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The Future Is In The Protocols, With Jason Gay

Minnesota Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson signals for a first down in their game against the Lions.
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Damn, some bad news: Your favorite team just put a few more important contributors into the COVID-19 protocols. Not the ones from earlier this week, this is a whole new bunch—from today. Which team and which sport doesn't really matter; the news is currently true for basically every team, in basically every sport, basically every day. It is very definitively Not What You Want, and more decisively so every day, but it's not quite new, either.

But even after nearly two years spent mostly assimilating new bad news, this week's flurry of outbreaks and postponements across every major sport feels different. It also actually is different, because most of these sports leagues are vaccinated at levels that far outstrip the country at large—well, not the Vikings, but most teams in most leagues—and because so many of the cases are reportedly asymptomatic. This is a drearily, dispiritingly familiar form of bad news, and the accursed Spring of 2020 vibes are undeniable. But also, this is a different moment than that one. There is no way to record a podcast at this particular moment and not talk about this stuff, and so we talked about it.

While Drew, and I, and returning guest and ace Wall Street Journal columnist Jason Gay did talk about all this—the cancellations and the lowering dread, the lingering feeling of being cheated, the looming likelihood of new and looser protocols that will enable sports to continue through this next wave—we also made a point to stop talking about it as quickly as we could. Lord knows we are all getting enough bad news in the monitors as it stands, and while it would've been silly to no acknowledge and address all that, we didn't want to spend a whole podcast episode talking about that any more than you would want to spend a whole podcast episode listening to it. So, you had best believe we were talking about European cyclocross racing (sometimes they have to carry the bikes! The Belgians love it!) just as quickly as we could. The University of Michigan's football program was also addressed, but not in a careful and respectful way that avoided invoking any kind of jinx.

Then it was time for the dumb stuff. Taking a moment to remember Brooks Bollinger opened onto a discussion of impossible quarterbacking situations and the strange and specific badness of Zach Wilson. The Funbag was even more troubling than usual, with the question that dared to ask, What if your hair could feel haircuts? standing out as especially harrowing. A consideration of whether cast iron pans are bullshit or not (they're not) gave me an opportunity to talk about a restaurant in Portland, Maine, that I haven't been able to visit for a couple of years. We got nostalgic for the halcyon days of Color Rush uniforms as the only alternate jerseys you'd see in a given week. Again, dumb stuff that was dumb in a familiar way. But in terms of "familiar stuff" in this broader moment, I'll sure take it over the other options.

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