The Analysis of Sports Amidst COVID-19

After a long and argumentative time span in May and June, the NBA and MLB have concluded that the season will resume in the month of July.

For the majority of sports fans, it is a pleasure and a sign of hope that sports will finally be on television again. For the opposite side of the scale, there is reasonable doubt, as well as reasonable concern, for the continuation of sports.

In a world that seems to change relentlessly on a daily basis, the sports scene is certainly no exception and the above-average sports fan has certainly been starving for some sort of entertainment on television.

For a while, there was a considerable crowd that was highly invested in “The Last Dance” documentary, which then transitioned into a less than entertaining golf match between all-time rivals of Tom Brady vs. Payton Manning and Tiger Woods vs. Phil Michelson. Even though these two isolated programs attracted a considerable crowd, the background of the continuation of sports was still up in the air.

Fast forward to late June when Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred reached an agreement with the MLB Players Association to play a 60-game season in specified, semi-neutral locations to minimize travel. Similarly, the NBA reached an agreement to colonize the since-abandoned Walt Disney World to accommodate the players and their respective staff.

The NHL has released a schedule in which the remainder of the season – including the postseason – will be played without any solidified ramifications or logistics of how, when, or where the games will be played. Lastly, the NFL is still up in the air in regards to gameplay, although the presence of fans crowding into a stadium seems highly unlikely.

Essentially, I would like to analyze the intent and the possible outcomes of sports returning in the disastrous year that is 2020.

In a year where a pandemic was not plaguing the entire planet, the average sports fan would be just finishing the NHL and NBA postseasons and beginning to get a feel for their current MLB team before the all-star break to identify any changes that may need to be made to make a playoff run. Additionally, that same average sports fan is more than likely already thinking about football, imagining the outcome of the team they support after all the final trades and personnel changes have been made. Maybe they’d even be pooling the final contestants in the annual fantasy football league.

In 2020, baseball seemed nonexistent given that the peak of the epidemic and shelter-in-place orders began on what would have been opening day for several different programs, but furthermore, the climax of the NHL and NBA seasons was about to be in full swing.

Having said that, the question then becomes “If a franchise were to win a championship this season, what will be recorded in history?”

In my observation of the NBA, the season will resume. But there have been several players – even all-star players in fact – that have contracted the disease and are absolutely subject to miss a portion of this season. That will then affect a coaching strategy going forward; not to mention the health and wellbeing of the other players and staff.

Hypothetically, if the Lakers were to finish the remainder of what would be the 2019-2020 season as champions, this season would be the first dynamic of its kind and will be deserving of an “outlier” distinction. This same paradigm applies for the NHL and even more so for baseball given that the season will be played with less than half as many games as a normal season.

Is that deserving championship prestige? I believe history will decide.

Going further, sports have a tendency to bring everyone together. Not just by the overwhelming support for a team or an individual, but entertainment of any kind can cause the looming sensation of melancholy and cabin fever to subside while the game is on.

In that aspect, I cannot wait to be surrounded by sports and the culture alike again. I miss the premise of sitting down with my friends and loved ones and watching a sports game or match. Perhaps even more so, I miss those conversations I have with others about a terrible umpire, an astounding home run, a near-impossible three-pointer, or a rapid-paced power play that can seem to make any problem feel small.

However, sports in that respect are still just a game, but the athletes and the coaches involved in these games are real. In other words, these teams and individuals supporting these teams will be at risk, no matter what safety precautions are put in place.

COVID-19 did not by any means disappear, and will more than likely be amongst the populous of the United States for a lot longer than most are prepared for, especially me. I would rather remain in the comfort of my own home watching the same shows and highlight reels in perpetuity than sacrifice the health or safety of any athlete.

With more athletes testing positive for COVID-19, I am still under the impression that the beginning or resuming of sports this summer is still into question, and if gameplay were to resume, I will remain hopeful that everyone stays safe.

Why The Patriots’ Next QB is Primed for Success

From a Patriots fan’s perspective, the mutual decision to move on from Tom Brady felt like a bad breakup with your high school crush. The GOAT played his entire twenty-year career with the New England Patriots, where he was symbiotically paired with the greatest coach of all time.

The relationship visibly soured, as arguments between Brady and the coaching staff and teammates became a typical Sunday. Even with tensions running abnormally high in the Patriots locker room, it still seems inconceivable that Brady would set out to search for greener pastures elsewhere.

The climate brought upon the 2020 season by COVID-19 could perpetuate this notion that there truly was a disconnect between Brady and his young receivers last season. This also may ring a bit more true than the fanbase’s favorite narrative of “oh Tommy’s too old” or “Tommy can’t throw the longball anymore” as the reason why he was not re-signed.

