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Tuesday, October 27, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Commentary: Pac-12’s vote to play gives sports’ return to normalcy another victory

UPDATED: Fri., Sept. 25, 2020

By Matt Calkins Seattle Times

SEATTLE – My favorite quote from “Jurassic Park” came when Dr. Ian Malcolm, portrayed by Jeff Goldblum, was in the lab where scientists were manufacturing dinosaurs. When one of those scientists said that the dinosaurs in the park can’t breed because they’re all female, it gave the professor pause.

“Life,” Malcolm said, “finds a way.”

Which brings me to the Pac-12’s announcement Thursday. Six months ago, all sports in this country shut down due to COVID-19 concerns. The NCAA basketball tournament was canceled just days before Selection Sunday. MLB was stopped in the middle of spring training. No more NBA, NHL or MLS. No Masters or U.S. Open. And for a while, it seemed, no more college football.

Over the next few months, however, competition slowly slipped back into our lives. We got the NWSL and MLS back in early July. The NBA, WNBA and NHL returned shortly thereafter. MLB overcame a heated labor dispute and came back before August as well.

Three major golf tournaments made it back on the schedule, along with the U.S. Open of tennis, Triple Crown horse racing, and, of course the NFL. The only thing that seemed missing was Big Ten and Pac-12 football, as the conferences announced the postponement of their season through the end of the fall. Then, the Big Ten said, “Never mind!” and on Thursday the Pac-12 announced it was returning as well.

For Huskies fans in Seattle, it was a momentous occasion that ensured they’ll watch the purple and gold seven times this season. But for the country at large, it signaled something even bigger. Six months into this pandemic, every major sports league was either back or on its way to coming back.

Sports found a way.

Thursday, the Pac-12 presidents and chancellors voted unanimously to start their football seasons Nov. 6, ensuring seven games for each school. The conference championship game will be held Dec. 18, a date in which all 12 teams will play. The decision comes as players and coaches will have access to daily testing that was previously unavailable. Coronavirus cases have also declined in many of the Pac-12 cities, which was an initial source of concern.

Conference officials won’t say that financial incentives had anything to do with football coming back, nor will they say the Big Ten’s return forced them to reevaluate their stance. Feel free not to believe them if you want – I would be among the first to join you – but at the end of the day, who cares?

America is already enjoying what may be the greatest sporting bonanza it has seen. Soon, the NBA playoffs, NHL playoffs and MLB playoffs will be occurring simultaneously. The Masters weekend in October will be competing with the NFL and college football. And come November, Pac-12 football will be back, where an undefeated team might – just might – be able to sneak into the College Football Playoff.

There were columns written in the spring by renowned journalists suggesting that there would be no sports in 2020. Now, with the Pac-12 officially coming back, we’re essentially seeing all sports.

“Today’s breakthrough is really great news for our student-athletes, their parents, their fans,” Arizona State athletic director Ray Anderson said. “But it’s a real testament to the way this conference worked in regards to collaboration and communication and best interest in student-athlete safety.”

Last month, who would have thought we would start debating who should be Washington’s starting quarterback this season? Last month, who would have thought we’d be a few weeks removed from another Apple Cup?

The Pac-12 seemed dead at that point, with a spring return looking extremely dubious upon closer inspection. Now, the return to normalcy has earned another victory.

This, of course, doesn’t mean there won’t be potential complications. Like we’ve seen in other sports, a breakout of cases could force teams to skip games. But this is the world we live in now, and though those disruptions have been inconvenient, they haven’t torpedoed any sports.

Funny, if you would have told diehards in January that there would only be seven Pac-12 football games, they likely would have freaked. Now, you have to figure they’re rejoicing.

Sports found a way, and we’re all better for it.

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