The Sports Report: It’s time to bar fans from sports events
Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell. Let’s get right to the news.
Bill Plaschke on what U.S. sports leagues need to do in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. Here’s an excerpt:
Go beyond the scoreboard
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This past weekend, I attended three crowded basketball games in downtown Los Angeles.
Thousands of fans roared themselves hoarse as the Lakers clawed to their two biggest wins of the year while USC beat UCLA on a three-pointer at the buzzer.
It was exhilarating. It was terrifying.
Huge crowds moved in tight packs through the concourses of Staples Center and the Galen Center, bumping and brushing and connecting. Long lines hurried through restrooms where no surface went untouched. Food was passed and shared from concession lines to condiment stations.
In moving through the various mobs on my way to press row, amid the excitement of the moment, I shook hands without thinking, patted shoulders without looking, and literally bumped heads with at least one poor soul who stopped suddenly in front of me.
Amid the quickening spread of the coronavirus, what should have been an ideal atmosphere suddenly felt like a deadly one, and it’s clearly time for sports officials to put down their greed and take up the fight.
Lock it out. Shut it out. Empty the crammed stands. Clear the jammed concourses. Vacate the unsanitary restrooms. Shutter the ticket windows.
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A let down was likely after the Lakers got through an intense weekend with wins against two of the best teams in the NBA.
Still the Lakers fought back from a late deficit to give themselves a chance. Ultimately, it was not enough. A last-second three-pointer by Anthony Davis didn’t fall and the Lakers lost to the Brooklyn Nets, 104-102.
LeBron James led the Lakers with 29 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists, making 12 of 22 shots, but only one of the five free throws he attempted. Davis scored 26 points, making four of the eight three-pointers he attempted. The Nets were led by Spencer Dinwiddie who scored 23 points and made all eight free throws he attempted.
The loss was only the Lakers’ second in the last 13 games.
Spectators filled nearly every courtside seat in Chase Center, Golden State’s brand-new waterfront arena. They watched opposing players slice nearly unimpeded to the rim, and the young, brittle Warriors lose their league-high 26th home game of the season.
In some ways the night, a 131-107 Clippers beatdown, felt like any other here this season.
But around and above the action at court level, it was obvious this was anything but, as the reach of the novel coronavirus continued to leave its mark on the Bay Area, a hotspot for COVID-19, and the NBA.
Thousands of black T-shirts draped over the arena’s seats as part of a giveaway sat unclaimed amid a sparse crowd. Locker rooms were open to only essential team employees, by decree of the NBA, for the first time. Golden State officials have begun leaving doors open inside their offices to keep players and coaches from touching handles.
“It’s brand new and it’s strange and I don’t know really what to think,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “Even in just everyday life, visiting with friends gathering and it’s awkward. You don’t shake hands, you are doing the Bash Brothers things. How are we supposed to act? It’s all very strange and awkward.”
Leading by 28 at halftime and 24 by the third quarter’s end, the Clippers (44-20) were never challenged despite missing third-leading scorer Lou Williams, who did not play because of a sore right calf. Kawhi Leonard scored a team-high 23 points in 25 minutes and six other Clippers scored in double figures, led by 16 off the bench by guard Reggie Jackson.
Nicolas Deslauriers scored the fastest hat trick in Anaheim history, Ryan Miller made 40 saves and the Ducks rolled to a 5-2 victory over the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday night.
Deslauriers completed a natural hat trick 11:49 into the game with a wrist shot from the left circle that went off Ottawa goaltender Marcus Hogberg’s glove and shoulder to give the Ducks a 4-0 lead. It was his second goal in 32 seconds, after he scored on a one-timer from the slot.
Deslauriers’ first goal of the night came at 2:45 after he took a cross-ice pass from Carter Rowney and beat Hogberg to the short side with a wrist shot. Jakob Silfverberg opened the scoring 43 seconds earlier when he deflected Rickard Rakell’s shot into the net on a power play.
The UCLA women’s basketball team, ranked No. 10 in the nation, could open the NCAA tournament without any fans.
