Cal Football’s COVID problem: Go Stay Home, Bears!

I am 99% certain that this story won’t surprise any of you. I am 99.5% sure that college football has too many players. And I am 100% disappointed in the stupidity of the behavior of players for my alma mater, which has had to cancel its upcoming game against USC because of a COVID outbreak.

The Bears had 24 players out with COVID on 11/6 that their opponents broke a 20-game losing streak. Getty photo from SFGate.com

The back-and-forth finger-pointing between the Cal sports program and local health officials started before the previous week’s game, when 24 players couldn’t travel to Arizona due to “COVID protocols.” Players, alumni, and sports fans weren’t bashful in criticizing the City of Berkeley Health Services and the university for being overly cautious. However, the dam broke this week, when so many players and staff tested positive that the team had to cancel their next upcoming game. As it turns out, the facts matter, especially when the whole picture is revealed. And, for most of you, who I suspect don’t care about Cal or college football, there are also lessons to be learned.

The Sequence of Events

A few days before the Cal-Arizona football last Saturday, the team announced that 24 players were required to stay home due to COVID protocols. This included starting players, such as quarterback Chase Garber. News reports later clarified that they weren’t staying home just because of exposure to someone with COVID but because they had tested positive themselves.

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The Whole World in a Seven-Meter Circle (Day 14, Tokyo)

SnyderlaevIII will be Saturday, August 7th, aka Captain America vs the Russian Tank.

Wrestling was voted out of the Olympics. It was gone, in 2013, as room was needed for the new “X” sports that we’ve enjoyed in Tokyo–skateboarding, surfing, and sport climbing. It was an ignominious end for a sport that crosses hundreds of cultures, practiced for thousands of years. Skateboarding only goes back to the Sixties.

But like a phoenix rising from the ashes, like Gable Steveson coming from three points down in the final seconds, like a wrestler who is pulled down but then flips her opponent for a pin, wrestling has come back. The whole world, where wrestling “originated” everywhere, all the time, is thrilled.

The pankration, where you can die and still win. Photo from wikipedia.

The Pankration, Pehlavi, Pehlwan, Pat Patterson

Many countries across the Balkans and Eastern Europe, from Russia to Mongolia, had traditions. The Ottoman Empire brought the pehlavi, oil wrestling, to every country they conquered. It’s still Turkey’s national sport, and in the old times, when you had to win with a pin, matches could last for days. The men wear special leather pants, which was more than the Greeks, who also wrestled in oil but naked.

What makes wrestling different from so many other Olympic sports is the breadth of countries competing. Often 60-70 different nations, from all corners of the world, send qualifiers. Compare that with the 6 which sent baseball teams or 16 beach volleyball countries. Watching wrestling, you quickly have to learn how to spell Kyrgyzstan and Azerbaijani, names like Khongorzul Boldsaikhan and Elizbar Odikadze.

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Maybe, One Last Time (Day 10, Tokyo 2020)

The phrases “greatest of all time” and “greatest in history” are getting bandied about with awful frequency these days. She’s the greatest swimmer of all time. That has to be the greatest finish in history. Really, folks, history is pretty long. It’s annoying to use such words when athletes are in their second or maybe third Games. Come back, maybe, when you hit five. Or how about eight?

France’s Teddy Riner (blue) competes against Japan’s Aaron Wolf compete in the judo mixed team’s final bout during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Nippon Budokan in Tokyo on July 31, 2021. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE/AFP via Getty Images)

Instead, as far as the Olympics go, I propose that we honor the Living Legends. The Games are full of folks who still compete with strength and experience. Every time they say, “just one more time.” Every time it’s, “this will be my last.” But they stay in shape, they have outstanding technique, and they’re long past the Olympic jitters.

Perhaps they have lost a step but still make up for it with guile and style. Perhaps they’re not three-peating or four-peating or five-peating. There still have suitcases full of medals. Overall, considering all the sports, these legends might make this the Greatest Class in Olympic history.

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