contract, Watt is hoping he will have the opportunity to finish his career where it started — in Houston.

"That is a goal of mine, and this city [Houston] has been incredible to me since I got here," Watt said. "I don't know what's going to happen in the future, but I certainly hope that's the case."

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