as COVID-19 Cases Rise Once More the Return of Masks Shows it’s Déjà vu all Over Again

In the words of the late, great, Hall of Famer, Yogi Berra, “It’s déjà vu all over again” as once more COVID-19 cases are on the rise and baseball games and other aspects of life are being rescheduled or cancelled.

The July 28, 2021 game between the Washington Nationals and the Philadelphia Phillies was postponed less than two hours before first pitch “to allow for continued testing and contact tracing involving members of the Nationals organization,” according to a statement by Major League Baseball.

The July 28, 2021 game between the Washington Nationals and the Philadelphia Phillies was postponed less than two hours before first pitch “to allow for continued testing and contact tracing involving members of the Nationals organization,” according to a statement by Major League Baseball.
Photo R. Anderson

The latest outbreak marks the third time this season that the Nationals have had to place multiple players on the COVID list.

The Nats began the season with nine players and four coaches impacted by an outbreak on the team plane.

Then in May, starting pitcher Erick Fedde tested positive and reliever Tanner Rainey was forced to quarantine for being a close contact.

In response to rising cases of the Delta COVID-19 variant, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued revised guidance for a return to wearing masks indoors for both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals after an internal document showed that the variant is far more infectious than previously thought.

Additionally, on July 29, 2021 President Joe Biden mandated that all federal employees and contractors either be vaccinated or submit to regular testing as a condition of their employment.

Yes, Yogi, indeed it is déjà vu all over again as cases rise and some people still refuse to wear masks or get vaccinated.

To quote another Yogism, “you can observe a lot by watching.” And watching the number of cases climbing, one can observe that instead of saying mission accomplished and getting on with our lives as they were in the before times, we are heading backwards in the battle to rid our shores of COVID-19.
Photo R. Anderson

To quote another Yogism, “you can observe a lot by watching.”

Watching the number of cases climbing, one can observe that instead of saying mission accomplished and getting on with our lives as they were in the before times, we are heading backwards in the battle to rid our shores of COVID-19.

In many ways the return of a world where mask mandates and potential shutdowns are being talked about boils down to the fact that more people did not get vaccinated back in May when vaccines were plentiful and the Delta variant was barely gaining strength.

In hindsight, lifting mask guidance in May and trusting that the unvaccinated would continue to wear masks was a lesson in foolishness since many in the anti-mask and anti-vaccine crowd will never wear a mask even if their lives and the lives of their children depended on it. Which it does, but more on that in a bit.

But instead of looking back at the mistakes of May, one must look at the present and decide how to move forward with the current conditions.

I get that people can have concerns about getting vaccinated and understand that some people require more data before they are willing to let someone stick a needle in their arm.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) could likely put a lot of minds at ease by lifting the Emergency Use Authorization of the COVID-19 vaccines and stating that they are safe and effective for every day use and fully vetted and approved.

Educational outreach is critical to reaching the unvaccinated and showing them that the risks of dying from COVID-19 far outweigh any potential side effects from a vaccine.

But while people are parsing through the data to achieve a comfort level to get the vaccine, they should be wearing a mask at the very least to protect those around them from getting sick.

The politics of being anti-mask and anti-vaccine is another thing I don’t understand. While many politicians are touting the need to get educated on masks and vaccines, too many others are having their “let them eat cake moments.”

Instead of being at the forefront of encouraging their constituents to mask up and vax up, several politicians seem willing to let people die from a largely preventable disease just so they can score political points among a small minority of the country as part of a pandemic of stupidity.

I am all for adults having the freedom to educate themselves on the vaccines, but I am not for putting children at risk in the process. Currently all children under 12-years-old are not eligible to get vaccinated.

Those too young to get vaccinated must rely on those who are old enough to provide a bubble of protection around them to keep them healthy until a vaccine is approved for their age group.

That is the thing I do not understand, many people are so anti-mask and anti-vaccine that they are willing to risk their own children getting sick, or dying, just to make a point and to stay “on brand.”

In 1985 musician Sting told his band mates of the Police to not stand so close to him as he ventured off on a solo career. His first solo album, Dream of the Blue Turtles featured a track called Russians. While the song was written in response to Cold War tensions between the then U.S.S.R and the United States, one can see parallels in the lyrics to the current standoff of related to the vaccinated and unvaccinated in the battle against COVID-19.

