Pete Carroll has said a couple of times this fall that if the nation had a plan to counter covid-19 and stuck to it as has the NFL, rates of infections, hospitalizations and deaths would be much lower, and American life would be closer to normal.
While true, the contention overlooks the facts that as a single industry with huge resources, top-shelf medical practices, fast access to labs and a highly paid work force used to following orders, the NFL has a far better chance for success.
He knows it.
“There’s no question,” he said after Seahawks practice Friday before heading to Sunday’s game at Arizona (NBC, 5:20 p.m.). “We also are structured for (contact) tracing. We’re tracking everything. So yeah, we do have the benefits of that.”
While we wait for pharmaceutical science to develop a vaccine that remains months from invention and distribution, some sports have demonstrated that effective contagious-disease management is physically possible.
But the fact remains that much of America looks like college football — fewer resources, strategic differences, ever-changing plans and a resistance to truth and discipline.
A crisis-management plan needs direction, coherence and discipline, things the Trump administration has never had. Nor have numerous state governments. The consequences have been grim for all businesses, education and sports.
“This starts right from the very top,” Carroll said. “It has to be strict and tough and demanding, and you can’t allow for any of the human-nature issues: It’s a little bit hard, and it’s not the way we want it, and we like to do this, we like to do that.
“That ain’t going to cut it.”
Bu evn Carroll had to learn a lesson: He was fined $100,000 for not wearing his mask at all times on the sidelines during the season opener.
The best current sports example of the weak approach is Dan Mullen, the University of Florida coach who recommended that school and state officials lift the ban on crowd sizes so that 90,000 fans could fill “The Swamp” for the home game against LSU Oct. 17.
“I’ve been preparing for LSU,” Mullen said Oct 11. “But I’ll be honest, if you look at what we’ve been able to do, the safety precautions we have that our players have followed, that our coaches follow, our staff follows, I think we’re a model of safety of what we’ve been doing during this time period. I’m really proud of how we’ve handled everything and how safe we’ve been and all the precautions we’ve had in place during this time.”
The LSU game was never played. After his optimistic remarks, 21 Florida players and coaches tested positive for the virus. The game was postponed because the Gators didn’t have enough scholarship players who weren’t in quarantine.
Mullen’s team was ranked fourth and lost at Texas A&M, which allowed at least 24,000 fans, so it’s understandable why wanted a home crowd. That’s human nature. But Mullen, Carroll and all good coaches spend their careers working against human nature’s tendency to take the easy way.
Then Mullen announced Saturday that he tested positive.
A story on Dan Mullen in four acts. pic.twitter.com/bzdWsGGQDn
— Sporting News (@sportingnews) October 17, 2020
Sometimes irony plays real mean. His state alone alone had 693 deaths from covid last week, but somehow he thought 90,000 mostly mask-less fans sitting shoulder to shoulder was a good idea.
Mullen, 48, is part of a subset of big-time coaches who have no idea that college football isn’t the biggest thing in the world. He took risks with his health and his players’ health that a lick of common sense would have stopped.
As a former college coach, Carroll, whose team returned from its bye week with no positive tests, has some sympathy for those tasked with campus management of a pandemic.
“It seems like the professional sports are doing a really good job of making sense to the guys, women’s sports too,” he said. “Everybody’s really serious about trying to take care of business. On the college scene, you can imagine the dormitories, the apartments and the traveling. it’s just more loosely controlled. It’s been really hard on them.
“What we’ve learned is you can you can bubble it. We talked about this being a bubble, even though we weren’t in the same situation as the (NBA, WNBA and NHL). It doesn’t have to be a physical bubble. It’s more of a virtual thought: How are you going to conduct your life with the choices that you make? On a campus, it’s pretty random. The variables are a lot higher. That’s why their numbers are as obvious as they are.”
Despite the best efforts, NFL games have been postponed, but all have so far been re-scheduled. That likely won’t happen in college ball, which already has shortened its season and has less flexibility ahead of staging on time its money-making four-team playoff.
But the Power 5 conferences are operating as separate fiefdoms, because the NCAA as an organization lacks business authority over the schools. It is a trade association that has ceded the power to create a safe, unified response to covid-19.
In some ways, it mirrors the federal government response: No one who cares is in charge of the big picture.
Antonio Brown signs with Tampa Bay
That bromance lasted quick.
Before the Seahawks got serious, Tampa Bay jumped in to sign notorious Antonio Brown Thursday, one day after QB Russell Wilson talked up the wide receiver’s virtues as a potential Seahawk.
ESPN reported an agreement was reached on a one-year contract for the Miami native. He’s scheduled to have his suspension for violating the league’s personal conduct policy lifted Nov. 1. The earliest he could play is Nov. 8.
The Bucs have had injuries at the position, and QB Tom Brady, who was briefly a teammate a year ago when both were in New England, lobbied for Brown, just as Wilson did in Seattle.
Wilson stirred a bit of controversy with his enthusiastic endorsement of Brown, who has had a litany of misdeeds, including sexual assault charges.
“He obviously made some mistakes along the way,” Wilson said. “Nobody’s perfect. None of us are.”
Bucs coach Bruce Arians, in a 2019 ESPN podcast, said he thought Brown was “too much of a diva” to play for the Bucs.
That was before the Bucs signed free agent Brady and became a Super Bowl contender.