Saturday Sports: Football Struggles To Handle The Coronavirus NPR's Scott Simon talks with Howard Bryant of ESPN about football's coronavirus problem and the baseball playoffs.
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Saturday Sports: Football Struggles To Handle The Coronavirus

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Saturday Sports: Football Struggles To Handle The Coronavirus

Saturday Sports: Football Struggles To Handle The Coronavirus

Saturday Sports: Football Struggles To Handle The Coronavirus

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/924868614/924868615" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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NPR's Scott Simon talks with Howard Bryant of ESPN about football's coronavirus problem and the baseball playoffs.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

And now it's time for sports.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: The Colts close then reopen a practice facility. The Patriots cancel a practice but still plan to face the Broncs tomorrow. And Nick Saban, coach of Bama, tests positive for the coronavirus. Didn't football know there was a coronavirus problem?

We're joined now by ESPN's Howard Bryant. Howard, thanks so much for being with us.

HOWARD BRYANT, BYLINE: Good morning, Scott. How are you?

SIMON: I'm fine, thank you. The NFL and college football...

BRYANT: (Laughter) Better than the Colts and the Patriots?

SIMON: My health, I think.

BRYANT: (Laughter).

SIMON: Let's put it that way, OK? The NFL and college football had more time than any other sport to prepare. What did they miss?

BRYANT: They missed a lot. And as you said in the open, the Patriots closed their facility after a positive test, and they reopened. And then they had another positive test, I think, yesterday and then remained open. And the Jacksonville Jaguars - they closed their facility, and then they reopened, and they plan on playing.

And college football - Nick Saban had a positive test and then two negative tests. And now if he has another negative test, he's actually going to be on the sidelines against Georgia. He's going to coach the game. It's a disaster in so many ways because of the inconsistencies.

SIMON: Yeah.

BRYANT: And I think that the real issue to me, when you look at what the NFL did - they had plenty of time because they started so late. They didn't have a reopening, restart issue the way baseball and the way basketball and football did. But I think that the bottom line with the NFL clearly was that they figured by the time their season started, they didn't need to go into a bubble and that this issue would have been under control.

And then I think by the time you started to get through the summer and by the time the season started, they just figured that they were going to live with the virus. They were going to have some fans come to the stadiums and that they were going to just deal with it. And it looks like they just figured that some guys are going to get it, some people aren't, and we'll just keep it moving. Really, really unfortunate and pretty cynical strategy, if you ask me.

SIMON: Yeah. What could they have learned from, you know, basketball, even baseball, hockey?

BRYANT: Well, I think basketball - obviously, the NBA, the WNBA and the NHL - they had the bubbles done right. They had - they did it the right way, and they got the results they wanted. They ended up finishing their seasons. And they did it with - the NBA had no positive tests after that, and they were very harsh in their disciplines for people who broke protocols. And they found their way to see it through.

And I think that the NFL - obviously to me, I think the bottom line is that they were convinced that they wanted to have people in the stands, and that was the endgame - was to make sure you did this as normal as possible. They didn't believe that a bubble would work when you've got 65, 75, 85 people on the sideline. And this was the choice they made.

SIMON: Let's move on to baseball quickly. Game 7 tonight, the American League Championship after the Houston lying, cheating Astros came back to beat...

(LAUGHTER)

SIMON: ...The Bay - the Rays last night, 7-4. Boy, it's a real series now, isn't it?

BRYANT: Well, it's not just a real series, Scott. You've got a chance to do something if you're the Houston Astros that we haven't seen since those 2004 Red Sox, which is to come all the way back from a 3-0 deficit. Here's a team that was 29-31 in the regular season. Here's a team that everybody hated before the pandemic because of the cheating scandal. And then here's a team that also has a beloved manager in Dusty Baker and also a very sympathetic story with Gary Pettis test - well, I mean, he...

SIMON: Yeah.

BRYANT: ...Was diagnosed with cancer. And so suddenly, there are all these different emotions with the Astros. They go down 3-0, and suddenly, they're one game away from going to the World Series. And so on that side, you've got a really amazing story on both ends. And on the other side, you've got the Atlanta Braves, who were supposedly right there as well, up 3-1. But they lose last night, so if the Dodgers win tonight, you'll have two Game 7s.

SIMON: Well, OK, in spite of everything, I'm getting a little bit excited as a baseball fan. ESPN's Howard Bryant, thanks so much for being...

BRYANT: Well, just look at it this way, Scott. We didn't think we were going to see anything, right? This is kind of fun.

SIMON: Yeah, absolutely. All right. Howard Bryant, thanks so much.

BRYANT: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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