Children’s hospitals are filling up with patients who are too young to get vaccinated and became infected through contact with someone who most likely was old enough to get vaccinated but didn’t.

In 1985, musician Sting told his band mates of the Police to not stand so close to him as he ventured off on a solo career.

His first solo album, Dream of the Blue Turtles featured a song called Russians.  While the song, Russians, was written in response to Cold War tensions between the then U.S.S.R and the United States, one can see parallels in the lyrics to the current standoff related to the vaccinated and unvaccinated in the battle against COVID-19.

Russians opens with the lines, “In Europe and America there’s a growing feeling of hysteria. Conditioned to respond to all the threats. In the rhetorical speeches of the Soviets.”

Fast forward to 2021 and one could say that the rhetorical speeches of some governors who are anti-mask mandates in school are fueling the rising tensions.

Turn on the local news in many southern states and one is likely to see angry parents berating local school districts who are trying to keep their kids safe by telling them to mask up.

Unfortunately, those anti-mask, anti-vaccine parents have governors willing to back them in their anti-science rants.

In keeping with our Russians theme other lyrics state, “I don’t subscribe to this point of view. It’d be such an ignorant thing to do. If the Russians (or in our case unvaccinated) love their children too.”

Masks and vaccines have become so politicized that people are talking past each other instead of to each other.

Going back to the Russians well once more, “There is no monopoly on common sense. On either side of the political fence. We share the same biology, regardless of ideology.”

As noted many times over the past year and a half, COVID-19 does not care if you are a democrat or a republican. It does not care if you think it is “Fake News” or just a flu.

People are still getting sick, and even if they don’t die, many will have long term health effects.

Having to cancel, and/or postpone baseball games, or other sporting events due to COVID-19 is one thing.

Being willing to risk that a child may never get to play sports at all due to long haul COVID because their lungs got trashed when they were at a summer camp full of unvaccinated counselors is another thing.

But what might save us, me and you is if the unvaccinated love their children too.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am off to dust off some Sting CDs and party like it is 1985.

Copyright 2021 R. Anderson

Closely Guarded Secret Revealed as Cleveland MLB Team Gets New Name

In the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) there are Guardians of the Galaxy battling aliens near and far.

In Low Earth Orbit (LEO) the Guardians of Space Force protect the interests of America from wayward actors.

Starting in 2022, the city of Cleveland will have Guardians of their own patrolling the diamonds of Major League Baseball.

Say hello to the Cleveland Guardians, and goodbye to the Cleveland Indians.

Move over Groot, the Cleveland Guardians are here. I suppose if a movie can have a talking tree that only says one-word, Major League Baseball can have a team with an uninspired nickname based in part on that movie.
Photo R. Anderson

In making the announcement of the new name team, owner and chairman Paul Dolan noted in a prepared statement that, “We are excited to usher in the next era of the deep history of baseball in Cleveland. Cleveland has and always will be the most important part of our identity. Therefore, we wanted a name that strongly represents the pride, resiliency and loyalty of Clevelanders.”

Apparently a lot of people are believers in the resiliency and pride brought about by the word guardians.

In December 2020 former United States vice-president Mike Pence, took great pride at the direction of the former president in announcing that members of the United States Space Force would forever be known as Guardians.

With the Coast Guard being called “Coasties” despite actually having the word guard in their name, it makes sense that space forceers would be called Guardians? Asking for a friend.

Either way, the brain trust in Cleveland said, “hold my Pierogi,” and named an entire baseball team after either space soldiers, or Marvel characters. Creating not the most original idea under the sun in the process.

Somewhere I think old Harry Doyle of Major League fame would call the new name, “Just a bit outside.”

In December 2020 former United States vice-president Mike Pence, took great pride at the direction of the former president in announcing that members of the United States Space Force would forever be known as Guardians. With the Coast Guard being called “Coasties” despite actually having the word guard in their name, it makes sense that space forceers would be called Guardians? Asking for a friend. Either way, the brain trust in Cleveland said, “hold my Pierogi,” and named an entire baseball team after either space soldiers, or Marvel characters. Either way, not the most original idea under the sun.
Photo R. Anderson

The timing of the announcement on the day that the world was distracted by the opening ceremonies of the Pandemic games, I mean Summer Olympic games, also seems a bit like trying to bury the lead when the world of sport was looking the other direction.

