CHICAGO, ILLINOIS — As I tend to do, I spent the weekend thinking about minor league hockey. The National Hockey League is coming back on January 13th, but, much like how non-revenue college sports and minor league baseball provide a more intimate community, the same thing can be said for minor league hockey. Why is this so important of late? Well, it is and it isn’t.
Throughout the pandemic, we’ve still gotten to see a lot of the professional sports we know and love. College football played a season, with fans! I think in March, to hear that there was a World Series, bowl season, NBA Finals, Stanley Cup, all of it would be seen as a gigantic win. But, more than anything, this has shown just how much the sports and teams that don’t get the big stage mean. People can watch sports on TV, sure, but fans and memories are predicated on access. For so many, that comes, by geography, economics, or demographics, from the college basketball or baseball game, the minor league sports, and the local experience. That’s what we’ve lost this year.
Even seeing college basketball back on TV, it’s still at arm’s length, thanks to lack of spectators. And, sure, some Indy ball leagues had some fans, but I think both of these are edge cases.
I think what the pandemic has proven is that sports earth so much of their meaning in their communities. Whether it’s seeing the same people in front of you three times every weekend at Russ Chandler, running around doing the Horse with strangers at a football, or eating some ridiculous food on a ridiculous promotion night, that’s why people fall in love with them. That’s what we’ve missed, being a glass screen away for nine months.
My hope is that, when we’re reconvening to start 2022, perhaps we’ll be able to have some of that back.
Last Week on the Flats
Women’s Basketball (4-3)
I didn’t expect this to be an undefeated week for the Jackets, at the sake of full honesty. Sure, we beat a similarly skilled North Carolina State team last year by rolling into their building and playing a perfect game. Coming home to the COVID-emptied McCamish Pavilion wouldn’t give Tech the same advantage that NCST may have had playing on their home court the year prior, and, uh, the Wolfpack are probably even better this year than they were last year. The Pack jumped out to an early lead in this one and never looked back. Shooting greater than 50% as a top 5 team? Yeah, that’ll be doom and gloom for basically any opponent. Of course, Tech was able to reel them in at the end and make it close, but there was really not much hope, as they ran out of time as the score crossed back into single digits, and that was all she wrote.
The Notre Dame game is weird. This one, against this team, one can never really expect to win. Especially in their building. But I can hear you, regular reader, asking, “Jake, why are we back at Notre Dame? We just played them in their building three weeks ago!” To which I say yes, yes, we did. We did, in fact, already go to South Bend, and we have, in fact, already beaten them there. This kind of weird scheduling quirk exists nowhere else on our schedule, and I have never seen this double-dip road trip a month apart literally ever before. Sure, it’s not like Tech would have a discernible home court advantage, with few fans let into the building, but that’s one more charter to pay for, hours of flight time, a hotel, and one more logistics-during-a-pandemic the team and department has to deal with. The weird thing is, though, Tech has an even split - 10 home and 10 road conference games - but two of them happen to be in South Bend. Why? That’s weird. ACC, there’s 15 schools worth of smart kids that could probably figure that out for you, if you’d give any campus a ring.
Oh, but yes, they did play a basketball game. It was close the whole way, and came down to Tech missing the last shot. That’s about all I can say, considering I wasn’t able to watch this one. Should it have been that close? We beat them by more earlier in the season. Should it have been at home? Maybe? Just more twists and turns on this odd season.
Oh, and Kierra Fletcher is back. This is great for the team depth and to get veteran leadership and proven scoring back. As she gels with the rest of the team and gets back up to the speed of the game, it will be a boon to have her back.
Best of the Week
This Week on the Flats
Golf Schedule Release
Not sure if I covered this here yet, but Golf has a spring schedule! They started with their qualifiers this past week, and feature seven weekends of competition in the regular season before ACC and NCAA play. The Amer Ari immediately springs to mind as the most familiar on the schedule, but, regardless, most tournaments feature a bevy of other noted golf powers, so it should be a good tune-up for hopefully another successful run in the postseason!
Indoor Track Schedule Release
Two things immediately pop out: either someone gets GREAT rates in Clemson and Nashville or they are obsessed with some of the restaurants/nightlife. Because man, this team could single-handedly keep the Amtrak headed northeast out of town in the black with how often they’ll be making the trip to the other side of Lake Hartwell. An aside, if they’re staying where all the club swim teams and varsity rowing/volleyball teams (and probably more) tend to stay in Clemson, they’re definitely getting a great rate.
In all honesty, it’s a combination of facilities and proximity, especially given COVID concerns. Clemson hosts a lot of meets, since they have a nice indoor. What they’ll lack after next year is a, uh, men’s program, which is still ticks me off, and really makes me wonder if they’ll only host women at their (many) home indoor meets next year, because it would be a real damper on our schedule, if so.
But that’s a problem for 2022! In the meantime, we’ll get plenty of time to spend with the Clemson men’s team on their last lap around the track, and I hope someone likes Hattie B’s or the Esso Club, because opportunities to enjoy those will be plenty.
Circle and star the men’s basketball game against Louisville. Definitely the matchup of the week, and we get it in a prime spot on Saturday. Other than that, I’d say swimming against Top 25 Auburn on Friday would probably be the next thing to keep an eye on.
Poll of the Week
Biggest Non-Rev Return in 2021 (so Far):
This poll is closed
Track and Field
Swimming and Diving