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🏆So it’s not gonna be easy…

March 23, 2020
So it’s not gonna be easy…

The GIST: As the great Ryan Gosling once proclaimed, “It wasn’t over. It still isn’t over!” As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, so does the complete breakdown of springtime sports.

Have any more athletes tested positive?: Marcus Smart of the Boston Celtics and PGA golfer Victor Lange tested positive over the past few days, as well as a second Ottawa Senator, two Los Angeles Lakers and three Philadelphia 76ers. The teams haven’t released any names (because everyone deserves privacy and the right to recover in peace) but have assured us that all players, infected or not, are self-isolating.

  • And it’s not just the players. New Orleans Saints’ head coach Sean Payton and Liga MX (Mexico’s top pro soccer league) president Enrique Bonilla have tested positive, and former Real (pronounced REY-AL) Madrid president Lorenzo Sanz died at 76 from COVID-19 complications in Spain on Saturday. So sad.

What are the healthy athletes up to?: They’re still helping and still training (at home!). The #StayAtHomeChallenge is encouraging people to stay indoors and show off their keep-up skills, and athletes like runner Usain Bolt, soccer star Lionel Messi (pronounced LEE-OH-NELL) and Montreal Canadien Tomas Tatar (who put a hockey spin on it) have all participated. Nice try boys, but this girl, a US U-14 Girls’ National Soccer Team member, definitely won it.

What are the timelines looking like?: It’s impossible to know. Most leagues have suspended until May, others have postponed tournaments to the fall. All we know for sure is that this is going to be pretty financially devastating for the sports world (and, like, the whole world).

  • The NBA is currently considering withholding players’ salaries if play doesn’t resume by April 15th (which it probably won’t). Players could regain that money if the season starts up again, but if the league decides to cancel the rest of the season (without rescheduling), players won’t be paid for the missed games. Considering the minimum full-year salary for an NBA player is $800k, we think they’ll be just fine.

🏅The heat is on

March 23, 2020
The heat is on

The GIST: We have a deadline, folks. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is giving itself four weeks to figure out how the heck they’re going to deal with the 2020 Summer Olympics, set to begin on July 24th in Tokyo, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. And if they don’t postpone it, Team Canada and Team Australia won’t be there.

What?! Why not?: The Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) announced the very difficult decision late last night, saying they would not risk their athletes’ safety by sending them to Tokyo if the Games are held this summer. Canada has been at the forefront of this movement, with Canadian Olympic hockey and softball legend Hayley Wickenheiser opening the floodgates last week with her comments about the IOC’s inaction.

  • Very soon after the COC’s announcement, the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) told their athletes to prepare for a 2021 Summer Olympics, saying that an Australian team cannot be assembled safely and in time for the 2020 date. Many Aussie athletes train around the world and the AOC believes they’ll face too many major delays to their training to be ready for July.

Wow. What are other countries saying?: Well, Canada is the first country to officially step away from the Games, but we think it’s pretty likely that other countries will follow suit. That said, yesterday evening US Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) CEO Sarah Hirshland said that she’s not in the position “to make demands of those making decisions.”

  • The USOPC sent out a survey to 4,000 Olympic hopefuls over the weekend to see if they’d be interested in postponing, and we have a feeling that Team Canada’s decision may influence the survey results.

So what are the IOC’s options?: They have two: postpone, or keep calm and carry on. Unless you were isolated in the desert for 12 days like Jared Leto, you’ll know the latter is probably the worst possible scenario. Just thinking about 11,000 athletes and millions of fans congregating in Tokyo gives us the quarantine cringe.

  • And despite the fact that Japan’s climate could allow for the Games to take place in September or October, with Canada stepping out, postponing for a year seems like the only option.