While I am certainly not trying to tell the fine people of Cleveland what to call their baseball team, their selection seems rather flat and uninspired based on the aforementioned list of way more famous Guardians.

Cleveland had used Indians as their nickname since 1915. In 2020 the team announced that a new name was coming in response to growing complaints from Native American groups and others who felt that the name and iconography was disrespectful.

Ahead of undergoing a name change, Cleveland stopped wearing the Chief Wahoo logo on their jerseys and caps in 2019 as phase one of their rebranding effort.

While the Indians will be retired at the end of the 2021 MLB season, diehard Clevelanders and Chief Wahoo fans can take solace in the fact that the Indians will forever live on the silver screen thanks to their inclusion in the movies of the Major League franchise.

In the none theatrical world, I can support and respect the need for Cleveland to adjust their branding to be less controversial, however, their ultimate choice of new nickname seems a little lazy.

It is almost like they looked at the word Indians and thought, “you know if we drop the letters “in” we just need to find some new letters and we can keep the “dians” that our fans have grown to love over the years.

I am guessing the keep the “dians” approach for a new nickname included evaluating such words as Comedians, Meridians, Arcadians, Euclidians, Custodians, and Medians.

With all of the attention being paid to the sabermetrics and mathematical elements of baseball these days, Cleveland truly missed an opportunity by not naming the team the Euclidians after Ancient Greek mathematician, Euclid, the inventor of axiomatic geometry.

After all, if launch angle is not a product of geometric principles I don’t know what is.

A quick internet search of “Cleveland Guardians” reveals that a men’s roller hockey team already used that name proving that the search for a new name may have been even lazier then first thought. There are even similarities between the roller hockey logo and the logo for the MLB squad.

As weak as the new nickname seems, at least one can take solace in the fact that Cleveland did not follow the soccer/futbol route and call themselves the Cleveland City Baseball Club.

The move by Cleveland follows a move made by the team formerly known as the Washington Redskins to change with the times and remove offensive nicknames and logos. Washington is expected to announce their new name sometime in 2022.

Cleveland was not the only MLB team that used Native American symbolism as part of their brand but are the only one making a change. The Atlanta Braves announced last year that they had no intention of changing their team’s name, but would look into the possibility of doing away with the “Tomahawk Chop.”

With the Cleveland Indians giving way to becoming the Guardians, The Atlanta Braves are the last of the 30 MLB teams to reflect Native American themes in their branding. While pressure is likely to mount for the team to change their name, for now the Braves have stated they have no plans to change their name but may look into revising the “Tomahawk Chop” chant.
Photo R. Anderson

In the NFL, the Kansas City Chiefs are also facing increased pressure to change their name.

Additionally, Jeep has been asked by the Cherokee Nation to find another name for their bestselling SUV.

In a February 25, 2021 article in the New York Times, Chuck Hoskin Jr., principal chief of the Cherokee Nation, said, “The use of Cherokee names and imagery for peddling products doesn’t deepen the country’s understanding of what it means to be Cherokee, and I think it diminishes it somewhat.”

The response from the parent company of Jeep was noncommittal regarding whether a name change would be forthcoming.

It is certainly a tricky issue for both sports franchises and corporations to navigate when it comes to protecting their long-term identity while also being mindful of the fact that acceptable societal norms have shifted.

While Chief Wahoo will no longer bang the drum slowly and play the pipe lowly in the outfield of Cleveland baseball games, fans wanting to hang on to those days of wahoo past can always watch the Major League franchise to get their kicks. As a bonus, the movies feature way more winning compared to watching the actual franchise.
Photo R. Anderson

As noted many times before, I grew up as a Washington Redskins fan and never thought that I was supporting a team named after a racial slur.

To me, they were just a football team with cool colors, a catchy post touchdown song and a neat logo. But for some, that name and logo, even though it was used by some Native American communities, was offensive to others.

To be fair, someone will always be offended no matter what something is called. But when the majority of people find something offense it is time to take a closer look at whether a change needs to be made.

Cleveland made their change and while they likely launched a thousand memes by naming themselves Guardians, at least they are moving forward with a new identity.