The Bruins might have to play inside an empty Pauley Pavilion next week after UCLA announced Tuesday that all home athletics events would be limited to essential personnel until April 10, or until further notice, as part of measures intended to stop the spread of coronavirus.
The school defined essential personnel as athletes, coaches, team trainers and medical personnel in addition to game officials, operational and administrative staff and credentialed media. Fans who have pre-purchased tickets are advised to contact UCLA’s central ticket office for refunds.
The Bruins (26-5) are likely to be one of 16 women’s teams awarded as hosts for first- and second-round NCAA tournament games based on their strong play this season.
The California Horse Racing Board’s investigation into the fatalities last year at Santa Anita validated many of the prevalent theories as to why there was a spike in deaths, but found no smoking gun or overriding reason for what happened.
Although the 76-page report did not absolve the track, trainers or the model that drives the sport, it did confirm the long-held belief that most breakdowns resulting in the death of a horse were tied to preexisting conditions. This was the case in 21 of the 23 horses whose necropsies were examined.
New diagnostic equipment has been brought in to Santa Anita but it’s unclear how many of the injuries could have been prevented had the horses been scanned.
“In general, a lot of the pathology that is preexisting stays asymptomatic even if you could find it with diagnostic imaging,” said Dr. Tim Grande, one of the veterinarians who worked on the investigation.
Dr. Rick Arthur, equine medical director of the CHRB, who also helped write the report, believed that nine of the lesions that eventually led to a breakdown could have been found had the new PET scan equipment been in place.
Overtraining during a horse’s career was cited multiple times as a possible contributing factor to the deaths.
The NFL on Tuesday awarded the Rams a compensatory third-round draft pick, giving the team much-needed capital as it approaches the April 23-25 draft.
The league awarded 32 compensatory picks to 15 teams that lost “more or better compensatory free agents” than it acquired in the previous year. The Rams were awarded the 104th overall pick based on a formula that took into the account the loss of safety Lamarcus Joyner and offensive lineman Rodger Saffold and the acquisition of linebacker Clay Matthews.
The Rams also waived kick returner/receiver JoJo Natson, who finished last season on injured reserve after suffering a hamstring injury against the Arizona Cardinals on Dec. 1.
WOMEN IN SPORTS
Game Changers is a nine-month project that originated with Sammy Jo Hester, whose job as Times sports photo editor gives her a daily window into the delta between men’s and women’s sports coverage. A climber, a surfer, a runner herself, the 28-year-old Hester is constantly looking for fresh ways to tell the story of the women whose performative brilliance too often goes uncaptured by the pen or camera lens.
She found those messengers in Times photographer Christina House and columnist Helene Elliott. House shot 23 of the 32 women whose advocacy and athleticism are celebrated in these pages. Elliott wrote 10 of the profiles that appear on our website.
Hester, House and Elliott — together with a team of about 30 writers, editors, designers and developers — have assembled a formidable lineup, through whom much of the history of the modern female athlete can be told.
TODAY’S LOCAL MAJOR SPORTS SCHEDULE
Ottawa at Kings, 7:30 p.m., ESPN+, FSW
St. Louis at Ducks, 7 p.m., PRIME, AM 830
Dodgers vs. Brewers (exhibition), 6 p.m., Sportsnet LA
Angels vs. Oakland (exhibition), 1 p.m., FSW, AM 830
BORN ON THIS DATE
1945: Baseball player Dock Ellis (d. 2008)
1971: Hockey player Martin Rucinsky
1977: Basketball player Becky Hammon
1979: Former Clipper Elton Brand
1993: Lakers player Anthony Davis
DIED ON THIS DATE
1972: Former Dodger Zack Wheat, 83
2006: Hockey player Bernie “Boom Boom” Geoffrion, 74
2010: Former Ram Merlin Olsen, 69
2019: Former Ram Willie Ellison, 73
A clip from the Dock Ellis documentary, “No No: A Dockumentary.” Watch it here.
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