MAINE'S SPORTS LEADAH!
2020: Almost Un"Bear"able
So let's jump into the time machine and travel back to January 2020. Someone shows you this picture. How close could you come to actually explaining what the bloody heck is going on right here? No chance.

Even with Mike Trout on the team fans have socially distanced themselves from the Angels for years.

Ok- let's try this next one. Good luck!

Granted many years everyone associated with the Pirates probably wanted to wear masks to hide their embarrassment. 

2020. Defies explanation.


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Takes Hot Enough To Fry an Egg
By Jeff Solari

No chance MLB gets to play the whole 60 game season and the playoffs. We are a mere three games in and already the Marlins have an outbreak and have cancelled their home opener.

The Governor of California might not allow any more games in the state. The “bubbles” the NBA and the NHL have created might work. But this MLB plan just won’t. 

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I know Mookie denied it last summer on WEEI, but I still think he didn't like playing in Boston. Maybe he didn’t hate it. But he sure didn’t love it. The Sox could have backed up the Brinks truck as they did for David Price. But how did that work out? It is a bummer for sure but Mookie just was not signing a nearly decade and a half deal to stay in New England. 

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Here are my top two ways to ruin a great day at the lake:

#1 Paddle boarding. 
#2 Drowning.

Not sure which is less fun.

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I think the crowd noise on MLB TV games actually works. Kind of. The constant murmur in the background really helps the broadcast. But the low “Let's go Red Sox” chants you hear once in awhile don’t really fit.

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My favorite comedian right now is Jim Gaffigan . He is a riot. Very self deprecating about himself and his weight. I can relate to that. 

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With no actual games being played, let’s hope the people in power in UMaine Athletics are working on the Red Gendron replacement plan. His contract is up June 30, 2021. He’ll be 63 this fall. He has not had back to back winning seasons in his seven years as head coach.

His overall record for the once proud program is 100-126-30. Ugly. Apologists and the naive will point to this last season where Maine had 18 wins and would have hosted a Hockey East Playoff series. Thanks to Jeremy Swayman. For $213,000 a year they should be decent every few years. Actually we need to expect better. And we won’t get it from him.


Sports Chowdah Poll
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE FAKE CROWD NOISE ADDED IN DURING MLB TV GAMES?
IT HELPS MAKE THE EXPERIENCE FEEL LIKE NORMAL
LITTLE STRANGE BUT I AM GETTING USED TO IT
DRIVES ME FREAKIN' CRAZY!
LAST WEEK WE ASKED:

HOW MANY GAMES WILL THE RED SOX WIN THIS SUMMER?

20-30: 28%

31-40: 32%

41-50: 7%

DON'T MUCH CARE: 33%
What Will The UMaine Hockey Season Look Like This Year?
By Ryan McLaughlin


 No college football in the state of Maine this fall. 

That's a sentence this journalist never thought he'd lead a column with. 

However, we're living in an uncertain time as the U.S. tries to control the COVID-19 pandemic. If we want to see Randy Moss's son Montigo suit up for the UMaine football team, it could be this spring. 

With UMaine and many other Pine Tree State institutions pulling the plug on fall sports last week, that begs the question from Kittery to Fort Kent: What will the UMaine hockey season look like? 

Will the puck drop in October? 

Even though hockey is classified as a winter sport in the eyes of the NCAA, the season typically starts early in the fall.

But due to COVID-19, will we see any hockey during the first semester? 

If I had to guess, I'd speculate the Black Bears will be playing mostly a Hockey East schedule, which is doable. 

Two of college hockey's biggest tournaments have been cancelled. The IceBreaker, which UMaine hosted in 2015 and was slated to be hosted by Minnesota-Duluth, along with the Friendship Four in Northern Ireland, which was to feature Army, Sacred Heart, Quinnipiac and Mercyhurst. Neither will happen.

Let's also remember that the Ivy League has nixed all fall competition, and many of those schools - Harvard, Brown, Dartmouth, Yale, Princeton - are part of the ECAC, a league in which UMaine traditionally taps into for non-conference scheduling. 

The Black Bears are also supposed to travel to Omaha of the NCHC this season. 

At this point, I think many UMaine fans will argue a shortened season is better than no season at all. 

If it's an all-Hockey East schedule with non-conference games restricted to the Northeast (Quinnipiac is due to come to Orono this year after the Bears traveled to Hamden, Connecticut, last year), than so be it. 