The Washington football faithful still have to wait another year to see what rebranding effort is coming straight outta Landover, MD.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have the sudden urge to listen to some of Harry Doyle’s greatest fictional calls.

Copyright 2021 R. Anderson

The Tokyo Olympics will have Fanfare but no Common Man

On July 8, 2021, in another in a long list of “the show must go on” actions it was announced that the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics would still start at the end of July 2021, but would do so without fans in attendance.

In short, the games would have fanfare but no common man or woman in the stands cheering the athletes onto victory.

The reason cited for the nixing of fans and pomp and circumstance was the fact that Tokyo is currently under a state of National Emergency due to the number of COVID-19 cases sweeping through the region.

COVID-19 was surging in Tokyo last year as well which caused the 2020 Summer Games to move to 2021.

So, with not much changed in terms of the amount of virus in and around Tokyo between this time last year and now, the games will continue. After all, organizers will be quick to say that there is too much money on the line to postpone the games once again.

Although the idea of going full blast with the Olympics while the average citizens of Japan are battling the COVID-19 monster sounds like the plot of a bad Godzilla movie, it is very much a real thing.

In 1992 I made my first trip to the Los Angeles Coliseum. I returned over 20 years later and the building was just as iconic and awe inspiring as it had been to me as a child. In 2028 the Olympic games will make their fourth trip to the coliseum.
Photo R. Anderson

I have always loved watching classic Godzilla movies. While the battles between Godzilla and his band of monsters are entertaining, I enjoy the way that the heroes always win in the end by using sound scientific principles.

It does not take a scientist battling a radioactive monster to see that even without fans, having thousands of athletes, coaches, media and other support personnel travel to a virus hot spot for two weeks and then returning to their home countries does not seem like the brightest idea.

At least by banning fans from the venues inside Tokyo the number of people who would potentially take COVID-19 back to their home countries is minimized somewhat.

But this is not a column about my love of Godzilla movies, or the rationale of holding international sporting events during COVID-19. For right or wrong, numerous leagues across the world have declared themselves open for business and the COVID0-19 virus vanquished. Many scientists and other people dispute that claim but still the games must go on.

Were I in a position to make that decision, I would certainly postpone the games. However, at the end of the day, it does not really matter to me whether the Olympics are held or not since I will not be watching them, nor really caring about who wins what medal.

My ambivalence towards the Olympics is a somewhat recent development. I was once a fan of the Olympic games and all that I thought they stood for. However, I grew cynical to the point of despising the Olympics while pursuing my Master of Science (M.S.) in Sport Management.

I am sure that my instructors thought that the in-depth study of the Olympics would fill me to the brim with pride. However, the more I studied the Olympics, the more it had the opposite effect.

Once you peel back the layers of the Olympic onion and get past all of the pomp and circumstance, one is left with a very rotten core where sportsmanship and competition are overshadowed by greed and graft.

In 2014, I glowingly wrote about my excitement to watch the Opening Ceremony for the Winter Games in Sochi Russia. In my column, I mentioned some of the issues that the Russian organizers were having in finishing the facilities in time for the opening ceremonies but the overall theme of the column was that I was looking forward to the games and saw them as something that brought the world together for a few weeks of positive competition.

From the bribes and kickbacks during the host city selection process, to the fact that billions of dollars in facility construction is often spent in third world countries where citizens live in poverty and the shiny arenas of the Olympics turn into crumbling relics after the games the Olympic are rife with a darker side.

Six months after the torch was extinguished at the 2016 Summer games in Rio de Janeiro, many of the Olympic venues had been abandoned and were in various states of decay. One need only do an internet search on abandoned Olympic sites to see that Rio is far from alone in spending billions of dollars to build the infrastructure for the Olympics only to watch it all go to waste after the torch has moved on to the next city.

The crumbling Olympic venues dotting landscapes across the globe serve as reminders that as cities continue to battle to host the games, some countries would be better off spending the billions of dollars it takes to host the games in others ways.

When the Summer Olympic Games return to Los Angeles in 2028 they will utilize myriad existing stadiums, ballparks and arenas which is a stark contrast to the build it and abandon in place approach employed during the Summer games in Athens and Rio de Janeiro among other cities.
Photo R. Anderson

As someone once said, “History shows again and again how nature points out the folly of man.”

While I am against the Olympics on principle, I support the various athletes who train for years for what often amounts to a single chance to go for gold on the world stage.