The Patriots, as a team, could be better off with transitioning to Jarrett Stidham this season than they would in another year with the GOAT.

One doesn’t need to speculate on the benefits of having crowds attend games. Having home crowd noise is an undoubtedly big part of a game; so much that the Falcons were fined for pumping in artificial crowd noise during games in 2015.

The likelihood of playing the 2020 NFL season without fans is becoming more realistic by the day, but the lack of noise can help some players establish a rapport with their teammates. Young players in particular will be able to settle with a given team’s offensive schemes and packages quicker.

Establishing communication with a new offense in a sterile environment can only work in Jarrett Stidham’s favor. Having the sport in its purest form as a young player can open up avenues for communication, and can allow for a clean exchange after the snap.

While he isn’t Tom Brady, Stidham can be a sufficient pocket passer. Having a good defense can cover up some offensive blemishes, but having strong communication needs to be a tenant of an effective offensive plan. Some young blood at the QB position can open up the offense. Although Brady seemed to struggle with communication with his young receivers in 2019, a fresh start with a young QB can make a huge difference for the 2020 season.

Expansion Series 3: Indianapolis

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, every die-hard sports fan has missed out on some key events that otherwise would have occurred.

The possibility of not having a football season (college or professional) has me pinching myself to make sure that I’m not living in a dream. In an uncertain time in the sports world, it’s perfectly normal to let the mind wander when thinking about hypotheticals that otherwise would never happen.

Sports is what brings us all together, and one thing that every sports fan has in common is that the player, team, or coach that they cheer for represents something unique to them. The majority of fans resonate with a team regionally, and mainly reside locally. That being said, I will dive into each region that is craving a major sports team.

Next up, Indy.

The Colts have had a rocky history in the past 20 years with the empire of Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison being preceded by the ever so talented Andrew Luck, up until his surprising and early retirement. They had an ‘in the hunt’ season under the leadership of Jacoby Brissett, and the upcoming season will surely have some level of interest now that the veteran Philip Rivers will be joining the team.

The Pacers have seen their days in the limelight as well, as they have by and large found themselves in the playoffs over the last few years. Victor Oladipo gave the team some energy with his all-around skillset until his gruesome injury left the team in an emotional drought.

In recognition of the two sports that Indianapolis is lacking, the Indianapolis Indians are the current Triple-A affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates and were once home to the Indianapolis Racers, a professional hockey team. With little to go off of, I don’t see why Indy shouldn’t have a hockey team or a baseball team.

For more in this series, read why Las Vegas and Buffalo are also in need of expansion teams.

Expansion Series 2: Buffalo

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, every die-hard sports fan has missed out on some key events that otherwise would have occurred.

The possibility of not having a football season (college or professional) has me pinching myself to make sure that I’m not living in a dream. In an uncertain time in the sports world, it’s perfectly normal to let the mind wander when thinking about hypotheticals that otherwise would never happen.

Sports is what brings us all together, and one thing that every sports fan has in common is that the player, team, or coach that they cheer for represents something unique to them. The majority of fans resonate with a team regionally, and mainly reside locally. That being said, I will dive into each region that is craving a major sports team.

The next stop on our virtual tour is Buffalo, New York.

Buffalo has a solid sports following with the emergence of the Bills Mafia in the past few years, but the fandom has always been there. Josh Allen was just given an angel of an offensive weapon in Stefon Diggs this year and has proven to get a lot of things accomplished with a solid offensive line. Even further, now that Tom Brady has made his long-awaited exit from the AFC east, it has been speculated that the Bills will take the reins.

On the other hand, while the Sabres have one of the most impressive jersey designs in hockey right now, they do not have the most impressive amount of wins.

In regards to baseball, it may be too cold up in upstate New York to have a desirable baseball team in which players would actually be enthusiastic about, although they have Bison! The Buffalo Bisons are the current Triple-A affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays.

The same may go for basketball, but not necessarily because of the weather. Buffalo was actually once home to the Buffalo Braves until the team ownership moved to Los Angeles and is now known as the Los Angeles Clippers.

On a non-professional level, the University of Buffalo has been impressive to watch in the last few years and has a history of producing some excellent talent. The Buffalo Bulls’ basketball squad has a decent turnout during their regular-season games, but the citizens of upstate New York may be reluctant to watch a basketball game for an alma mater they did not attend.

For more in this series, read why Las Vegas is also in need of expansion teams.

Expansion Series 4: Houston

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, every die-hard sports fan has missed out on some key events that otherwise would have occurred.

The possibility of not having a football season (college or professional) has me pinching myself to make sure that I’m not living in a dream. In an uncertain time in the sports world, it’s perfectly normal to let the mind wander when thinking about hypotheticals that otherwise would never happen.