And what about cancelation?: The IOC said they will definitely not cancel. As IOC president Thomas Bach said, “The Olympic Games cannot be moved like a football game next Saturday,” and he’s not wrong. The planning and operations of the Olympics start nearly a decade before the Opening Ceremony, and outright canceling would mean not only a logistical nightmare, but also financial ruin and 11,000 Olympic dreams crushed.

What do the athletes want?: They want an answer, quick. Until they know for sure that the Games will be canceled or moved (and unless they’re Canadian or Australian) they have to keep training. And thanks to the #stayathome movement, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to do so.

  • The Italian Olympic Committee has made a similar plea, especially because many of their athletes are on complete lockdown and not legally allowed to leave their homes, and World Athletics president Sebastian Coe and hurdler Lolo Jones have called for postponement, too.

And what does The GIST think about this?: Although we’re really feeling for the athletes right now, we’re proud of Team Canada. Making the decision to withhold their athletes was bold and understandably difficult, but we think it needed to be done. By showing how seriously the COC is taking the risk, we’re hoping it will allow other countries (especially those more severely affected right now like Italy and Spain) to feel comfortable about making the same decision.

🏀March Sadness

March 19, 2020
March Sadness

The GIST: Let’s face it. March 2020 has...not been great. And one thing we’re really missing (outside of social contact) is NCAA basketball’s March Madness tournament. So, in honor of the tournament that wasn’t, we wanted to highlight the top five moments of women’s March Madness recent past.

5. Brittney Griner is an absolute force to be reckoned with. Currently playing for the Phoenix Mercury in the WNBA, she’s been a powerhouse for at least a decade. While playing for the Baylor Lady Bears in 2010, 6'9" Griner (please lend us some height) blocked 105 balls (!!!) over just 18 games. To put that in perspective, that’s an average of 5.83 blocks per game. The best blocker in NBA’s history made an average of 3.5 blocks per game. Sheesh.

4. March Madness is all about Cinderella stories, and no, not the Hilary Duff–Chad Michael Murray kind. For this one, we’re taking it back to 2013, when the Louisville Cardinals became the lowest seed (at No. 5...generally the women’s tournament stays pretty true to its rankings) to reach the national final after beating top-seeded Baylor and No. 2 Tennessee in the Sweet 16 and the Elite Eight. They lost to UConn in the final, but it was an effort worth paying attention to.

3. Last year’s final between Baylor and Notre Dame featured two boss female coaches in Baylor’s Kim Mulkey and Notre Dame’s Muffet McGraw (it was just the eighth time in 20 years two female head coaches squared off) and was a game for the ages. Despite losing their star player Lauren Cox to a knee injury, Baylor just barely protected their 17-point lead to take the game 82–81. Notre Dame literally couldn’t call it a comeback.

2. Although it’s hard to believe the UConn Huskies’ last national title came four years ago, this list wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t tip our non-existent hats off to their four consecutive national title wins between 2013 and 2016. With superstar players like WNBA MVP Breanna Stewart and WNBA All-Star Kia Nurse on their squad, it’s no wonder they were so dominant.

1. Our number one spot goes to Arike Ogunbowale (pronounced AH-REE-KAY OH-GOON-BOW-WAH-LAY). Arike now plays for the Dallas Wings in the WNBA, but back in 2018 she was the star baller for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and she had herself a time in the Final Four.

  • First, with the game tied in overtime at 89 in the national semifinal against UConn, Arike drained a clutch three-pointer with just one second left to get the upset win over UConn, the most historically dominant program in women’s basketball. It was a jump-off-the-couch-and-yell moment if we ever saw one, and it caught the attention of greats like the late Kobe Bryant.
  • But she wasn’t done there. With the game tied (yes, again) in the national championship against Mississippi State, Arike drained another three-pointer (yes, again), this time with just three seconds remaining, to give Notre Dame its first title in 17 years. Back-to-back buzzer beaters — you literally can’t make this sh!t up.

🏅This isn’t a game

March 19, 2020
This isn’t a game

The GIST: Despite the global pandemic, the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo are somehow still a go. That is, unless the athletes have anything to do with it.

