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Sports amid the COVID-19 pandemic

Yahoo Finance’s Brian Sozzi and Alexis Christoforous discuss how sports are faring amid COVID-19 with Dan Wolken of USA Today.

Video Transcript

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Sports fans are breathing a sigh of relief. We're through week two of the NFL. The NHL and NBA are in the midst of playoffs. Baseball seems to be going strong all amid the pandemic.

Here to join us now to talk about it is Dan Wolken, "USA Today" sports columnist. Dan, good to have you, as always. Lots to get to here, but let's tackle football first. Last week, the Big Ten unanimously voted to resume football in October. Was that the right choice, do you think?

DAN WOLKEN: Well, I think what happened with the Big Ten is they made this initial decision in early August to not play in the fall, and I think maybe there was an expectation that other leagues would follow them. But the SEC, the ACC, and the Big 12 decided to try to play on.

Now, look, there have been major problems, starts and stops. Just this past weekend alone, five games that were scheduled had to be postponed because teams had COVID tests and contact-tracing issues that would not allow them to field a representative team. So this has not gone smoothly in college football.

But still, the idea that other leagues were playing I think resonated with the Big Ten. There was a little bit of FOMO, I think, for a lot of the members in that league. And they decided once they were able to look at the daily-testing aspect, the rapid testing as a potential panacea for these issues, they wanted to put themselves on track to play this fall, align their season to the best degree they could with the other leagues, and be eligible for the College Football Playoff.

BRIAN SOZZI: Dan, you know what has gotten it right? Golf. I mean, you saw Bryson DeChambeau with his big muscles popping out of his shirt over the weekend completely demolish folks at the US Open. We're not hearing a lot of cases, COVID cases, pop up. Is that just the nature of the sport, or is golf doing something in particular?

DAN WOLKEN: Well, I think it's the nature of the sport, largely. Golf is an individual, socially distant sport. You can be out on a golf course, especially when there's no fans, and, you know, never come near anyone other than your caddie, if you want to.

So the nature of the sport is definitely a huge thing as opposed to football where you've got a hundred people in a close locker room. It's a contact sport. There's piles of bodies everywhere. But, yeah, look, they had some issues early. But when they have positive tests in golf, they don't have to shut everything down. They don't have to skip a tournament. You just remove those people from the field, and you can go on about your business. Football is a little different deal, but it's proven in the NFL if you have the testing component right, then you have a really good chance of pulling off a season.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Let's switch over to baseball. They had their issues too in the beginning. It seems like things have leveled off. What are your expectations as we move into a playoff season?

DAN WOLKEN: Yeah, I think baseball, there's probably been a little bit of a modified behavior on the part of the players. After those early issues, you had some outbreaks within teams. I think people started to take it a little more seriously. There was a clear mandate from the top that, look, we can't be doing this constantly, having these outbreaks on every team, got to shut everything down. So I think people did start to maybe take it a little more seriously and limit their exposure to the outside world once they leave the ballpark.

And so it seems to be working in baseball. They've got this bubble plan for the playoffs where they're going to be playing these series at a single site. That reduces the chances of something bad happening, and you don't have to travel one city back to the other, back to the other as you typically would in a playoff series. So it seems like baseball, you know, the finish line is close enough for them to be able to look at it and probably be able to get their season over with.

BRIAN SOZZI: Dan, are you hearing anything that they might let some fans in for the MLB playoffs? We're not talking thousands of people, obviously, but just some fans just get to experience more playoff feeling?

DAN WOLKEN: Well, I don't know. You know, it's going to be about risk management at this point, you know? And you look at other leagues like college football. You know, they've had limited attendance, but we haven't necessarily done it long enough or seen enough data to understand whether or not the way they're doing it in college football is leading to the spread of the virus. We haven't seen any data one way or the other on that yet.

So, you know, I think baseball, in my opinion, I would say just continue doing what you're doing. Get to the end of the season, and maybe you try to re-evaluate a plan when you start back up in 2021.

I would not want to rock the boat if I were baseball too much given that they had some early issues and they seem to be OK now. But obviously the money aspect, the fact that you want to squeeze every dollar you can-- you do want atmosphere, of course, at some of these games. Certainly that will have to be factored in.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Yeah, don't rock the boat. Us fans want to see these games. Dan Wolken, sports columnist at "USA Today," thank you.

DAN WOLKEN: Sure. No problem.