Sports

Ready for some football lite?

FOOTBALL without fans … and fans without football (Shutterstock).

You might not have noticed it, but the 2020 college football season has started.

The bizarrely named Guardian Credit Union FCS Kickoff in Montgomery, Alabama pitted Austin Peay against Central Arkansas on Saturday. They played in front of a sparse crowd at Cramton Bowl with the turnout of fans normally associated with a high school JV contest.

Welcome to college football in the Age of the Pandemic.

Two of the five “power conferences” – the Pac 12 and the Big 10 – have cancelled their seasons, which means no Rose Bowl on Jan. 1. Some other conferences and programs are balanced on the fence: two games scheduled for this week –  Rice/Houston and Jacksonville State/Florida International – have been postponed, perhaps never to be rescheduled.

There’s been some discussion of playing college football in the spring, but that possibility is just that: something that might happen which probably won’t.

The NFL has accepted the reality of the health issues involved and will play a full schedule with empty stadiums. Of course, there’s the hope that the COVID-19 situation will improve sometime before the season ends. The NFL can play in fanless stadiums and survive financially because a) most of the money coming in is from TV rights, not tickets and concessions and b) the teams are, for the most part, owned by deep-pocket billionaires.

So, are your ready some football with a giant asterisk? It’s better than no football at all.

Here’s how the water falls, division-wise

It’s still a ways until high school sports are back in action, but the CIF-SS isn’t idle. The playoff groupings for 2020-2021 girls’ water polo have been announced and they reflect a growing trend away from polls, league standings and other issues and more toward a supposedly objective way of evaluating teams.

GIRLS’ WATER POLO groupings (Shutterstock).

This rating is based on performance plus strength of schedule. Out of this comes a number for the team for the two previous seasons. The problem with this system is that it doesn’t reflect changes in team personnel or coaching. A star player may lead her team to a couple of great seasons, graduate and the squad which remains is nothing like it used to be. Conversely, a team with a run of subpar seasons will be underrated if new talent emerges or transfers in.

Here is how local teams are grouped, by division.

  • Divisions 1 and 2: Huntington Beach.
  • Division 3: Edison.
  • Division 5: Garden Grove, Western.
  • Division 6: Loara, Los Amigos, Ocean View, Pacifica.
  • Division 7: Bolsa Grande, La Quinta, Magnolia, Orange, Rancho Alamitos, Westminster.

Shorter season, same old familiar story

If you’re the betting kind, it’s a pretty good wager that the Dodgers will make the playoffs and have a deep run toward another World Series appearance. As of today (Monday), they have the best record in MLB. Sunday’s three home runs set a new NL season record for most homers – 57 – in a single month. A team with great pitching and outstanding hitting is tough to bet against.

Now, if you want to roll your wagering money into a real bonanza, you can bet against the Angels to make the playoffs, or even reach .500. As of today, they are last in the AL West, 11 games under .500 and proud owner of the second-worst record in the American League.

Let’s go for the trifecta. Angel general manager Billy Eppler is the odds-on favorite to be the first GM fired after the conclusion of this weird season. The major market Angels, possessed of the best player in baseball (Mike Trout), have been unable to post a winning record in the five years under Eppler.

His contract expires this year, and under his leadership, the Halos don’t even have a single break-even season to show for it. Many people blame the pitching, but the constantly changing nature of the lineup works against team chemistry as well.

And as for field manager Joe Maddon, well, that’s another column for next time …

Farewell to a basketball life lived large

The death of former Georgetown University head basketball coach John Thompson at 78 reminds us of a sometimes controversial but almost always successful figure. Thompson revived a sad sack Hoya basketball program and propelled it to prominence, winning the 1984 NCAA men’s basketball title. He posted 596 wins en route to 14 straight playoff appearances and three trips to the Final Four.

One final fashion note. His teams (and star center Patrick Ewing) pioneered the T-shirt-under-the jersey style, which was widely imitated for another generation.

Wild World of Sports is posted on Mondays.

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