All That and a Bag of Mail

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It’s Friday, rejoice. (Except your Friday will probably be quite a bit like every other day of the week since most people don’t have much of a social life right now.)

It’s over eighty degrees and I’ve got a big afternoon planned with the boys — wiffle ball, football, and basketball are all on tap.

If you’re looking for some good entertainment, Mississippi State head coach Mike Leach and I spent over an hour breaking down Netflix’s “Tiger King” documentary. Go check it out here.

So let’s roll with the Friday mailbag so I can get outside and play some sports with the boys:

Malzahn writes:

“Kirk Herbstreit just said no football this fall. What are the chances he’s correct by percentage?”

Herbstreit’s a good friend of mine, but I think he’s wrong here.

I think you have to look at the existing data from around the world. In order for football to be canceled we’d need to have at least five full months of a coronavirus outbreak in this country. That is, all of March, April, May, June, and July would need to be bad.

That seems highly unlikely to me for several reasons: first, the data on this virus is going to be quite a bit different by June and July than what we have now. We will find out, for instance, how prevalent the virus is in asymptomatic individuals. We’ll also find out how many people have already had the virus and have antibodies against it. Significantly, we’ll know a true death rate. This will all be incredibly important information when it comes to assessing risk for players, coaches, and fans.

As I wrote last week, the data suggests the true death rate for this virus is far less than 1% of all cases. Remember, we are only counting people who test positive as having the virus in our denominator when we know the number of people who actually have the virus is far greater. I suspect the death rate is much closer, at the highest level, to .3 or .4% of all cases, and that still might be too high. That would mean 99.7 or 99.6% of all infected people recover. The flu, by the way, is typically a 99.9% recovery, but interestingly, it kills far more young people than the coronavirus does. Right now 14% of people tested — remember we only test people with with symptoms in this country — are testing positive for the coronavirus. But what percentage of the “healthy” general public would test positive and what percentage have already had the virus? We just don’t know.

When we have this data, we’ll be able to make better public policy decisions.

Second, while the crowds are great, football is primarily a TV sport. Even if crowds weren’t allowed to be present, I still think the games could be played, which would limit the risk substantially. So if you are arguing the games aren’t going to be played, you are just jumping right over the games being played without fans present.

Third, there hasn’t been anywhere near a five month outbreak anywhere else in the world so far. This virus seems to burn itself out in the space of four to six weeks most places and then become sort of a lingering public health hazard after that. I think it’s unlikely to last all the way through the summer as a serious threat. And even if the virus lasts longer as a significant threat in the country, it’s likely to not be similarly dangerous everywhere. Right now 56% of all cases are in New York City and its surrounding communities. Eventually that hot spot will die down and we will move elsewhere.

Fourth, the summer is coming. And most virologists believe coronavirus will have a harder time spreading as the heat increases across the country. Even now if you look at the states with outbreaks most of the big ones are happening in colder climates. And the two Southern states with the biggest outbreaks are major tourist destinations: Florida for spring break and Louisiana for Mardi Gras.

I suspect as it begins to warm across the country the viruses spread will diminish. (Now that raises its own potential issues as well — the virus could reemerge in the fall when it begins to get cold again — but I think the summer will be a big benefit here. We will, however, have to remain vigilant in the late fall.)

Fifth, let’s not kid ourselves, there are tens of billions of dollars connected to football around this country. If there is a way to play the games, the games are going to be played. I could see college football being conservative, potentially, because there are unpaid kids involved but there’s no way the NFL, which has powered through free agency and the draft even with the coronavirus at full swing, is going to give up their season easily. Hell, I don’t think there is any way the NFL players are going to want to sit out. Their careers are short and the game of football is incredibly risky. They need to make the money while they can. Plus, don’t underrate the impact of no college football either. Many major athletic departments would effectively collapse if they miss football season, it’s where all the revenue comes from.

Sixth, we are headed towards coronavirus testing that can be done on the day of events. I think teams will employ doctors to test players every single day as they arrive at the facility to determine if they have fevers. If they do, they go straight home, regardless of the illness. For games, I think every player could be, for instance, forced to take and pass a coronavirus test the day of and the day before the game.