In that regard, I can see that continuing to postpone the games will have serious ramifications on athletes from around the world who dream of that one shot at Olympic glory and immortality.

The old saying about hating the game not the player comes to mind along with visions of Hamilton and Eminem not wanting to give away their one shot.

The 2020 games taking place in 2021 will feature the return of baseball, and softball as Olympic sports. Baseball was last an Olympic sport in 2008. Additionally, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) agreed back in 2016 to add karate, skateboarding, sports climbing and surfing to the competition slate for the Tokyo games in a bid to attract younger fans to the games and stay relevant.

Although I no longer watch the Olympics, every four years I dust of my 100th Anniversary of Olympics music soundtrack for some fanfare for the common man as well as some good old fashioned Olympic fanfare by John Williams.
Photo R. Anderson

As someone who still has their 1985 Topps Mark McGwire Olympics rookie card, I am certainly happy to see baseball back in the Olympics, but even that does not really move my excitement needle to want to watch the games this year.

Despite my current position on the Olympics, I am hopeful that I may once again put on my blinders and see the whole onion instead of the rotten layers.

I have always been more of a Winter Olympics fan than a Summer Olympic fan. As such, perhaps my cynicism will melt by the time hockey and curling roll around in 2022 at the Beijing Winter Olympic games. If not, one can hope that I will be California dreaming by 2028 and will be watching beach volleyball and surfing on the sands and waves of SoCal that I know so well.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have the sudden urge to listen to some Blue Oyster Cult.

Copyright 2021 R. Anderson

A Patriotic Ode to the Hot Dog

Yesterday, July 4th, the United States of America celebrated the 245th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence from British rule, and the first anniversary of the declaring independence from COVID-19 with coast-to-coast fireworks and mask less and social distance free celebrations galore as a weary nation partied like it was 2019.

While time will tell whether declaring independence from COVID-19 was premature, one cannot argue that we are not in a better position this year than we were at the time a year ago.

The US celebrated the 245th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence from British rule, and the first anniversary of the declaring independence from COVID-19 with coast-to-coast fireworks as a weary nation partied like it was 2019.
Photo R. Anderson

In addition to fireworks, another truly American Fourth of July tradition is a celebration of gluttony in the form of the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest.

Each year competitive eaters descend upon Coney Island, New York and stuff their faces with as many hot dogs and buns as they can while the world watches on ESPN.

When all of the bun crumbs settled Joey Chestnut, the world record holder with 76 hot dogs and buns consumed, earned his 14th Mustard Belt title in 16 years.

While part of me refuses to accept Joey Chestnut as my hot dog champion ever since the questionable dealings that led to the ousting of Takeru Kobayashi in 2010, I fall well short of driving around town with a “Joey is not my Champion” flag waving from a pickup truck.

In addition to fireworks, another truly American Fourth of July tradition is a celebration of gluttony in the form of the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest.
Photo R. Anderson

For starters all of the eligible hot dogs and buns were counted in a free and fair hot dog contest, and second, I don’t own a pickup truck or a flag.

So, while each July 4th I pour a little deli mustard out for Kobayashi, I find no need for a recount from the Cyber Buns.

But I digress, this is not a column about Chestnut and Kobayashi. This is not even a column about the ways Americans flaunt their abundance of riches on the world stage while many other nations beg for life saving vaccines that a wide swath of Americans refuse to take.

Instead, this is a column about my love of eating hot dogs at the Ballpark. Over the course of my life, I have eaten my fair share of dogs from coast to coast. I cannot wait until I return to a Ballpark to consume another cased meat treat.

It is always best to not dig too deeply inside the casing of the hot dog. While I try to eat healthier hot dogs, at some point one has to realize that one does not eat a hot dog as part of a health and wellness plan.

Nope, hot dogs, like America at the moment, are a hot mess full of competing ideas and doctrines and various parts of animals, yet somehow when they are combined together and boiled, fried or grilled the various parts of the hot dog make culinary magic.

Hot dogs, like America at the moment, are a hot mess full of competing ideas and doctrines and various parts of animals, yet somehow when they are combined together and boiled, fried or grilled the various parts of the hot dog make culinary magic.
Photo R. Anderson

Perhaps if more people thought of America like a hot dog there would be less divisions along party lines. I mean if fans of the San Francisco Giants can eat a Dodger Dog in the Ballpark of their most hated rival Los Angeles Dodgers, there really is hope for the rest of society to bond over a coney, or as some people prefer to call them a wiener.

