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Week In Sports: Ivy League Schools Cancel Fall Sports Amid COVID-19 Pandemic


Time for sports.


SIMON: No Harvard-Yale game this year. The Columbia Lions will not growl. The Penn Quakers will not rock 'em. The Ivy League college conferences canceled all formal sports, as it's the coronavirus virus that roars. Will other leagues kind of have to follow, even if they don't know it yet? Howard Bryant of ESPN joins us. Howard, thanks so much for being with us.

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

SIMON: I'm fine. Thank you, my friend. The Dartmouth-Cornell game might not get as many viewers as, you know, the Michigan football team does during pregame calisthenics, but all the major athletic programs have to worry about indoor gyms, crowded locker rooms, running into each other. How do they finesse this, or not?

BRYANT: Well, I think that what you've seen the Ivy League do is not finesse it. And I think they've been out front on these issues, whether it came to classes for the - all the students at Harvard back in March and early April, and I think you're seeing it when it comes to athletics, which is they're simply just looking at the logistics of this. They're looking at, even in some ways, the morality or the making sense of it, and they've decided that you can't. And they've been out front. And everyone seems to have to follow their lead at some point, which sort of tells you something - that you can't finesse this, that when you really start to look at what's taking place, it is really, in a lot of ways, unfeasible to try to play sports during a pandemic.

SIMON: Well, Major League...

BRYANT: I sort of agree, Scott, with the pitchers - Sean Doolittle, who said that sports are the reward for a functioning society.

SIMON: Major League Baseball still says they're going to try. Summer training, if I might call it that, has begun, and spring training in places at the 120 degrees heat.

BRYANT: Summer camp.

SIMON: Yeah, summer camp they call it now. I love to see Javy Baez in his uniform, but are they really going to play baseball?

BRYANT: Well, it's not just the playing baseball part of it. It's - yeah, I think that they're in the same boat that everybody else is in. How are you logistically really going to do this? And even if you start, how are you going to finish? But what I find interesting is the internal conversations. I was talking to Billy Beane, the general manager of the Oakland A's, the other day. And I was asking him about the handshake...

SIMON: Right, yeah.

BRYANT: ...And he said forget it. And I was talking - I was talking to Dusty Baker about it, and I said, what about high-fives? And he's like, forget it. I was on the phone with CC Sabathia, the former pitcher for the Yankees, and he was telling me that he still keeps in touch with the guys. And they were talking about, how are we supposed to play without spitting? We're baseball players. And so when you start thinking about all these different customs - and you strike a guy out, you throw the ball around the horn like they do out of habit, then you got to get rid of the ball and bring in a new ball. So there are all kinds of different just sort of issues that they're going to have to figure out how to play on the fly.

And once again, when these things start to happen, you begin to conclude that maybe this isn't such a great idea. And also at the same time, even some of the far more serious parts of this, you have guys opting out. We saw Buster Posey of the San Francisco Giants opt out, and he's not going to play this season as well. So in addition to all the little cultural sort of tics of baseball, there's still that looming, big question that you're seeing in all the sports, whether it's the WNBA, the NBA or Major League Baseball. Do I want to do this to myself and to my family if I have enough money and protection not to?

SIMON: Yeah. Howard Bryant of ESPN, thanks so much. Talk to you soon.

BRYANT: Thank you, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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