Voices of a Generation

Hosting the 2021 NCAA Men’s basketball tournament in Indianapolis is the best decision that can be made in college basketball and will give basketball fans a light to look toward amidst an eerie 2020 sports world. This comes as a controversial decision, as there has never been an NCAA basketball tournament held in one singular location.

The NCAA tournament has been around since 1939 and has been played at different locations across the U.S for the better part of 80 years. Many basketball fans around the country and the world are not ready to see the tournament held in one location, but due to the coronavirus pandemic, this seems like an unavoidable decision. The NCAA aims to announce Indianapolis as its tournament host by January 2021, according to Indianapolis Star sports columnist David Woods.

Just this past summer, Orlando’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex was host of the 2020 NBA playoffs. The NBA playoff atmosphere was known as the “bubble” and was a great success in terms of keeping the games going and people healthy. Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogstett indicated the city will use Orlando’s bubble as a blueprint.

The bubble was “America’s best example of a coronavirus success story,” said Los Angeles Times writer Kelcie Pegher.

As of Dec. 1, there were approximately 185,000 new cases of COVID-19 in the U.S., The New York Times reported. This is compared to an average of 42,000 cases in September 2020. In Indiana, there were 5,400 new cases as of Dec. 1 down from 8,400 new cases on Nov. 14. As winter comes, it seems cases in Indiana are going back down.

Indianapolis makes the most sense because the city is known as the “crossroads of America,” which makes it easy for college teams to come from all over the country.

As home to at least six NCAA regulation basketball arenas within the city limits, the NCAA regulations are easy to follow: None of these arenas in Indianapolis need lengthened or shortened, meaning they are ready to be played on by any NCAA team that can.

Other historic arenas, such as Assembly Hall in Bloomington and Mackey Arena in West Lafayette, are 50 and 70 miles away from Indianapolis, respectively. That gives teams eight locations to play games. With 68 teams participating in the NCAA tournament, these locations should more than suffice.

Not only is Indianapolis a great geographic and logistical location for the NCAA tournament, it has basketball history that no other city can hope to claim. Indiana coined the term “Hoosier Hysteria,” which originally described the statewide high school basketball tournament but is now used to describe the fervor Indiana’s residents have for the game of basketball. Our passion for basketball in Indiana is unmatched.

Indianapolis brings a proven track record of hosting major sporting events. Over the last few decades, Indianapolis has hosted a Super Bowl, multiple NCAA final fours, Big Ten Basketball Tournaments, and Big Ten football championships. This experience and passion make Indianapolis the clear frontrunner to host the 2021 NCAA tournament.

From logistics, to geography, to health safety, Indianapolis checks all the boxes as a potential host for the 2021 NCAA Tournament. The sooner the NCAA makes its decision, the better for the state of college basketball. The decision will give fans, players, and coaches something to look toward in 2021.

Liverpool forward and global superstar Mohammed Salah contracted COVID-19, joining a growing list of soccer players whose club involvement has been hindered by international matches. According to a tweet posted by the Egyptian National Football Team’s official account, Salah tested positive for COVID on Nov. 13 after arriving in Egypt prior to an international match against Togo.

Salah is just one of many players whose 2020 season has felt the varying effects of the global coronavirus pandemic that has brought the world to a standstill. There have been numerous clubs around the world this season facing massive complications with having players unable to participate in game-day action. These, caused by a combination of more frequent injuries as well as positive COVID -19 tests, have been a massive inhibitor to the success of countless football clubs.

Because of impacts the coronavirus has had on the world of football, having so many international matches intertwined with the club football is irresponsible and needs careful reconsideration and rescheduling.

Premier Injuries, an online database logging all injuries sustained in Premier League (England’s top-flight league), showcases just how many more injuries have occurred this season in comparison with previous years.

According to Premier Injuries, there have been 95 muscle injuries sustained by players at this writing in the Premier League. At the same time last season there were only 62 injuries. The season before that there were 39, and the one before that there were 51.

