DeSean Jackson, Patrick Mahomes, the return of Major League Soccer and much more in Five Things From the Week.
1. Fall sports are looking less likely every day
It’s one thing for a couple college football programs to stop voluntary workouts due to a multitude of positive Covid-19 tests. It’s another thing for one of those programs to be Ohio State. It’s something else entirely for the Big Ten to announce it will only play conference games and for the Ivy League to cancel all fall sports. And this is just the beginning of the alterations and cancellations that are sure to come in the next few weeks.
The inevitable reality that schools were going to end up with dozens of positive tests when they brought their athletes back is justification by itself to say playing isn’t worth the risk, particularly at the college level. Trying to organize a season with few or no nonconference games and entire conferences not participating is hardly worth the effort, in addition to the health concerns. There is still no guarantee the NBA or MLB will resume by the end of the month, which means there is no reason to assume the NFL — which already cut the preseason in half — or college football start in August like normal.
2. It should not take someone like Rasir Bolton to prevent behavior like Pat Chambers’
Former Penn State and current Iowa State guard Rasir Bolton’s July 6 tweet about why he transferred after his freshman season was not just a stinging indictment of Penn State head coach Pat Chambers. It was also a commentary on the Nittany Lions’ athletic department and college athletics in general. In the tweet, Bolton said he “knew this was no slip of the tongue” from Chambers “due to other interactions.” He also said he was provided what he and his family considered “surface level resources” from the school.
Bolton talked to his academic advisor, the athletic director’s office and Chambers himself. Nothing happened except Chambers acknowledging what he said and Bolton receiving the phone number of a psychologist as well as advice on how to deal with his coach’s “personality type.” Not until Bolton went public a year and a half after the incident took place. It is appalling that people who are there to serve student athletes — from Chambers on down — let that kind of behavior slide. Bolton was left to fend for himself, and the only one who has said anything is Chambers, who really had no choice.
Why I chose to leave Penn State. pic.twitter.com/uszEPPJZPM
— 🥳 (@rasir_9) July 6, 2020
3. The Philadelphia Eagles have a chance to do better this time
There is no reason to suggest DeSean Jackson intended to hurt anyone with his anti-Semetic Instagram post. There is also no excuse for promoting anything that starts and ends with incorrect references to Adolf Hitler. The fact that Jackson wasn’t trying to cause pain doesn’t do anything to minimize the impact of his actions. His team now finds itself with an opportunity to essentially re-do the way it handled Riley Cooper’s use of a racial epithet in 2013.
Philadelphia couldn’t handle Jackson’s situation any differently than it did Cooper’s without first acknowledging a fine and a week off from training camp wasn’t a good enough response to Cooper. What Cooper said was no more acceptable in 2013 than it is today. The social changes taking place just alter the way reaction is viewed. Being better means following through on the organization’s requirement that Jackson “commit to supporting his words with actions.” It means doing more than condemning Jackson’s actions, issuing a punishment and moving forward. It means working for lasting, impactful change.
4. Major League Soccer is back with a unique viewing experience
Major League Soccer returned in all its glory with a powerful pregame demonstration organized by the league’s players and a captivating game between Orlando City and Inter Miami on July 8. The league continued to grab headlines with the Philadelphia Union donning the names of police violence victims on their jerseys and Montreal Impact manager Theirry Henry kneeling in his technical area for the first 8:46 of the Impact’s loss to New England. The increased publicity — both from what has happened in Orlando and from being the first widely televised team sport to return in the U.S. — has provided MLS with a chance to attract the attention of sports fans who have nothing else to watch, such as ESPN’s Mina Kimes.
alright time to watch my beloved sounders
— Mina Kimes (@minakimes) July 11, 2020
The logistics of the MLS is Back tournament have also allowed the league to experiment with some things that would not happen in normal circumstances. The most prominent change in the broadcast is ESPN’s inclusion of microphones around the field to pick up what players and coaches are saying, which provides a different perspective on the game and is something other major leagues should do when they return. The 9 a.m. kickoffs allow the league to see what viewership is like and could very well lead to late morning start times on Saturday as an encore to European Leagues in the future. Everyone else would be wise to take note of what MLS is doing and add their own improvements to it.
5. The Chiefs face a new challenge when Patrick Mahomes’ new contract kicks in
It’s not exactly difficult to build a roster oozing with talent when Patrick Mahomes is lighting up the league on a four-year $16.4 million contract. Kansas City could afford to surround the best quarterback in the world with terrifying weapons and an above-average defense when he’s making $4 million a year. That won’t be the case when Mahomes is in the midst of the 10-year deal worth up to $503 million he just signed. In an instant, Kansas City goes from having one of the cheapest signal callers in the NFL to the most expensive in history.
One of the reasons the Patriots were able to compliment Tom Brady with players like Stephon Gillmore and Rob Gronkowski was Brady’s willingness to take a pay cut. The Chiefs will have no such luxury. Of course, paying Mahomes whatever he wants is a no-brainer. Kansas City is now a Super Bowl contender for the next decade barring some set of horrific, unforeseen circumstances. The hard part is figuring out how to build and maintain a dynasty when one player is taking up a fat chunk of the salary cap, even if that player is Mahomes.
This weekend’s results served as another humbling reminder of the defensive issues plaguing Chelsea and Arsenal. They can add as many attacking pieces as they want, but neither is challenging for a Premier League title without cleaning up the problems at the back. Frank Lampard and Mikel Arteta have their work cut out for them.
Image by Jeffrey Beall / Wikimedia Commons