Fortunately, we're seeing a steady decrease in COVID cases in Maine, and if that trend continues by the time January rolls around, fans could definitely be allowed inside the Alfond. 

It's hard to imagine playing games in front of an empty Alfond Arena. But even at half-capacity, the Old Girl can be awfully darned loud. 

Hockey wise, the Bears are coming off their best season of the Red Gendron era, and you could argue that UMaine could've been a dangerous team in the NCAA Tournament thanks to having the best goaltender in the country in Jeremy Swayman. 

The Black Bears will feature eight incoming freshmen, including goaltender Victor Ostman, and even if there is a shortened season, these guys need some time to get acclimated to the grind of NCAA hockey. Especially goaltenders Ostman and sophomore Matthew Theissen, who barely saw the ice last season behind Swayman.

I have my doubts the puck will drop in October. But dropping it in December or January is better than not dropping it at all. There isn't much to do on Friday's or Saturday's in Orono between November and February, so hopefully we'll see some college hockey this winter. 




This Fan Doesn't Need To Be
In The Stands
By Steve McKay

The signs of me getting old are there. 

It’s harder to stand-up without at least some form of a groan. 

My grandson outdrives me off the tee by at least 40 yards consistently. 

I have to take a break half-way through mowing our lawn. 

Last week I argued with a teen in our house that the music was way better “back in my day.” 

And then there’s this: I’d rather watch the Bosox from the comfort of my recliner in our air-conditioned living room. There’s the sure sign that something has changed in my life’s journey. 

Don’t get me wrong, being at Fenway Park is mighty awesome. Even inspiring. But during my most recent visit to Fenway, the “inspiring” didn’t match my “perspiring.” Last time I was at Fenway, it was a hot, muggy day. Even though my seats were pretty decent (about 5 rows behind the Sox dugout) my view was consistently blocked by sweaty vendors barking in my ear. And since I’m somewhat of a lanky fellow, my knees were crammed into the back of the chair in front of me, which did no favors for my back ache that visits most middle-aged dudes at some point. 

So yeah….if given a choice between the following:

  1. Being crammed into a wooden mini-chair at Fenway while sweat-sticking to said chair as my kinked-up lower back prompts another grab for a Tylenol fix in my pocket-
  2. Watching Devers deliver another frozen rope down the line from my fluffy and comfy couch as the A.C. churns out icy air-

I do believe I’ll take the view from our Orono abode. 
 
So, life’s pretty good for me these days. Watching the Sox in person is not an option. Does the fact there are no fans filling the stands bother me? Not a bit. Lack of crowd noise? Yawn-I’m all set. 

Sox are on in 5 minutes. Just enough time for me to grab a sleeve of Chip Ahoys and a mug of blueberry iced tea. Might as well turn the A.C. up one notch while I’m up. Go Sox!
The Good and Bad of The Return of MLB
Fourth and Goal
with THE BAM
Baseball is back and I am fired up! So many great games already. Tons of TV coverage. It's unfortunate it took so long for them to get MLB up and going, but now it's here and it's awesome! 

Well, awesome with some glaring weaknesses. 

No fans in any ballpark is just beyond silly. Hard to believe nobody in MLB or the states that host games was smart enough to come up with a safe and socially distanced crowd plan of some sort? 

Instead we get cardboard cutouts of dogs, former presidents, hockey players and any other egregious gimmick you can think of for 50 bucks. Ugh.

Another misstep is by ESPN. For a couple of games they have had Arod, who is one of the best, and Matt Vascursian in the studio, sitting together broadcasting the games. Flawless. 

For other games they decided to put announcers in 3 different places and use Skype or Zoom to call the game. Simply horrible. Everyone is constantly talking over one another. Reminds me of eating dinner with the my mini-Bams. No flow to the broadcast. Occasional delays in audio. Just ridiculous.

If you aren't going to put guys together in a room to broadcast the game, then just take the local TV feed and broadcast it that way. With the local announcers who are at the game and who won't step all over one another the entire game.  

Another ESPN blunder is during a Zoom broadcast, they have decided that interviewing players from other teams not playing in that game, via another zoom feed, is a good idea. Completely clunky. 

The games themselves have been outstanding so far. It should be an epic 60 game sprint to the playoffs.  

Hopefully the NHL and the NBA have similar success. The NHL should go smoothly as teams are basically quarantined in 2 separate cities for the duration of the playoffs. Should be some exciting hockey for sure. But again, nobody dared to come up with a sensible plan to safely allow some fans to be in the arenas. There's careful and then there is overkill. It's sad that nobody found a middle ground.  