The spike in injuries is notable, and the key factor behind this would be the lack of a break between this season and last, as well as the frequent interjections of international games sprinkled in this season. It is clear that there are too many games being played in a short amount of time, resulting in more frequent and more damaging injuries this season.

One team, in particular, that has felt the effects of missing key players due to injury and the coronavirus is Liverpool. According to the Liverpool FC website, Anfield Online, the club has suffered nine combined injuries and COVID-19 diagnoses already this season. Seven of these are ongoing, and the reigning champions of the Premier League have a much tougher task in winning the league this season than last.

Data aside, a conversation with any soccer fan will reaffirm the notion that COVID-19 has had great effects on the 2020 footballing season. Leroy Sheridan, a life-long Chelsea supporter, explains in a phone interview that “COVID has undoubtedly taken a toll on lots of teams this season.”

Sheridan added, “Just take a look at any team. Liverpool, PSG, Barcelona, all of these top clubs are facing serious issues with injuries and positive results, and all of them are now underperforming in their leagues. There is definitely a correlation between these and the international breaks thrown into an already busy schedule.”

There is a duty that the FIFA governing body needs to modify its busy scheduling to ensure that teams do not fall short on their goals. Even more, FIFA owes it to the players to do everything in their control to ensure that no careers are cut short or individual’s opportunities are squandered simply by the needless packing of schedules for already-fatigued athletes.

As it stands, 2020 is exhausting enough.

Eating a ballpark hot dog or a helping of Thanksgiving turkey used to be ordinary for me, but now that  I know these foods come with a side of climate change, heart disease, animal cruelty, and neglect for the essential workers, I’m thinking twice about what I bite into.

After years of dismissing my curiosity for convenience, taste and social norms, 2020 gave me a bit more time to dive into the meatless way of life. Watching the animal rights  documentary “Dominion” (2018) gave me even more information about where our meat comes from than I bargained for.

I learned the moment a factory animal is born, a product on a conveyor belt is seen. I saw how pigs are often kept in pens only allowing one or two steps forward, chicks are stacked in boxes and shipped to fattening farms, and cows are masturbated and artificially inseminated into females repeatedly. Kept in barbaric living conditions these animals with no voice are abused at the cost of us licking our lips.

“Unable to see light or exercise, sows [female pigs] muscles will weaken to the point she has difficulty standing up, workers will force them to stand up daily,” according to Farm Transparency Project. The grande finale for these products of corporate animal production includes gas chambers, electrocution and slaughtering mechanisms.

Yet, our dinner plates hardly depict this cruelty.

What I didn't expect to learn was that saving animal lives might just end up saving ours, too.

“Vegetarians are about 40% less likely to develop cancer compared to meat-eaters,” according to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). Because processed meat is high in saturated fat and hormones, it is considered a carcinogen with breast, colon, and prostate cancers presenting the highest risks.

Heart disease and diabetes are also on the line with heart disease being the leading cause of death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Cholesterol, a leading component in meat, induces heart attacks, strokes and cardiovascular disease.

Meat eaters tend to kick the bucket sooner. A JAMA report concluded, “Vegetarian women live to an average of 85.7 years, which is 6.1 years longer than non-vegetarian women.”

Some people still deny these facts, claiming meat is essential for protein levels. One Netflix documentary, “Gamechangers,” rebuts this commonly accepted notion.

A few athletic champions credit their accomplishments to plant proteins found in their vegetarian diets. They include sprinter Morgan Mitchell, American cyclist Dotsie Bausch, Olympic weightlifter Kendrick Ferris and linebacker Derrick Morgan, all of whom were interviewed by James Wilkis, a UFC fighter and special forces combat trainer about their plant-based eating regimens.  

Vegan strongman Patrik Baboumian summed it up best, “One person asked me, ‘How can you get as strong as an ox without eating meat?’ And my answer was, ‘Have you ever seen an ox eating meat?’”

Climate change is another reason to consider a plant-based diet.

“Animal agriculture and forestry generates 24% of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide,” according to Project Drawdown, and “eating a plant-based diet is the most important contribution every individual can make to reversing global warming.”

