CANCEL CULTURE

This may seem like a no-win situation, but there's an easy solution

This may seem like a no-win situation, but there's an easy solution
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Southeastern Conference, Atlantic Coast Conference and Big 12 can announce their fall football schedules and scramble for non-conference patsies - I'll be stunned if any games are played. If the season does start, it will end abruptly. It's too risky. There's just too much at stake. Like the old baseball sayin' – just wait till next year.

Cancel college football now.

Heck, the Olympics postponed the biggest event in all of sports this summer until next summer, and Olympic organizers and Japanese officials aren't positive the Games will happen even then.

They postponed the Boston Marathon, Kentucky Derby, Masters golf tournament, Tour de France, Burning Man, Emmy and AVN Awards. And flat out canceled March Madness, Wimbledon, Little League World Series, the Houston Rodeo, Calgary Stampede and most of the Major League Baseball season.

If this year in sports were reduced to Twitter shorthand, it'd be "smh." What is so special or essential about college football, especially in the face of a pandemic that has paralyzed the rest of American society?

We don't have to wonder or predict: we already know that students are bringing highly contagious coronavirus to campus during move-in days this week. Watch the local news. College students are returning to campus without face masks, some making jokes about drinking Corona beer, waiting for frat parties to begin.

North Carolina, a member of the ACC, opened its campus to in-person classes last week, and sent everybody back home this week. Michigan State has told students to wait and study online in the meantime. Notre Dame has a "Temporarily Closed" sign on classroom doors. An entire sorority at Oklahoma State is in quarantine. Schools across the country are reporting or preparing for spikes in the virus.

The Big Ten and Pac-12, two of the Power 5 conferences, have said no to football this fall. The Pac-12 went even further, no sports until next January. The Mid-American Conference, Western Athletic Conference, other smaller conferences, UConn and UMass have canceled fall sports. In all 54 percent of the 130 FBS colleges will not play football this fall.

The Big Ten has two schools, Nebraska and Ohio State, stumbling and grumbling about putting together a football schedule outside their conference. It's all bluster and posturing, Nebraska and Ohio State won't play a single snap.

Presidents of Pac-12 colleges voted unanimously to cancel fall football after listening to a doctor – not a politician or football coach – explain how COVID-19 may have long-term consequences to players' hearts. That was enough for the Pac-12 to say they'll consider some sort of football schedule next spring.

If colleges say their campus isn't safe for in-person instruction, how can they say it's OK to play football? After all, the players supposedly are student-athletes, and part of the college experience is getting an education in classrooms, mingling with non-sporty, regular ol' students.

Of course college players want to play, and college towns will lose billions of dollars across the country if football is postponed. Their misery will have company. They can cry on the shoulders of 20 million Americans who've lost their jobs to the COVID-19 crisis.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said: "Unless players are essentially in a bubble, insulated from the community and they tested nearly every day, it would be very hard to see how football is able to be played this fall."

The NBA is operating under an airtight bubble in Orlando without fans. It's working. Baseball, however, is not in a bubble, and players are testing positive. Games are being postponed so often that teams may not play the same number of games during its coronavirus-abbreviated season. Records and championships won't be taken seriously.

College players are not professional athletes. If football is played this season, on top of career-ending football injuries, players will risk possible long-term medical issues. It's just not worth the gamble. If the SEC, ACC and Big 12 play, while the Big Ten and Pac-12 sit, the championship game will have the biggest asterisk in sports history.

Colleges will not be able to ask players to sign a waiver, releasing the schools from coronavirus-related issues. Colleges already are reporting numbers of players bringing the virus to campus. No sport is more susceptible to spreading the virus than football, with crowded training facilities and physical contact on the field.

The fact is, America has 4 percent of the world's population and 20 percent of COVID-19 deaths. This virus is contagious and dangerous. While young people, say college age, may not exhibit symptoms, doctors say they can spread the virus just the same as older people.

If colleges keep football players on campus for practice and games, while other students are told to stay home and take classes online, the NCAA can no longer pose players as student-athletes.

America is such a hot spot for the virus that most countries are not accepting tourists from America. Even at home, some states have roadblocks keeping out visitors from other states.

The world will survive without one season of college football, while we safely wait for a COVID-19 vaccine. There's just too much at stake now.

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Astros on the hunt. Composite Getty Image.

With the Astros' surge from 10 games out of first place to within two games of Seattle, catching and going past the Mariners has naturally become the top objective. It's no given to happen but it's right there. In the final series ahead of the All-Star break, while the Mariners are in the midst of four games with the lowly Angels, the last two World Series champions renew (un)pleasantries at Minute Maid Park.

