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Mailbag 6/30

Are this year’s Olympics a good idea?

Olympic Rings Unveiled In Yokohama Photo by Takashi Aoyama/Getty Images

Ed. Note: This mailbag got a little dark, so I wanted to put a content warning before this. This mailbag discusses issues that could be related to trauma caused by national tragedies, such as the Covid-19 pandemic and mass death. Discretion is advised.

The general sports media has barely mentioned NC State being sent home from the CWS on the verge of playing for a NC. A football analogy would be a semifinal team being declared ineligible at halftime of a tie semifinal game.

Briefly from reports, two non-vaccinated players tested positive for Covid. (Vaccinated players aren’t tested unless they’re exposed). Then, several vaccinated players tested positive, were banned from playing, and NC State played the game against Vanderbilt with only 14 players, using a starting pitcher at first base among other substitutes. The Wolfpack lost 3-1, setting up a final game. After more tests, the team was declared out of the CWS and Vandy advances to the NC series.

The Head Coach, Elliott Agent, apparently belittled the idea that he had anything to do with whether or not his players were vaccinated.

I wonder what y’all make of this. My take is that this should be a huge wake up call for college and pro athletes in the age of Covid testing. How do you suppose the vaccinated players are feeling about the guys who skipped shots and tested positive? - Bill Brockman

Ben: The fact that the pandemic and the vaccine has become increasingly political is just dumb. Nobody is trying to take anyone’s freedoms or whatever. It’s a matter of public health with a disease that his killed over 600,000 people and rapidly among people. Be smart, get vaccinated.

Akshay: Get vaccinated, period. While I have some sympathy for the athletes whose season was ended abruptly, the lesson every control freak in college athletics (read: every coach in the business) should learn here is that this was entirely preventable AND it could just as easily happen to their program if they’re not careful. I realize there are probably some NCAA and federal health regulations regarding medical procedures that come into play here, but these college athletics programs all live on the bleeding edge of regulation. They can figure something out.

Jake P.: While I understand Elliott Avent’s thoughts, he definitely could have encouraged vaccination among his players. I get that he doesn’t feel he needs to require the vaccine (or if he’s even allowed to), but he could have encouraged it. If he’s respected among the players, many more would have likely listened. It could be N.C. State playing for a title right now.

Jake: The fact that vaccinations are more of a political issue than a public health issue is a remarkable sign on how the US has managed this pandemic, and Elliott Avent’s thoughts reflected this. I don’t agree with how the NCAA handled it (the sneaky middle of the night ruling was truly bizarre) but I do think that there are consequences still, this being chief among them, in a pandemic that, although alleviated significantly by vaccines and the like, is still an ongoing fact of life. My heart goes out to the players that did the right thing for public health. But for those that didn’t, well, perhaps this all could have been avoided if they had done the thing that would have helped them, their team, and their community.

Logan: I’m actually from the Raleigh area, so I’ve probably heard more about this than the rest of the FTRS team. There are a few different takes on the situation, but the general consensus on sports radio up here seems to be that the players should have been vaccinated given the situation they were in. There is also a lot of discussion about how the NCAA could have found a way to handle the situation without DQing NC State (parallels to the PGA Tour DQ of a tournament leader a few weeks ago). That idea is probably wishful thinking by NC State fans at this point.

If I’m honest though I don’t think this will change anything for athletes who are unvaccinated. Athletes are making a choice and I believe they know the risks associated with that choice, its not like we haven’t seen repercussions in other sports like the PGA, NBA, MLB, college football. The only difference is these guys were playing for a championship (potentially). At this point, with all the allowances people have been provided to take the vaccine, I think most people have made up their minds about whether or not they will vaccinate.

In fact, knowing human nature, some people might use this as a motivator to stay unvaccinated. Something along the lines of “Hey those kids are still healthy (to my knowledge they are not suffering severe long term risks) why is the NCAA discriminating against them for not wanting to get vaccinated? That vaccine hasn’t even been properly tested by the FDA. The unvaccinated need to unite against this so people stop discriminating against us” or something dumb like that. There’s a great quote from the first Men in Black movie, something along the lines of “A person is smart. People are dumb panicky dangerous animals and you know it”. Tell a group they need to do something for the betterment of their health or mankind, and that group will immediately question why you’re telling them what to do, even if you’re in the right.