As earth’s temperature rise and extreme weather events increase, we cannot afford to inflict this responsibility onto future generations. While our polarized political environment suggests Americans don’t agree on many things, they do agree on the science of climate change, according to the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication. Most voters, 70%, believe the United States should participate in the Paris Agreement. Among supporters of President Donald J. Trump, about half (47%) agree the country could participate.

The path was clear to me that climate change is real and meat-eating is a big candidate to blame. After a year that has challenged us all, it is time to rethink our relationship with meat, while also showing support for meat manufacturers who took an extra jab.

When meat processing plants around the country turned into coronavirus hot spots, Trump deemed processing plants critical facilities when the government attempted to shut them down. Millions of workers stood shoulder to shoulder in assembly lines as the rest of us stayed home, safely tucked away from the ravages of the coronavirus.

They risked their lives to feed the rest of us.

The sizzle and pop of chicken breasts used to be a part of my weekly diet, but watching my roommates saute what I now view as a critical issue with oregano and garlic, I have begun to speak up. Ignorance of our grocery store diets is a privilege, so now I think I’ll do without the quick fix of flavor. The people we love — and the earth — will thank us.

The coronavirus pandemic has ravaged American lives and livelihoods, spreading its way into college athletics, notably football. Athletic conferences have made adjustments to their playing schedules to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

Cancellation, postponements and contact tracing (identifying people who may have been infected), has led to more audibles being called off the field than on it. Due to the craziness of the 2020 college football season, underperforming coaches should not be fired for team outcomes this year.

Consider that some student-athletes opted out of 2020 season: Pennsylvania State University Junior Linebacker Micah Parsons decided to sit out this season to prepare for the 2021 NFL Draft. The Nittany Lions have started 0-4 after beginning their season ranked eighth in the AP Poll.

Despite recently signing a contract, there have been calls to fire head coach James Franklin. Responding to Franklin’s poor clock-management decisions, Uproxx Media’s Andy Isaac tweeted, “James Franklin should be fired. I’m not joking. That was egregious coaching at the end of the game.”

Even if Franklin made poor decisions late in that October game against Indiana University, having a key player in can change the dynamic. If Parsons played, the Nittany Lions may not have even been in that position to start.

The season’s uncertainty has led to erratic on-field performance. A lack of regular preseason training camps has left schools adjusting during game play. Athletic conferences canceled their seasons then restarted in late October and early November, which has changed the dynamic of a traditional and full college football season.

After a 1-3 start, the future of University of Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh was uncertain. ESPN college football analyst Paul Finebaum said, “This is a coach that was once respected. And now, sadly, Jim Harbaugh has become a punchline in college football. A lot of people up there are saying they want to keep him. For what reason? I don’t know.”

The late start hurt Harbaugh’s Wolverines in particular. New quarterback Junior Joe Milton did not have the proper offseason to develop. While Milton’s results may not be different if the season was normal, a later start did not help his chances this season.

Coaches also have to worry about their own and the health of their players. Most of them are older, making them more susceptible to coronavirus.

“When they go home to their families, I want to make sure their families are OK. I want to set the standard that we’re going to do everything that we can believe we can do to stay healthy,” according to Boston College Coach Jeff Hafley.

Although Hafley’s comments were about his staff, the same sentiment can be held for the student-athletes. Despite the roars they receive on Saturday, their lives and future off the field matter as well. College coaches play an important role in the lives of their players. All they want to do is keep them safe.

And no matter who they are, coaches are still college employees. With football being a major source of revenue (accounting for on average $31.9 million per year) for Division I college programs, for example, athletic departments want good on-field talent to draw attention to the normally packed stadiums.

Still, University of South Carolina fired its head coach Will Muschamp in November. The Gamecocks started this season 2-5, leaving Muschamp at 28-30 in five seasons.

Nothing about 2020 has been normal. Even though weekends with college football are a slight return to pre-pandemic life, the season has been far from perfect. If this year hasn’t gone well, just like everything in 2020, wait until next season when deciding to fire the head coach.