Alabama provides yet another COVID-era chalk title

What a surprise, Nick Saban and Alabama win another national title.
Image: AP

With the added obstacle of a pandemic, you’d think we would be ripe for surprises. The greater protocols, disrupted or interrupted preparation schedules, the increased pressure based on not really being able to do anything else (not to mention the mental strain), the shortened seasons increasing the odds of random losses at the very wrong time.

And yet, it’s all been chalk so far.The Lakers, the Lightning, the Dodgers, and now Alabama. The Chiefs look primed to add a second straight Super Bowl. All of them were the top picks, had the most talent, and even with different systems in place that seemingly would have made them ripe to be tripped up, they mostly strolled to their titles. Fuck, even Roman Reigns regained the Universal Championship.

The Lakers and Lightning had to navigate a four-month break, and basically starting over again, while playing away from home for nearly three months. Especially in hockey, where any team can be struck down by luck and randomness, it’s impressive to come through. The Dodgers saw a 60-game season where anyone can get hot enough to make a division a discussion, and then a three-game playoff series on top of the five-game Division Series that has thrown up weird results all the time. Didn’t matter.

College football saw its season shortened, which lessened the chance of goofiness, but still it was a different season for all. And yet the best program stands tall again, without ever really being challenged in the slightest. Based on this theme, the Chiefs should plan the parade now.

Maybe it works out that way more often than not. Maybe with everyone navigating choppy seas, the biggest collection of talent has more of an advantage. Maybe they’re favorites partly because they’ve proven they can handle whatever is thrown at them. Whatever it is, it’s been like eating Alka-Seltzer.

It only took one half for Heisman winner DeVonta Smith to have a performance for the ages in Alabama’s 52-24 win. Smith ended with 12 catches for 215 yards and three TDs, all but one catch in the first half. He was running so free through the Ohio State secondary it looked at times that he was performing his own version of “The Hills Are Alive.” There are fewer if any more authoritative ways to shove your Heisman in everyone’s face. Except for maybe breaking out the Heisman facemask, when you’re the only dude in the sport who can wear one.

It shouldn’t be news when any baseball team is actually trying to win, but that’s what the league has wrought, and this time it wasn’t even the Padres! The White Sox signed the top closer on the market, Liam Hendriks, to a three-year deal with a team-option worth $54 million.

Hendriks has been nearly untouchable the past two years, with a 12-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. The Sox pen wasn’t helpless last year, but Hendriks is a huge upgrade on Alex Colome, who was the rare closer who doesn’t strike many hitters out. Still, it’ll be pretty damn funny when the White Sox lose a big game because Tony La Russa refuses to bring Hendriks into a non-save situation and then incoherently snaps at the press when they ask him about it before crashing his car into the Millenium Park Bean.

Speaking of baseball, it appears the owners aren’t going to fight about shortening the season. Rob Manfred has told teams to prepare for spring training to start on time and a 162-game season. That report comes from Bob Nightengale though, so treat it with the same gloves you would wear to handle plutonium.

MLB can’t simply impose a shorter season without the players’ agreement, but it is strange for MLB planning to get to spring training normally when the NBA is already swatting away rumors that they might have to pause their season. Keeping spring training locked down should be easier, and maybe by April 1 things will be more manageable. But it also feels like it’s more on the wing and prayer side of the feasibility ledger.

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