But aren’t they still so far away?: Sure, the Olympics aren’t set to begin until July 24th, and who knows what state we’ll be in then. But qualification for the Olympic Games is underway right now, with 43% of Olympic spots still undetermined.

  • The International Olympic Committee (IOC) finally admitted yesterday that Olympic qualifiers will likely have to be modified (uh, ya think?). The problem is without outright postponing the Games, Olympic athletes are still forced to keep up with their intense daily training regimens, which is becoming increasingly difficult and dangerous in this new COVID-19 era.

So what are the athletes saying?: Nothing good about the IOC, that’s for sure. After the IOC told athletes that this isn’t the time to make a “drastic decision,” Olympic hockey icon, Hockey Hall of Famer and IOC member Hayley Wickenheiser went OFF on Twitter, calling the IOC “insensitive and irresponsible,” and saying, “This crisis is bigger than even the Olympics.”

  • Other Olympic athletes joined in, including Britain's world-champion heptathlete Katarina Johnson-Thompson, who pointed out that it’s impossible for athletes to properly prepare when “the IOC and the local government are at odds with one another,” and Greek pole vaulter Katerina Stefanidi, who told the IOC, “You are putting us in danger right now, today, not in four months.” Tell ’em, sisters.

🏆Postpone culture

March 19, 2020
Postpone culture

The GIST: Can you believe it’s been only one week since all sports were canceled? Longest. Week. Ever.

Wait. Is everything actually canceled?: Okay, not canceled canceled, but super postponed. The NBA season is suspended until at least late April (though we have no way of knowing how realistic that even is) and the NHL is suspended indefinitely. The start of the MLB season, which was set for next Thursday, has been put off until at least mid-May.

What about other sports?: The ATP and WTA tennis seasons have been put on hold until June 7th, with the French Open Grand Slam moving from May to a tentative September 20th start. This summer’s UEFA Euro Cup, a BFD European soccer tournament held every four years, has been pushed to 2021 (no word on how that will affect subsequent tournaments), and the Kentucky Derby, the largest horse racing event in North America, is now set for September 5th.

How is this affecting the leagues and teams?: Financially, it’s a bit of a mess. The MLB could stand to lose the most because their March to October season is weather dependent. Meanwhile, the NBA is looking to extend its credit line (aren’t we all?) by $550 million to $1.2 billion (must be nice) to cover any potential expenses incurred over the next few weeks or months.

  • And if the NBA is forced to cancel the season outright, Disney (the parent company of ESPN, which owns NBA broadcast rights) is projected to lose around $481 million in ad revenue. Ouch.

And have any other players been infected?: Unfortunately, yes. On Tuesday, the Brooklyn Nets reported that four of their players have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the NBA’s total cases to seven. Nets star and two-time NBA champ Kevin Durant confirmed that he was one of the four and is quarantining at home.

  • And late Tuesday night, the Ottawa Senators revealed that one of their players has tested positive as well, marking the NHL’s first COVID-19 patient. They haven’t said who, but all NHL players had been asked to self-isolate before this case anyway.

How are the athletes staying healthy?: Tennis legend Serena Williams has gone full lockdown. She posted a video to say she’s going into a self-imposed six week quarantine to protect herself and her family, and, lucky for us, will keep us updated via Instagram.

And how are they helping?: Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson and his wife, Ciara, are following the Currys’ lead and donating one million meals to the Seattle community, and Swedish soccer superstar Zlatan Ibrahimović (pronounced EEB-RAH-HEEM-OH-VITCH), who plays for AC Milan, has started a fundraiser to help Italian hospitals cope during the COVID-19 outbreak.

  • Since the start to the Formula 1 season was canceled, the car engineers from four F1 teams have agreed to use their newfound free time to help the UK government build much needed ventilators and other medical equipment. Um, cool!