By Scott Murphy
COVID-19 is cutting a wide path through global sports, though there’s a Field of Dreams when the dirt clears…
Coping With COVID
There’s light at the end of a very long tunnel in England as UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced that a maximum of 4,000 fans will be allowed at outdoor sports events in low-risk areas when the current lockdown ends on December 2nd. 2,000 people will be allowed in tier two areas but none in tier three. Gyms and leisure centers will also be able to be reopened across all tiers.
This comes as a relief to some Premier League football teams who have been facing a huge loss of revenue. They have been playing behind closed doors since March. Currently, Tottenham and Liverpool are the front runners in the League, with Leicester City and Southampton nipping at their heels.
In related news, the draw for the Champions League last 16 will take place on December 14th. So far Chelsea, Sevilla, Barcelona and Juventus are already through.
To Open Or Not
An Australian government minister has claimed that the Australian Open in Melbourne will likely be delayed by at least a week in 2021. Current COVID restrictions in the country mean that players would need to quarantine for two weeks upon arrival in the country, making the planned January 18th-31st tournament difficult.
“I still think that it’s much more likely that it will be a shorter rather than a longer delay,” said Martin Pakula, Victoria’s sport and major events minister. “But it’s not the only option. As you know, the French Open was delayed by many months and Wimbledon didn’t occur at all. It’s a very complicated set of conversations. I’m still confident we’ll have an Australian Open and we’ll have one in the early part of the year.”
The strict need to quarantine players for two weeks has polarized potential players, with world number four men’s player Daniil Medvedev even claiming that some players might choose not to come to Australia if they were forced to quarantine for two weeks.
A decision is expected to be reached imminently.
COVID At College
Men’s college basketball in the US gets underway this week, but it’s not without its hiccups.
Duke, for example, ranked number 9 to start the season, had one of its players test positive for COVID-19, and as a result, had to postpone their first game. The coach for number two Baylor tested positive as well, which forced them to cancel their participation in the Empire Classic tournament.
The Ivy League, meanwhile, has decided to cancel all men and women’s sports for the winter season. Other schools, such as Notre Dame, have decided to drastically reduce attendance at games. Gonzaga is ranked number one in preseason polls.
A Masterful Performance
Dustin Johnson sealed his first Masters golf victory this month at Augusta National in Georgia, setting a new tournament scoring record in the process.
The world number one finished with a 20-under par 268, two shots better than Tiger Woods’ previous record in 1997. And he needed every one of his shots as Australian runner-up Cameron Smith became the first competitor to shoot under 70 in all four rounds at the major. Smith ended up with a 270, which would have won in all but seven of the 84 editions of the event.
“As a kid dreaming about winning the Masters, having Tiger put the green jacket on you, it still seems like it’s a dream,” Johnson said of the event. He celebrated the win — and his US$2,070,000 winnings — by heading for a vacation in St. Bart’s, where fiancee Paulina Gretzky set global pulses racing by posting a nude photo of herself on Instagram.
All Black In The NFL
For the first time ever, a game in the US National Football League was officiated by an all-Black crew. The seven-man crew was headed by Jerome Boger, a 17 year NFL official.
“This historic Week 11 crew is a testament to the countless and immeasurable contributions of Black officials to the game, their exemplary performance, and to the power of inclusion that is the hallmark of this great game,” Troy Vincent, a former NFL player who is now the league’s executive vice president of football operations, said in a statement.
Out of 121 referees in the league, there are currently four Black referees and 40 Black game officials. The historic occasion took place during Monday night’s game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Los Angeles Rams, which the Rams won 27-24.
Field Of Dreams
At last, the long-mooted “Field Of Dreams” baseball game will finally take place on August 12th, 2021 between the New York Yankees and the Chicago White Sox.
The two teams will play at Lansing Family Farm, the site of the infamous baseball field seen in the 1989 movie, which starred Kevin Costner. It will be the first MLB game ever to be played in the state of Iowa and will be televised on FOX.
It’s not known if fans will be allowed to attend the game due to COVID, though the MLB claims it will monitor the situation next spring. The game was originally scheduled for this past season but was canceled due to the virus.
Could Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo be joining the world champion Los Angeles Lakers in an upcoming season? That’s what some are speculating, following what onlookers view as stalling on the part of current Laker star Anthony Davis with regards to contract offers.
The teaming of Giannis, Davis and LeBron James would be a formidable obstacle for any other NBA team. Antetokounmpo just became only the third player in league history to win MVP and Defensive Player of the Year in the same season.
During the current draft season, the Atlanta Hawks have so far been one of the busiest teams as they just signed former Sacramento Kings player Bogdan Bogdanovic to a four-year contract worth US$72 million. They’ve also signed veterans Danilo Gallanari, Rajon Rondo and Kris Dunn, in addition to drafting Onyeka Okongwu.
The Mighty Dolphin
Another week and another US football legend has unfortunately passed away.
Jake Scott was as tough as they come while playing for the Miami Dolphins in the early 1970s. “No tougher man has ever lived,” said former Dolphins defensive tackle Manny Fernandez. Want proof? He played in Super Bowl VI with a pair of broken wrists.
A member of the celebrated “No Name” defense, the safety and punt returner was a part of the undefeated 1972 team — still the only NFL team to ever achieve this feat. He was named MVP of Super Bowl VII after having a pair of critical interceptions during the game. He also set a Super Bowl record the following year when he had two fumble recoveries.
During his eight-year career with both the Dolphins and Washington Redskins, he was a five-time All-Pro and had five straight Pro Bowl appearances. In total, he had 49 interceptions. And, he wore the number 13 long before it became cool to do so.
Scott passed away at the age of 75 after suffering a fall in his home in Atlanta, Georgia.