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Dan Bickley

August has been rough stretch for sports world during a pandemic

Wearing a mask to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, Miami Marlins mascot Billy the Marlin performs in the empty seats before the start of a baseball game between the Marlins and the Atlanta Braves, Friday, Aug. 14, 2020, in Miami. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

The pandemic has been rough. I lost a cat. I blew out my knee. I owed the IRS. I shook through Wimbledon withdrawals. Both of my pregnant nieces tested positive for COVID-19. My singer has twice quit the band. My youngest was stung by a hornet. My short game really sucks. My rental car window was smashed in San Francisco. I am paying rent for my daughter to live elsewhere while she takes most of her classes online.

You know who has it really bad?

Unwritten rules: They are proof that baseball players can be as dumb as they are young and wealthy. They make players seem unrelatable and soft. In some instances, unwritten rules are tied to institutional racism, clap-backs from an existing culture that does not like the incoming culture. They need to be flushed from the game.

Mark Grace: Was benched from the Cubs’ broadcast for calling his ex-wife a “dingbat” during an on-air anecdote, highlighting how she once parked in Bud Selig’s private spot during a road game at Milwaukee.

You should’ve heard the stories Grace told 20 years ago, back when television and radio producers would trip over themselves lining up guest appearances, in hopes he would say something funny, shocking or irreverent.

Thom Brennaman: Used a homophobic slur in the presence of a hot microphone, when he thought he was off the air. Will likely pay for it with his entire career. And if that weren’t bad enough, Brennaman publicly hoped someone would vouch for his character and Curt Schilling stood up.

We need to rid this country of racism and hateful language. That’s obvious. But none of us want to be judged on our worst moments. Consider a sentiment expressed by Fox Sports’ Colin Cowherd during a recent television appearance:

In America, we want and demand flawed people to make quantum leaps in individual growth. But we also demand perfection right here and right now. But it’s impossible to have both. People cannot grow and show perfection at the same time.

A better example is Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who atoned for his tone-deaf take and ill-informed words with real sincerity and positive actions that convinced his betrayed teammates. Maybe the same kind of grace should prevail in some of these situations, with room for atonement and redemption.

The biggest party in golf: The Waste Management Phoenix Open will be held in 2021, even without fans. But even in a best-case scenario, the TPC Scottsdale will look dramatically different.

There will be no stadium structures or hospitality venues. The raucous scene at No. 16 will no longer resemble the Roman Colosseum, where golfers walk up a tunnel and into a gladiator pit full of 20,000 screaming, bloodthirsty fans.

For pure energy, no hole in golf is more compelling. No hole in golf is more profitable, either. And it will surely be missed in 2021, when PGA Tour members will breathe a sigh of relief and shatter course records.

Yuck. What fun is that?

College football: The sport is moving closer to self-immolation. If the SEC, Big 12 and ACC insist on playing football this fall, there could be hundreds of lawsuits from players who want to transfer immediately from Pac-12 and Big Ten schools, from conferences that have already pulled the plug. And who can blame them?

NFL media: In too many NFL cities, media members who attend practice can only report on a small window of observation time. They are getting burned by national writers who are handed fresh news over the phone, scooping writers who are sworn to secrecy, who see and know but cannot say.

In effect, they are being asked to mock their own profession.

This is currently happening in Arizona. Media members watched and reported DeAndre Hopkins exercising with his teammates the other morning, allowed to defuse a growing controversy about Hopkins potentially withholding his services until he gets a new contract.

We don’t know what happened after that window of activity. We don’t know if Hopkins actually practiced, how hard he practiced, or if he took a seat when the ruse was over. Media who were there already know the answer but cannot say. And that’s wrong.

Reach Bickley at dbickley@arizonasports.com. Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.


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Dan Bickley bio
Dan Bickley is the most influential sports media member in Arizona sports history, having spent over 20 years as the award-winning lead sports columnist for The Arizona Republic and AZCentral.com and almost two decades as a Valley sports radio talk show host. In spring 2018, Bickley made the decision to leave the newspaper to join the Arizona Sports team as host of the entertaining and informative midday show Bickley and Marotta, as well as bring his opinionated and provocative column exclusively to ArizonaSports.com.
Bickley’s journalism career began in his hometown of Chicago, where he was part of a star-studded staff at the Chicago Sun-Times. He chronicled Michael Jordan’s six NBA championships; covered the Olympics in eight different countries and attended 14 Super Bowls; spent three weeks in an Indianapolis courthouse writing about Mike Tyson’s rape trial; and once left his laptop in an Edmonton bar after the Blackhawks reached the Stanley Cup Finals.
He has won multiple awards, written two books, formed a rock band, fathered three children, and once turned down an offer to work at the New York Times.  His passions include sports, music, the alphabet, good beer and great radio. After joining Arizona Sports 98.7 FM, he couldn’t be happier