All of these factors, I believe, make it far more likely than not that football will be played this fall.

The easiest way for me to put it is, you’d have to give me 10-1 odds, at least, for me to bet against it happening. And maybe 20-1.

Ultimately I think we will have many sports back up and running by June 1st.

If you’re asking me to bet against football, you’re also asking me to bet against NBA, MLB, NHL, NASCAR, the PGA and tennis all playing this year too.

And I just don’t believe there’s any way that happens.

Chris writes:

“Should the NBA move to China and set up a temporary league there? Supposedly case numbers are down there and we know NBA loves them some China. At least we’d have something to watch.”

The NBA taking its league to Asia isn’t an awful idea in theory. Especially because the NBA fashions itself as a global league. The time zone, however, would be a challenge in terms of American sports fans being able to watch the games. There’s a 12 hour time zone difference with China. So the NBA games would have to tip at around 9 in the morning in order to air in prime time here.

But ultimately this is impossible because of the Daryl Morey Tweets and the NBA bending the knee to China before the season started.

Now the NBA would be seen by most Americans, I think, as turning their back on our country and bending the knee anew to China if they took their games there. That’s especially the case since China started the entire coronavirus mess in the first place.

I suppose there’s a possibility the NBA could play in Japan or South Korea instead of China, but with Japan just canceling the Olympics this would probably be a mess too.

Plus, how many players would be willing to leave their families and go to Asia for several months, including a multi-week quarantine before they’d be allowed to exit their hotels. I’d think quite a few players would be opposed to it, which creates its own mess. Because then you’ve got the NBA potentially strong arming some players into leaving their families and going overseas for months. That’s made all the worse when it’s likely some of those NBA players may have family members with the coronavirus.

While it’s an interesting idea, I just don’t think it’s a viable option.

Now could Major League Baseball go to Japan to start its season given how popular baseball is there?

That might be more likely.

Terry writes:

“Why are celebrities contracting Covid-19 at a statistically impossible rate?”

My theory is it’s because the virus is far more widespread than realized. I think millions and millions of people around the world either have the virus or have already had the virus.

That’s why I was so fascinated by the NBA numbers last week. Ten out of 120 tested players had the coronavirus. That’s 8.3% of the NBA players. Sure, it’s possible they are statistical outliers, but the odds they’d be wildly different than the overall positive population in their respective cities seems very low.

If you’re an American your chances of being an NBA player are nearly one in a million.

There are only 85,000 cases presently in the entire country of 327 million people. That means there’s a .00025994 chance that you will be one of these people.

Yet 8.3% of all NBA players have tested positive.

Someone who is a far better mathematician than me could run these numbers to give you the degree to which NBA players are oversampled in our coronavirus cases, but suffice it to say that right now the NBA players represent a wildly disproportionate share.

And it’s not just in our country either.

Let’s leave America and use Boris Johnson, the prime minister of England, as an example. He just tested positive this morning. Right now England has 14,543 cases and a population of 56 million. That means .0002597 of English people have tested positive.

And one of them is the prime minister?

How unlikely does that seem?

This ties in with my answer above, but I think if we had randomized testing of current “healthy” people in the population and if we also had antibody testing for people who’d already had the disease, I suspect we’d discover that millions, if not tens of millions of people, either have or have had the virus already.

Which would mean that the virus would be very common, but not very deadly.

Honestly, that’s probably the best possible scenario because it would offer us a strong measure of herd immunity and make future outbreaks of the disease far less likely.

Mike writes:

“It seems, as you have pointed out, that there truly is a segment of people that want to see the world burn, and almost root for and celebrate every possible piece of negative news, even if it is false. This is so strange to me. Why do you think this is, is it a social media thing or representative of the overall population? And do you think a lot of it ties in with people’s hatred for Trump, or would this phenomenon happen regardless?”

I think there is a substantial segment of the population that roots for chaos and disaster and I think that percentage of the population is wildly over represented on social media.