Major League Eating (MLE), has sanctioned the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest since 1997 and while I will never be a member of that sanctioning body, I am nonetheless a Major League eater. At least a Major League Baseball eater.

In addition to eating hot dogs at dozens of Minor League Baseball and Spring Training Ballparks through the years, I have consumed hot dogs at seven MLB Ballparks.

My first professional Ballpark hot dog was an Esskay hot dog at Memorial Stadium for a Baltimore Orioles versus Philadelphia Phillies game. In hindsight, it is fitting that my Ballpark hot dog tradition would start watching a game from the city where the Declaration of Independence was signed.

As a side note, Esskay hotdogs are so popular in Birdland that they are shipped down from Maryland to the Orioles Spring Training ballpark in Florida each year lest the Orioles fans be forced to consume a different type of hot dog.

The Dodger Dog is such a big deal in Los Angeles that Dodger Stadium features statues of a hot dog mascot.
Photo R. Anderson

My other MLB hot dogs were consumed at the home Ballparks of the Rays, Astros, Rangers, Rockies, Angels and Dodgers.

It was during trips to Dodger Stadium that I truly experienced the elevated Ballpark hot dog experience in the form of the famous Dodger Dog.

The Dodger Dog is such a big deal in Los Angeles that Dodger Stadium features statues of a hot dog mascot. The Dodger Dog is available steamed, grilled, or fried. And starting in 2021, a plant-based Dodger Dog was even added to the lineup.

Of course, all is not copasetic in the house that Vin Scully built as the long-time meat packing supplier of the Dodger Dog did not have their contract renewed after the 2019 season.

That means that for the first time in nearly 50 years the Dodger Dog will not taste the same. At least the Dodgers got a World Series title in 2020 to soften the blow of losing the Farmer John Dodger Dog.

Los Angeles Dodgers fans consumed 2.7 million hot dogs in 2019. While I did not contribute to the 2019 numbers, I did eat my fair share of Dodger Dogs during the 2018 season. Sometimes I even ate my Dodger Dog with a fork and knife on a real plate.
Photo R. Anderson

I am not alone in my love of hot dogs. According to hot-dog.org Americans spent more than $7.68 Billion on hot dogs and sausages in US supermarkets in 2020.

Los Angeles was tops on the hot dog and sausage consumption scale, which kind of blows SoCal’s rep of being all about avocado toast and juice cleanses.

Going back to hot-dog.org one learns that Los Angeles residents consume about 30 million pounds of hot dogs annually. Los Angeles Dodgers fans consumed 2.7 million hot dogs in 2019. Across the major leagues, fans enjoyed 18.3 million hot dogs during the 2019 season.

My memory is a bit foggy from the nitrates to know how many of those 18.3 million hotdogs I consumed in 2019.

While I did not spend yesterday in a Ballpark, I went to the local hot dog shop and selected a New York dog, a polish sausage, a Chicago dog, and two chili cheese coneys to continue my dog on the Fourth of July tradition.
Photo R. Anderson

While I did not spend yesterday in a Ballpark, I went to the local hot dog shop and selected a New York dog, a polish sausage, a Chicago dog, and two chili cheese coneys to continue my dog on the Fourth of July tradition.

The hot dogs were tasty but they definitely had me yearning for the Ballpark experience. I don’t know when I will see a Ballgame in person again but know that when I do a hot dog will be involved. I am hoping to visit a favorite Ballpark in September. Until then, my occasional hot dog cravings will be satisfied through drive thru windows.

During a trip to Denver’s Coors Field, I became a member of the Mile High Hot Dog Club during a game between the Rockies and Marlins. That’s a thing right?
Photo R. Anderson

I doubt the founding fathers had hot dogs and baseball diamonds in mind when they decided to break away from the British in 1776, but I am certainly glad that they did declare independence to allow such things to occur in the centuries that followed.

Otherwise, activities today might be filled with watching cricket and shouting “pip, pip” while sipping Earl Grey tea, hot.

Not that there is anything wrong with cricket or Earl Grey tea mind you.