I am not as hopeful that the NBA will have success. They have everyone locked, allegedly, into a " bubble" in Orlando. Several players have already left the bubble for various personal reasons and there is, not really shockingly, already an investigation of a player going to a strip, errr, gentlemen's club. Just blatant irresponsibility and disrespect to the process of trying to put some legitimacy to a crazy season.  

Here's hoping that in the coming months the NFL is learning from these other sports. It appears that the NFL has figured out some sort of a plan for fans to attend games, so they are already light years ahead of the other 3 sports. Hell, even NASCAR has figured out how to get fans in attendance. The rest of the summer and fall should be flush with great sports. It gives me great hope that college football can be next! 

An Update on Maine High School Sports

By Toby Nelson
Tom Petty may have said it best when he released his 1981 hit song, “Waiting.” How does it go? “Waiting is the hardest part.” I promise it sounds a lot better when I sing it in the shower. Anyway, last week, the Maine Principals Association released its updated guidelines and start dates for fall athletics in Maine.  

Like everything else during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s subject to change, but the gist of the document was that the fall sports preseason would move ahead three weeks to September 8th. 

The rationale, and a good one as far as I’m concerned, is that we need to get kids back in the classrooms before assembling them on the playing fields. It still allows for the summer conditioning workouts and more sports specific training over the coming weeks, but it’s more to get these student-athletes back in shape after away.

So, what does this mean? Let’s pretend that we don’t have any significant outbreaks over the next six weeks, and we can start on September 8th. That gives our coaches and student-athletes two weeks to get ready for games. That doesn’t seem like a lot of time, but let’s face it, several of these kids have been working out and playing, whether on their own or with friends, just not under the supervision of their coaches, so the short preparation time may not be terrible. 

Outside of that, there is a call for a more regionalized schedule, a shortened regular season, and for further discussion on what postseason play would entail. All good so far.

The hope is to finish in late October and early November, as usual, if everything can go as planned, setting the stage for winter sports to start on time, which is a whole different ballgame because now we have the dreaded word “inside.” 

I like inside in the winter. It’s warm and comfortable, but COVID-19 and other various viruses and illnesses thrive on “inside.” So what will that look like? I wish I had the answer for you.

I want high school students back in the classroom when it is safe to do so. Selfishly, I want high school sports to happen this year as I have the opportunity to coach a special group of basketball players this winter. I want them to see success in the classroom and on the courts and fields, but as someone told me at a young age, no one really cares what I want. 

With that said, I just cross my fingers (after washing my hands) and hope for some silver lining with school this fall and winter. If we can have regional schedules, regional tournament play, and some sort of normalcy, that’s all I want. There I go again with my wants.  

In closing, if you’ve even watched the movie Hoosiers , late in the fourth quarter of the regional finals, Coach Norman Dale (Gene Hackman) breaks the huddle, but one of his players, Strap, stays on a knee, praying for a second, during a very close game. Coach Dale taps him on the hand after a moment and says, “make it a good one.” So if you believe in that, make it a good one for high school sports. And while you’re at it, say one for me too. I could probably use the help. 


  
40th Anniversary of CaddyShack
Hard to believe that it’s been 40 years.

July 25, 1980 the Cinderella story was told for the first time.

I’ve watched that movie so many times I deserve a free bowl of soup!

I’ve even watched the “Making of Caddyshack” several times.

So what you say? So let’s dance!

-SOLARI
Lots of opinions from our bloggers again this week. As always they are just that, their opinions, and not necessarily shared by Jeff Solari and The Sports Chowdah, or our sponsors. We also from time to time share articles from other publications and websites. Obviously sharing links is very common today but we also like to share great content in its entirety. The authors' opinions and content belong to them, not the Sports Chowdah or Rock Lobster Media LLC.
Who Is This Jeff Solari Guy Anyway?

Jeff Solari is the President and owner of Rock Lobster Media and The Sports Chowdah. Jeff is also a former co-host of The Drive on 92.9FM The Ticket in Bangor and The Shootaround on WZON.

He has been in sports media since he was 17. He is not shy with his opinions or unique perspective on the world of sports.

Jeff is a graduate of Mount Desert Island High School and the University of Southern Maine.

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Jeff Solari | Sports Chowdah | (207) 735-7323 | jeff@sportschowdah.com  | www.jeffsolari.com