From the Got To Admit It’s Getting Better Department:
Baseball is back: Not everything is getting better, of course, and circumstances are continuing to worsen for many people in many places. For sports fans this week, though, a bright spot was the return of professional, regular-season baseball. The Chinese Professional Baseball League opened Wednesday with the Rakuten Monkeys hosting the Unilions (more formally, it seems, the Uni-President 7-Eleven Lions) in Taiwan. The game went into extra innings and ended with a walk-off solo homer (sound on) in the bottom of the twelfth to claim the Monkeys’ first win under their current ownership. The game was played without fans in attendance, though you may recall the Monkeys as the team that promised to fill its stands during this period with robot supporters (one of whom I think can be seen in the game-winning clip linked above). All that considered, the game atmosphere didn’t feel too sterile, though, thanks to the home team’s decision to pump in plenty of crowd noise, including chants and songs. There also were a half-dozen Monkeys cheerleaders– surely real humans and not Westworld hosts, even if we recently learned (minor spoiler alert) that the Delos park property likely is located on an island in the South China Sea– on hand to celebrate their team’s on-field achievements. It remains to be seen whether the CBPL season will continue as planned (the Monkeys beat the Lions again on Thursday, 15-3 in regulation) and eventually phase fans back into the seats, and it of course is unknown how they will respond if a player tests positive for COVID-19. For now, though, we can enjoy this moment of quasi-normalcy and hope that it proves to be a model adaptable to sports in North America in the near future.
iNoLongerRacing: After shouting a racial slur at one of his teammates during a live stream of a virtual race, NASCAR driver Kyle Larson quickly lost most of his sponsors, and then his team dumped him.
Golf’s precolonial study: We’re not talking literary criticism, although I tend to be critical of placing any weight on announcements that postponed events will occur at a future date given how little we understand about this disease and instead prefer to wait until the events, like the above-referenced CPBL opening day, actually happen. Even so, I am linking to this story about the PGA’s current plan to resume its season– sans fans– at Colonial Country Club on June 8 for three reasons: 1) of all sports, golf seems the easiest to play while abiding social-distancing requirements; 2) I needed another bullet point for this post; and 3) we’re still pretty desperate for good news in the sports world.
Eat your betting ticket: Major League Eating (a thing!) is taking wagers on a special eating contest featuring Joey Chestnut and seven other top competitive eaters to raise money for charity, and that’s all I feel like writing about that.
Coming up/Odd Odds: Speaking of large men and gambling, I’d wager it’s more likely than not that Marshawn Lynch is back on Westworld this Sunday, though I’ll leave it to the professional bookmakers to set the line on the number of different emotions that will be illuminated on his sweatshirt during the episode.
Sports were cancelled again: Amidst alternatively gloomy and pie-in-the-sky loony outlooks shared on the prospect of the near-term return of anything not horse racing and NASCAR videogaming, the best hope– really– this week was UFC don Dana White’s proposal to stage MMA fights on a mysterious private island. Promptly after that story broke, the UFC announced the cancellation of its next round of scheduled fights. It also turns out White & Co. don’t actually own that island just yet. Meanwhile, plenty of viral bluster from a couple of college football’s biggest mouths, Mike “I’m a Man” Gundy and Dabo “Dabo” Swinney; NASCAR’s iRacing coverage insists on consistently using a very annoying term with regard to Bubba Wallace (not going to link that one); and MLB’s floated plan to play its 2020 season in the summer in the desert with lots of players and staff but no fans and no player or staff family members hits some too-obvious roadblocks. Also, Al Kaline died. More on him in a forthcoming post, but if you feel like just packing it in and trying again for sports in 2021, I won’t blame you.
A college basketball champion was crowned: The 2020 NCAA men’s basketball national championship game would have been Monday night, and the young cyborgs at FiveThirtyEight determined that, had it been played, it would have featured Michigan State and Kansas, with the Spartans prevailing to claim their third national championship in program history. (I couldn’t bear to read that article, so I’m sorry if it’s the wrong link.) In case you have the desire to empty an entire bag of Morton System Saver salt into your March Madness wound, here’s the site’s full projected 2020 bracket.
The only thing tougher to keep up with than this penalty-induced stop-and-start NFL season appears to be this series tracking those penalties. After a couple weeks off, it’s time to find out whether (mixed metaphor warning) 2017’s historic* penalty trend is continuing or flagging.
Although the flag rate this season is falling, it continues to be higher than ever. With penalties trending up and viewership ratings trending down, one continues to wonder when the NFL will get the memo and let the players play.
* The NFL Penalty Tracker has data going back to the 2009 season.
As you can see from the above graphic, this year’s Super Bowl, already dubbed the Snow & States’ Marketing Rights Bowl, pits New York against New Jersey in a battle for subpar beach superiority. You do not have subpar taste, however, because you’re reading ALDLAND’s Super Bowl preview, the only one you’ll need to prepare yourself for the game on Sunday. What follows is a compilation of the most interesting, entertaining, and essential Super Bowl XLVIII content, concluding with the least interesting, entertaining, and essential Super Bowl XLVIII content, my game prediction:
First and most important: the game begins at 6:30 Eastern on Fox.