Losses just keep mounting: More and more games called off due to coronavirus concerns

Ryan Stieg

The winter season is typically a festive time of the year.

It’s a period of time when people get together with loved ones, both related and not, and just enjoy each other’s company.

Sports are also an important part of these times of bonding, with cheering, excitement and I’m sure the consumption of adult beverages involved at some point.

Sadly, though, it appears like things aren’t exactly looking great when it comes to athletics in this country.

The remaining Michigan High School Athletic Association fall championships have been postponed yet again when it appeared as if they would resume next week, which is a blow to the Upper Peninsula teams still remaining.

The Northern Michigan University men’s hockey team was forced to either postpone or cancel its first three weeks of the season and it doesn’t look like next week’s three games are a sure thing, either. So locally, the forecast for sports looks pretty frightful.

Then there’s the big rivalry football games that we like to crowd around our televisions or mobile devices to watch.

Indiana and Purdue announced Wednesday that their annual battle for the Old Oaken Bucket (one of the wackiest trophies in sports) was canceled due to rising COVID-19 numbers at both campuses. IU and Purdue are well-known rival basketball schools, but the rivalry is just as heated on the gridiron.

This is especially painful this year as the Hoosiers are nationally ranked and having their best season in some might say decades. I’m sure they’d loved to cap off their regular season with a win over the Boilermakers. IU got dealt an even more painful blow later that same day, but we’ll get to that.

What is usually the biggest Big Ten game of the season will not occur either, with the yearly Michigan and Ohio State slugfest also canceled due to increasing COVID cases in the Wolverines program. Michigan’s game with Maryland was also canceled the week before, so this isn’t a problem that just hit the Wolverines.

Some have laughed and said that canceling the game is a gift for U of M, since the Wolverines are 2-4, needed triple overtime to beat Rutgers, and most likely, would’ve been thrashed by the Buckeyes. Honestly though, how would that result be different from the last two years?

With the game against OSU canceled, that means the Wolverines have potentially only one game left, a crossover game against a still-not-known Big Ten West Division opponent, but I wouldn’t bet on that happening, either.

Joking aside, it’s been sad to see what’s happened to U of M along with other schools. A once-promising season is on the verge of being sucked down the drain, some of it due to things out of these teams’ control.

Even though odds were heavy that the Wolverines would lose to the Buckeyes, crazier things have happened and it would’ve been nice to see the players get an opportunity to pull off that upset.

On a side note, this will most likely be the end of Jim Harbaugh’s tenure as head coach, and if that game next Saturday doesn’t happen, his last game with the Wolverines will be a home loss to a previously winless Penn State squad. Yikes.

For another “yikes” moment, let’s go back to the Hoosiers, who not only don’t get to play Purdue, but now will miss out on the Big Ten Championship game due to meddling by the conference.

Before the football season began, the conference stated that a team must play at least six games to play in the championship game. By that rule, IU would be playing Northwestern in that title game next Saturday. However, on Wednesday, the conference threw out that requirement and the undefeated Buckeyes will now replace the Hoosiers representing the East Division in the game.

It’s been well known that the Big Ten is flying by the seat of its pants this fall and has been hoping for the best. First, it canceled football in August, thinking that other Power 5 conferences would join it, but the only one that did was the Pac-12. Eventually realizing that playing football was possible, the league reversed course a month later and decided to play football while creating the six-game-minimum rule.

Now once again, the Big Ten has gone back on its original decision and it’s entirely because of money. You see, Ohio State is Ohio State and when it comes to a national football profile, Indiana barely registers. Not only that, but the conference gets a big payday if one of its teams makes the College Football Playoff and the Buckeyes are the Big Ten’s only shot at doing so.

Indiana is basically the Rodney Dangerfield of the Big Ten this year. No respect at all and none of it is its own fault.

I understand why the Big Ten decided to screw Indiana, because ultimately, college football comes down to money and when the Big Ten’s bluebloods (OSU, Michigan, Penn State) do well, the conference does well financially. Not only that, but OSU is the only team that has a remote chance to get the league a national title.

Still, in a year where very little has seemed fair in sports, it would’ve been nice to see a conference not kick one of its own family members in the sensitive regions this holiday season. That seems more of a Thanksgiving activity than a Christmas one.

Things definitely aren’t looking great now when it comes to college or high school athletics here in the U.P., but things could be looking up soon. And consider this, at least we’re not the Hoosiers and getting punished for not being Ohio State.

Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is rstieg@miningjounral.net.


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