TL;DR I think the majority people have already decided whether or not they will get vaccinated, and knowing human nature I doubt those people are going to change their minds about the vaccination until they get COVID. Gotta keep in mind how many people mock taking the Flu vaccine each year, even though COVID is more dangerous the same idea applies. And that was like half of our space for this article, cool.

Tokyo Olympics: A good or bad idea to go ahead? What events will you watch? - DressHerInWhiteAndGold

Ben: Probably not a terrific idea. I don’t have cable, so I probably won’t watch much of it, but I’ll follow along through social media to keep up with stuff.

Akshay: Is it a good idea to host a massive sporting event that includes a high-density athletes village in a country that is only ~11% vaccinated (at time of writing)? Probably not.

Will I watch the swimming, soccer, and track events anyway? Probably.

Jake: I’m shocked that Japan, who handled the initial pandemic with such deftness, has had such a time getting this all together. If other events have been able to be restarted, you’d think Tokyo would, too. I think they’ll go on, and I look forward to watching swimming and water polo.

Logan: I want to see the Olympics, but no definitely not a good idea. Keep in mind that the Olympics has more... lets call it “Physical Interaction” between athletes off the field and with the virus situation it could become a breeding ground for COVID, especially with new strains mixing from different countries. If it happens I’ll be excited to watch the running, the boxing, the swimming, pretty much all the sports. But no, the whole thing is not a good idea right now.

Can we get a football recruiting update? Seems like every other tweet I get is from Kelly Quinlan! - Partywaggin

Ben: We do periodic updates whenever folks commit, but if I’m being frank, covering recruiting is a full-time job. We are never going to have the same kind of recruiting coverage that Kelly has. This is something we all do on the side.

Jake: Kelly who?

Logan: Kelly Quinlan. He says it right there in the question.

Hello Everyone,

Hope y’all are doing ok. Well NC State has fallen to the great Vanderbilt conspiracy and had been knocked out of the baseball playoffs. Because, as we all know, Vandy grads paid off the NCAA to kick another ACC team out of a playoff spot in place of a SEC team (definitely nothing to do with team members on NC State having COVID). Why do we even play sports if the NCAA is just gonna rig games. This is worse than the WWE. Speaking of WWE don’t let the injustices conducted by the NCAA distract you from the fact that in 1998, The Undertaker threw Mankind off Hell In A Cell, and plummeted 16 ft through an announcer’s table.

My question this week is what is the worst way you can imagine to have a game your team is playing in either be canceled or have your team forfeit? I know there has been plenty of cancelled games and forfeitures due to COVID this year, what are some other reasons that would lead to a cancelled game or forfeiture? I can think of a few examples, natural disasters, wars, death of the majority of the team. There are plenty of rough ones. Let me know which you think is the worst.

Have a good week guys,

Mark Calaway (submitted via email)

Ben: Well, this has been a dark mailbag. I think you pretty much nailed it.

Akshay: I think you named a lot of....interesting reasons for game cancellations there. Hoo boy.

Jake P.: These are all awful reasons to cancel a game, but it has to be the death of a majority of a team. That’s just a horrible experience, especially for the people who are tasked with rebuilding.

Jake: This is dark. Marshall football comes to mind, or Evansville basketball. The Israel Munich 1972 tragedy had a lot more sinister undertones, too. Why am I answering this right before bed? Time to go dig out some sitcoms or something and lighten the mood...

Logan: I think of the Marshall University tragedy with the plane crash causing the death of most of the team is the example I think of. These tragedies happen, its a sad topic but its also one that reminds us to enjoy the time and experiences we have. It also helps unite those who are left and motivates them to improve their lives for the better. It’s always rough when bad things happen, especially in sports which is an area meant to bring people happiness and distract them from the fear and frustration that daily life in a flawed world can bring. The key thing is that you can’t let it weigh you down. People pick up and move forward and hopefully can use those negative experiences to help motivate themselves to improve the world we live in for the better. At least that’s the way I choose to view things.