The Astros enter the weekend five games ahead of the Rangers. They lead the season series with the reigning champs four wins to three. While the Astros can't quite finish off the Arlingtonians by sweeping them in this three game set, shoving them eight games back (even further back of Seattle and the current Wild Card teams) and clinching the tiebreaker would seem close to a death blow. Taking two out of three would be fine for the Astros. If the Rangers win the series, they are clearly still in the American League West and Wild Card races coming out of the All-Star break.

Last year the Rangers had the best offense in the AL. So far in 2024 they rank a mediocre eighth in runs per game. Nathaniel Lowe is the lone Ranger (get it?!?) regular playing as well as he did last season. Corey Seager has been fine but not at the MVP runner-up level of last year. Marcus Semien is notably down, as is 2023 ALCS Astros-obliterater Adolis Garcia. Stud 2023 rookie Josh Jung has been out with a broken wrist since ex-Astro Phil Maton hit him with a pitch in the fourth game of this season, though fill-in third baseman Josh Smith has been the Rangers' best player. 21-year-old late season phenom Evan Carter largely stunk the first two months this season and has been out since late May with a back injury. Repeating is hard, never harder than it is now. Hence no Major League Baseball has done it since the Yankees won three straight World Series 1998-2000.

Chasing down the Division at a crazy clip

From the abyss of their 7-19 start, the Astros sweep over the Marlins clinched a winning record at the break with them at 49-44. Heading into the Texas matchup the Astros have won at a .627 clip since they were 7-19. A full season of .627 ball wins 101 games. If the Astros win at a .627 rate the rest of the way they'll finish with 92 wins, almost certainly enough to secure a postseason slot and likely enough to win the West. Expecting .627 the rest of the way is ambitious.

With it fairly clear that Lance McCullers is highly unlikely to contribute anything after his latest recovery setback, and Luis Garcia a major question mark, what Justin Verlander has left in 2024 grows more important. With the way the Astros often dissemble or poorly forecast when discussing injuries, for all we know Verlander could be cooked. Inside three weeks to the trade deadline, General Manager Dana Brown can't be thinking a back end of the rotation comprised of Spencer Arrighetti and Jake Bloss should be good enough. The Astros have 66 games to play after the All-Star break, including separate stretches with games on 18 and 16 consecutive days.

All-Star MIAs

Viewership for Tuesday's All-Star game at Globe Life Field in Arlington will be pretty, pretty, pretty low in Houston. One, All-Star Game ratings are pitiful every year compared to where they used to be. Two, the Astros could be down to zero representatives at Tuesday's showcase. Kyle Tucker was rightfully named a reserve but had no shot at playing as he continues the loooong recovery from a bone bruise (or worse) suffered June 3. Being named an All-Star for a ninth time was enough for Jose Altuve. He opts out of spending unnecessary time in Texas Rangers territory citing a sore wrist. This despite Altuve playing four games in a row since sitting out the day after he was plunked and highly likely to play in all three games versus the Rangers this weekend. Yordan Alvarez exiting Wednesday's rout of the Marlins with hip discomfort and then missing Thursday's game seem clear reasons for him to skip, though he has indicated thus far he intends to take part. Yordan is the most essential lineup component to the Astros' hopes of making an eighth straight playoff appearance.

Ronel Blanco should have made the American League squad on performance, but pretty obviously his 10 game illegal substance use suspension was held against him. As it works out, Blanco will pitch Sunday in the last game before the break which would render him unavailable for the All-Star Game anyway. Blanco is eligible to pitch, but given the career high-shattering innings workload Blanco is headed for, no way the Astros want him on the mound Tuesday. Just last year the Astros kept Framber Valdez from pitching in the game.

While waiting, and waiting, and waiting on Tucker's return, the Astros have also been waiting on Chas McCormick to get back to something even faintly resembling the hitter he was last year. McCormick routinely looks lost at the plate. He has four hits (all singles) in his last 32 at bats with his season OPS pitiful at .572. During the break the Astros should seriously weigh sending McCormick to AAA Sugar Land and giving Pedro Leon a try in a job share with Joey Loperfido.

*Catch our weekly Stone Cold ‘Stros podcast. Brandon Strange, Josh Jordan, and I discuss varied Astros topics. The first post for the week generally goes up Monday afternoon (second part released Tuesday) via The SportsMap HOU YouTube channel or listen to episodes in their entirety at Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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