Sports is what brings us all together, and one thing that every sports fan has in common is that the player, team, or coach that they cheer for represents something unique to them. The majority of fans resonate with a team regionally, and mainly reside locally. That being said, I will dive into each region that is craving a major sports team.

Houston is an interesting case because the sports franchises that reside there are so strong and have been very good in the last few years, legally or otherwise.

Even with the cheating scandal, the Astros were a very talented team and are absolutely still a very strong contender going forward.

The Texans, under the field leadership of Deshaun Watson, have a lot to strive for despite losing arguably one of the best wide receivers in the game in Deandre Hopkins. J.J. Watt is a personal hero of mine, but fans may be at their wits end with Bill O’Brien after Hopkins was sent to the Cardinals for not nearly enough in return (running back David Johnson).

Lastly, the Rockets have one of the best duos in the game in Russell Westbrook and James Harden; two MVP’s that still show MVP talent. They absolutely would have caused a problem for any other team standing in their way of an NBA championship, which would have been the first time in the finals for each of them.

Additionally, they even had an XFL team in the Houston Roughnecks during its brief existence before COVID-19 decided to cut the season short. The Roughnecks played at the University of Houston’s stadium and went undefeated through the only five games of the season.

What the city lacks is hockey, and much like Buffalo does not have desirable weather to house a baseball franchise, the same paradox applies to the warm weather of Texas for hockey fans. The closest thing they had to a hockey team was the Houston Aeros, which was an AHL affiliate of the Minnesota Wild until 2014.

For more in this series, read why Las Vegas, Buffalo and Indianapolis are also in need of expansion teams.

Jameis Winston Does Not Belong in the NFL

The former Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback shouldn’t have much to complain about nowadays. He was ousted by the only team he had ever known but was supplanted by the GOAT in what turned out to be the biggest headline of this NFL offseason.

He recently signed a 1-year deal with the New Orleans Saints in a quarterback market with little options. In an offseason where Brady, Rivers, Prescott, Newton, Tannehill, Mariota, and Bridgewater sought suitors, it is a surprise that Winston settled with a team with a comfortable QB room over a higher paycheck.

As we all know from Blue Mountain State, being the backup quarterback is the best position in all of sports, but Jameis should seriously consider all of his options before hitting the market again.

ESPN’s Field Yates reported that he can earn up to $3.4 million in incentives, but he is owed a base salary of $1.1 million. While it is applaudable that he showed humility in passing on higher offers to sign a grossly undervalued contract with the Saints, it seems that he is punting on the 2020 season in search of another opportunity when the market is less competitive in 2021.

The Saints have notably re-signed future Hall of Famer, Drew Brees, to a 2-year deal prior to signing Winston. In addition to Brees, the Saints also re-signed Taysom Hill to a 2-year deal, worth a whopping $21 million with $16 million guaranteed. Hill is a Swiss Army knife and shouldn’t be listed as simply a quarterback, but regardless, the position is crowded heading into the season. While Winston can see some time if Brees can’t stay healthy, Brees is expected to be the outright starter with Hill staying in the gameplan.

Where does this leave Jameis?

In 2019, he broke the kinds of records no one wants to have. He finished the season with the most passing yards in the entire league with 5,109 yards, and he threw for 33 touchdowns. But with Dr. Jekyll, comes Mr. Hyde.

Winston’s 2019 campaign saw him throwing 30 interceptions, landing him at 7th on the all-time list for most interceptions in a single-season. He became the charter member of the 30 TD/30 INT Club.

Jameis clearly has the talent to be an elite quarterback and he might find some success under the tutelage of Drew Brees, but his issues lie in his tendency to force throws into closing windows. He tries to overcompensate, and he can’t find consistency in his game. Perhaps his recent Lasik surgery can help him see farther downfield, but he should look for a new frontier to dominate in instead.

Many forget that Jameis was a two-sport athlete at Florida State. He played his freshman and sophomore years on the varsity baseball team as a two-way player. He played every position in the outfield and was the Seminole’s primary setup man from the bullpen.

Throwing a much heavier football for half of a decade has undoubtedly kept his baseball arm in good shape. Pitchers in the Cape Cod Baseball League have been known to throw a football around mid-game to stay loose, and his rigorous football training should help him in a less physically demanding sport. His talents can still translate to the diamond; he isn’t too far removed from that environment.

In his freshman year, he appeared in 50 games and saw 119 ABs. His offensive splits are nothing to write home about, as he hit .235 with a .345 SLG percentage. As a switch hitter, his objectively bad offensive stats could be attributed to a lack of training from one side of the plate.

As a pitcher though, he found a modicum of success in his freshman year. He appeared in 17 games and posted a record of 1-2, but had an ERA of 3.00. He struck out 21 batters and only let up 12 walks.

