A few things I care about …
Bravo, Kim Mulkey.
The Baylor women’s coach said what so many in college basketball have to be thinking. Conducting the season amid the pandemic has been an impossible roller coaster, so unpredictable in its infection rates, so unwieldy in its scheduling cancellations, and, if we’re being honest, so unnecessary while classes remain mostly remote.
This was Mulkey to ESPN after her team lost a 75-71 decision at home to Iowa State, a loss that ended the longest current home winning streak in Division 1 women’s hoops at 61 games and one that saw her back on the sideline for the first time since Dec. 19, when she was diagnosed with COVID-19. She was asked if she is concerned about the season being completed.
“The answer is this: The season will continue on. It’s called the almighty dollar. The NCAA has to have the almighty dollar from the men’s tournament. The almighty dollar is more important than the health and welfare of me, the players, or anybody else.
“One conference does this, one conference does that. The CDC says this. Everybody is confused. I’m confused. I’m uncomfortable coaching.
“I understand, COVID is real. I’ve had it — come talk to me sometime. But I don’t know ... all the calls and procedures, that’s going to go on and make it unusual, uncomfortable for every program. We’re no different at Baylor.”
Mulkey made no excuses for the loss, crediting Iowa State for a great game, but there’s no doubt the upheaval experienced in her program — quarantines of top players, no practices, canceled games — played a part. And maybe she’s not the best messenger, with a $2.2 million annual salary she’s not likely to give back if the season were canceled. UConn’s Geno Auriemma made that excellent point when asked recently about Mulkey’s statement.
But that doesn’t make her target wrong; the NCAA is still all about money, consistently putting its profits ahead of its unpaid athlete workforce and ahead of common sense.
Auriemma also is correct that revenue from the men’s tournament supports championships for many other sports. That’s why the NCAA continues to make it clear that it will do anything to get to March, where it can hold a bubble-style, one-city tournament of madness in Indianapolis and rake in those almighty dollars. Just don’t forget that none of that money will ever reach the players who make it possible.
Guess they have to make up that extra $252 from the UMass tennis team somehow.
▪ The Mets moved quickly to fire general manager Jared Porter Tuesday morning after an ESPN investigation showed that he sent inappropriate text messages to a female reporter during his time with the Cubs.
The former Red Sox employee (2004-15) was hired by the Mets last month and fired hours after the report was published. It was absolutely the right move, made decisively by new owner Steve Cohen and followed with affirmation by Porter’s boss, Sandy Alderson.
What Porter did in sending graphic sexual images was disgusting and more than fire-worthy, and the fact that the reporter in question — a foreign journalist who chose to remain anonymous — has since left the profession in part because of his actions, is heartbreaking.
These bad apples have to be rooted out, primarily for the damage they cause to the women involved. But it’s sad, too, that they taint the entire baseball culture, which from my personal experience is filled with so many fair-minded, professional, and supportive men.
▪ On a happier note, how ‘bout those Mewis sisters? Hanson natives Samantha and Kristie Mewis were the stars of Monday night’s US women’s soccer victory over Colombia, with Samantha turning in the hat trick and Kristie adding another goal. That was all the offense the US needed in the 4-0 win.
Samantha’s ascent is no surprise; she’s a national team veteran, a World Cup champion, and a rising international star playing for English side Manchester City. But Kristie’s recent surge is incredibly inspiring.
The older of the two sisters, Kristie has struggled with injury and opportunity since her days at Boston College. But she won the most recent NWSL title with Houston, her first championship after being with eight professional teams.
She’s making the most of her return to the national team, scoring a late goal as well in a November game against the Netherlands. So great to see her persistence paying off.
▪ The Australian Open is proving how difficult it is to hold a tournament during a pandemic, while also exposing the entitlement of certain tennis players. The back-and-forth between players forced into a 14-day quarantine and the Australian government and tournament organizers is getting uglier.
Players insist they didn’t know a full planeload of travelers would be quarantined over one positive test and are rightfully concerned about losing fitness while idled. Officials counter that the rules were clear and necessary to contain any possible spread at an event that has seen a reported 1,200 people fly into the country to participate.
Leading the complaints is the ever-tone-deaf Novak Djokovic, the world No. 1 who ran his own tournament early on in the pandemic, which resulted in a spread of COVID cases. After complaining about conditions and lobbying authorities to relax the quarantine rules, he was called out by noted beacon of tennis rationality (not) Nick Kyrgios, who called Djokovic a “tool.”
▪ Sarah Fuller, who made history by being the first woman to score a point in a Power 5 college football game, is back in the news. The Vanderbilt soccer star taped a message that reportedly will be included during the inauguration of Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.
▪ When getting traded could save your life: Caris LeVert, part of the blockbuster Nets trade for James Harden, had to have a physical as a routine part of the transaction. Pacers doctors did an MRI, which revealed “a small mass on his left kidney.”
LeVert is out indefinitely. All good thoughts headed his way, as well as grateful ones. He might not have had another physical until next season.