Now if you’ll excuse me, all this talk about hot dogs is making me hungry.

Copyright 2021 R. Anderson

Return of USFL is Latest Example of Everything Old is New Trend

A long, long time ago in a swamp far, far away a wise old green puppet said, “long enough live you do, all things old become new they will.”

Okay, maybe I am not remembering the exact source of the quote but the force behind it is that if one waits long enough, everything old will become new again; even things one never thought would return.

The latest example of this recycling of retro chic is the recent announcement that the United States Football League, aka the USFL, plans to make a return to the gridiron in the spring of 2022 after a lengthy time on the sidelines.

For those unfamiliar with the USFL, it was a spring football league that played for three seasons from 1983 through 1985. Some notable USFL players who later joined the NFL include Jim Kelly, Doug Flutie, Steve Young and Hershel Walker just to name a few.

Ultimately like the myriad spring football leagues that followed, the USFL went the way of the dinosaurs and became extinct. Of course, with the number of failed leagues trying to come back to life lately perhaps one should say the USFL is trying to rise like a phoenix from the ashes of its own Icarus style hubris of flying too close to the sun during its initial three season run.

I will not get into the inner workings of why the USFL failed aside from saying that had they stayed in their lane it is possible the USFL would have never disappeared from the sports landscape all those years ago. At least that was the thesis statement of a research paper I wrote during my M.S. in Sport Management studies.

For those wanting more specifics on what ultimately killed the USFL, numerous books and documentaries cover that subject in grave detail. However, for those wanting to get down in the weeds on why the league failed, I do recommend the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary “Small Potatoes: Who Killed the USFL?”

Aside from my academic studies of the USFL, I am old enough to remember the league from the perspective as a fan. Granted a very young fan. Growing up in Florida I was a fan of the Tampa Bay Bandits and the Orlando Renegades who were coached by Steve Spurrier and Lee Corso respectively.

Spurrier would of course spend his post USFL days reinventing college football at the University of Florida, while Corso became a key member of the College Gameday crew that changed how college football pregame shows were done.

So, as a fan of the old USFL with the hats, programs, media guides and team buttons to prove it, I am both intrigued and horrified at the thought of the league making another run.

Like a moth to a flame, I was always drawn to the spring football teams of Orlando. From the Renegades of the USFL, the Thunder of the WLAF, and the Apollos of the AAF, when it comes to failed spring football leagues Orlando has seen its share of short-term tenets that enter with a flurry of promise and excitement and exit with a whimper of disappointment and failed potential. Time will tell if the Renegades rise again after spending a single season in Orlando in 1985. If the Renegades are resurrected it is highly likely that the native American identity and penchant for tomahawks from the earlier version will be toned down or eliminated all together in the current climate of acceptable team names and iconography.
Photo R. Anderson

Would I love to see Orlando get yet another minor league sports franchise while continually getting passed over as a serious contender for the NFL and MLB? Sure, I suppose.

But, at the same time I am skeptical that any spring football league can make a serious dent at long term stability. If I thought that the USFL, or any league stood a real chance at being financially independent and not just some made for TV revenue stream to fill the air on the airwaves or a streaming service, I would dust off my Sport Management degree in a heartbeat and stand in line with the rest of the applicants wanting to make a lasting impression on the wide world of sports with spring football.

Instead I will quote Lee Corso and say “Not so fast my friend” when it comes to my belief that the USFL can succeed in the current sports climate.  I just do not have a good feeling about the USFL succeeding as more than just a gimmick and a way to for Fox Sports to sell some ads on television.

It should be noted that Fox Sports, which has a minority equity stake in the company that owns the new USFL, will serve as the league’s official broadcast partner.

One has to wonder how quickly Fox will run away from the deal if their ratings expectations are not met. It is also a slippery slope when the people creating the content are also the same channels broadcasting it.

Of course, the rising symbiosis between leagues and broadcast partners is a column and/or research paper subject for another day. Suffice to say, as a classically trained sports journalist I am deeply troubled by the trend of mergers and blending of networks and leagues.

It goes back to the age-old journalism school question of whether sports events are news or entertainment. Based on the number of leagues jumping into bed with gambling interests I would say sports are sliding into the easy to manipulate realm of entertainment programming which could very well soil the sanctity of the game.