His sophomore year perpetuated both his strengths and weaknesses— his offensive stats don’t need to be mentioned beside his dismal .128 batting average through 39 ABs…

Where he did shine though, was on the mound. He appeared as a closer 24 times, and logged 33.1 innings. He had a stellar pitching season; he posted an ERA of 1.08 while striking out batters 31 times. He was a lights-out closer in a very strong ACC conference.

Stars at the collegiate level don’t always translate into stars at the professional level. In fact, the turnaround for players who are drafted out of NCAA that even see a professional baseball field is laughably low: 10.5 percent of NCAA senior male baseball players will get drafted, with even less breaking past the minors.

Jameis is different though… He has the physique to make an impact on a Major League team if he were to work upon his game. During his time in college, he was an imposing figure on the mound. His 6’4” frame yielded an arsenal of pitches— a fastball in the low-to-mid 90s with downward projection, a hard slider, and 12-6 curveball with bite.

While the likelihood of Jameis being the next Michael Lorenzen or Shohei Ohtani type player is slim to none, he has the physical ability to be an effective relief pitcher for an MLB team. Aside from success, it should be an attractive proposition from his perspective because he could command more money as a reliever than a backup quarterback. The market for relief pitchers is very depleted, and he would be in demand once again.

Jameis does not belong in the NFL due to a lack of talent… He certainly possesses the requisite ability to be an elite quarterback, but he isn’t quite at that echelon yet. Whether he will reach that level is yet to be seen.

He does not belong in the NFL because he would be a great pitcher in the MLB, and would command more money as a reliever.

Baseball money is nuts.

Regions That are Craving an Expansion Team, Part 1: Las Vegas

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, every die-hard sports fan has missed out on some key events that otherwise would have occurred. We’ve seen the NHL, NBA, MLB, and March Madness affected by this crisis. Even the NFL draft was conducted via Zoom for the first time in history.

It’s a different world we’re living in, which has lead several personalities of the sports zeitgeist to talk nonstop about what could’ve been, what will be, and what may not be.

The possibility of not having a football season (college or professional) has me pinching myself to make sure that I’m not living in a dream. In an uncertain time in the sports world, it’s perfectly normal to let the mind wander when thinking about hypotheticals that otherwise would never happen.

Despite the traditions and long histories of teams that we have grown to worship, the talk of adding more teams or relocating a team to a different area of the country is always on the table.

Currently, there are only ten regions/cities in the country that have four teams inhabiting them and are continuously supported: Boston, Miami, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Phoenix, Central Florida (Tampa/Orlando), Denver, Dallas, and Minneapolis. Furthermore, there are three cities/regions that have more than four teams: New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago.

There really is no reason for one city to have more than one team per sport, no matter the population. New York and L.A. have more than one team in almost every sport, with the latter gaining even more teams recently. The Rams were once an L.A. football team before moving to St. Louis, but eventually returned. Why do the Chargers need to share the territory?

I still retain the opinion that every region and every sports fan should be fairly represented in this country. Sports is what brings us all together, and one thing that every sports fan has in common is that the player, team, or coach that they cheer for represents something unique to them. The majority of fans resonate with a team regionally, and mainly reside locally. That being said, I will dive into each region that is craving a major sports team.

The first stop on our virtual tour is the City of Sin, Las Vegas.

Las Vegas has become an interesting magnet for sports teams in the past few years and with overwhelming wealth and a tremendous amount of passionate fans, there is certainly room for growth. Not only is there a desire for sports teams, but the people of Las Vegas have welcomed new teams with open arms.

When the Golden Knights entered the NHL scene, they swept the entire nation by becoming Conference Champions in their inaugural year.

It will be interesting to see how the new Las Vegas Raiders perform in their new multi-billion-dollar stadium, Allegiant Stadium which almost perfectly resembles the Death Star. Due to the city’s proximity to Los Angeles, the Raiders will have an established fan base when they play their first game.

While the Vegas crowd is largely comprised of tourists, a niche is already founded in the city. There will be fans that travel with the team by default, and the new stadium could be an asset for the city as a whole.

Much like other highly populated areas in the country, Las Vegas does have an MLB affiliate team. The Oakland Athletics’ AAA team, the Las Vegas Aviators, play at Las Vegas Ballpark which is about 15 miles away from where Allegiant Stadium will be.

Money certainly isn’t an issue in minor league baseball, but the weather might be. A heatwave on the Las Vegas strip in the middle of the summer is known to reach upwards of 110 degrees in the valley.

Las Vegas is also home to the Aces of the WNBA, who finished fourth in the Western Conference in 2019 but fell in the West Championship to the eventual champions, the Washington Mystics. The Aces have the ninth-highest average attendance in the WNBA with a 2019 game-high of 8,470.