So, the USFL selling a portion of the league and perhaps their soul to Fox Sports is a huge red flag for me in terms of whether I should get excited about yet another Spring Football league coming to town.

I have gone down this road many times and it never ends well. One of the first sports articles I ever wrote for my high school newspaper was about the arrival of the World League of American Football (WLAF). My article focused on the Orlando Thunder and the excitement that the City Beautiful was getting another chance to be a professional football town. The excitement lasted all of two seasons as the WLAF became NFL Europe and the Thunder and the other domestic teams ceased operations.
Photo R. Anderson

I have gone down this road many times and it never ends well. One of the first sports articles I ever wrote for my high school newspaper was about the arrival of the World League of American Football (WLAF).

My article focused on the Orlando Thunder and the excitement that the City Beautiful was getting another chance to be a professional football town.

The excitement lasted all of two seasons as the WLAF became NFL Europe and the Thunder and the other domestic teams ceased operations. A fun fact tying the WLAF to the USFL was that Lee Corso was the Orlando Thunder’s general manager after coaching the Orlando Renegades of the USFL.

So, the Renegades and the Thunder were strikes one and two. My skepticism is further fueled by the rise and fall of the Alliance of American Football (AAF). The AAF came out of the gate strong in 2019 and even lured the Old Ball Coach Steve Spurrier himself to coach the Orlando Apollos. Despite good coaching, and decent on field action, the AAF folded during the inaugural season after it was unable to secure additional funding to make payroll.

Strike three.

Of course, leagues will always say that they learned from the mistakes of others as they climb over the smoldering remains of all of the spring leagues that came before them. In this way they really are like the classic tale of Icarus who flew too close to the sun and fell down to earth after his wax wings melted.

It really would be fitting for a spring football league to use Icarus for one of their teams if one could decide if the plural should be the Flying Icaruses or the Flying Icuri.

In making the announcement of their return, USFL 2.0 noted that it will play the 2022 season in the spring with a minimum of eight teams. The league also noted a desire to “deliver high-quality, innovative professional football to fans.”

In keeping with other big spring league announcements over the past few years no details were given on which eight cities will be blessed to be given an USFL franchise. The USFL did note that they still retain all of the naming rights and intellectual property of “key original team names.”

Over the course of the USFL three seasons the Denver Gold were one of only five teams that played all three years without relocating or changing team names. The other teams with three season staying power were the Los Angeles Express, Birmingham Stallions, New Jersey Generals, and Tampa Bay Bandits. It is likely that those markets will be included as part of the new version of the USFL.
Photo R. Anderson

For those who are curious, the key names that the USFL could select from based on their first go round include; Wranglers, Stallions, Breakers, Blitz, Gold, Gamblers, Bulls, Express, Showboats, Panthers, Generals, Invaders, Outlaws, Stars, Maulers, Gunslingers, Bandits, Federals, and Renegades.

Over the course of the USFL three seasons only five teams played all three years without relocating or changing team names. Those lucky teams with the most stability were the Denver Gold, Los Angeles Express, Birmingham Stallions, New Jersey Generals, and Tampa Bay Bandits. It is likely that those markets will be included as part of the new version of the USFL.

While the new USFL claims to have the intellectual property rights for all things USFL, Steve Ehrhart, the executive director of the original USFL was quoted in a Philadelphia Enquirer article following the news of USFL 2.0 as questioning the legitimacy of those claims.

In the Enquirer article Ehrhart noted that when it comes to claims that the new USFL has all of the rights to logos and names, “I was surprised when I heard about it this morning. I want to dig into it and see who they’re claiming they acquired these rights [to the name] from. Because it didn’t come from any legitimate source.

“My guess is there’s some knucklehead out there who claimed he had registered the name and had the rights to it. We’re not being antagonistic. But if they want to do this, they should do it the right way and talk to the actual people, not some guy who sent in an internet registration or something like that.”

Assuming the right knucklehead is located, and the rights really do belong to Fox and friends, time will tell whether the latest iteration of the USFL can match, or best the three-year high-water mark of spring league viability it set nearly 40 years ago. Perhaps Icarus will use some stronger wax this time.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am off to dust off some USFL gear and take a trip down memory lane.

Copyright 2021 R. Anderson

Covering the world of baseball one pitch at a time.