Think about it, what does social media require? Constant stimulation, something that is perpetually new. So people that are predisposed to want that constant stimulation and perpetual newness are already oversampled on social media. That’s why there’s always a new outrage on social media, something has to exist to occupy these people.

Well, what’s this virus? Something new and deadly that provides a brand new story every day.

There’s even a daily coronavirus scoreboard of new cases that serve to advance different narratives.

Couple that with the fact that many on social media care desperately about being first — seeing something before everyone else can see it — and that’s why there are tons of coronavirus bros that have convinced themselves the coronavirus is the deadliest thing that has ever existed in their lives and they need that to be true because they’ve convinced themselves it’s true. The evidence really doesn’t matter to them, they just leap from one extreme to another, whatever can justify their hypothesis they latch on to.

It’s uncanny, the minute I share any positive story they immediately show up in my mentions to make it clear that we’re all doomed.

For weeks these coronavirus bros have been arguing that we were Italy. They shared charts that foretold great doom for the United States by pointing out how similar our trajectory was to Italy’s. Except, it wasn’t ever true. Italy has a far older population than the United States, the country is much more dense, young and old people share far more homes, their hospital ICU beds are far lower than ours on a per capita basis, all of these things were clear to anyone who looked at the data.

But none of that mattered, we were going to be Italy, bro. Their fear porn overshadowed all logic.

Well, we now have 10,000 more coronavirus cases than Italy and 1/9th of Italy’s death rate. It’s pretty clear that we aren’t and will not be Italy. So they have to move the fear ball, kick it down the Twitter streets to some new destination. We don’t know exactly where that will end up, but odds are it will end up on the worst possible outcome.

Here’s the deal, in order for us to equal the number of flu deaths in this country this year — we’re right at 23,000 — we will need to have two million confirmed cases of the coronavirus. That’s over twenty times the number we have right now. That would require every day in April, May and June us averaging 20,000 additional cases.

And even if that happened we would still only equal the deaths from the flu this year, which up until now no one even considered to be much of a news story at all.

Some years the flu kills over 50,000 and no one even blinks in this country.

In order to reach that level of death we would need to average 20,000 cases a day for all of April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November, and December.

That’s not presently predictable based on any existing metrics in the world.

That doesn’t mean, by the way, it couldn’t happen, it just means there is no existing metric in the world that suggests it will happen.

Finally, I do think Donald Trump is a huge part of this story. Many liberals, especially those highly active on social media, convinced themselves that Donald Trump was pure evil. They’ve held to that belief as we’ve ricocheted from one crisis to another, across the landscape of his first three years and change in office. They told us over and over again that Trump was finished. The immigration mess, Russia, collusion, firing Sessions and Comey and whomever else, the Mueller report, impeachment, you can just insert your own crisis here and nothing actually ended up happening, he was still president.

Now a small, but active group on social media, sees the coronavirus as their chance to take down the president.

So they need to paint him as incompetent and they need for things to go awful.

The problem is this — Trump’s actually doing a pretty decent job.

Per capita we are doing better than most European countries when it comes to our death and infection rates; Trump has worked well with Democratic governors like Andrew Cuomo and Gavin Newsom in solidly blue states like New York and California, we’ve mobilized a massive new testing capability that is now producing over 100,000 tests per day, far more than exists anywhere else in the world, our death rate is lower than just about any country in the world, we’ve created a two trillion dollar assistance package for all the people who have lost their jobs, and Trump, by and large, appears to have listened to the top scientists in the White House, Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx, both of whom appear to me to be entirely non-partisan.

That’s why according to a recent Gallup poll 60% of Americans give Trump favorable ratings on dealing with this crisis. That’s also why Trump’s approval ratings have just hit a new high for his presidency.

Ultimately, as I said above, I suspect that by summer the coronavirus will fade and we’ll be back to the usual 50-50 status in the country.

For the most part people will use whatever existing opinions they already have of Trump and intersect them with the coronavirus.

Tim writes:

“Based on your legal expertise, what is the constitutionality of these governors/mayors issuing these sequestration orders, & their ability to withstand court challenges?”

Put simply, we don’t know.

That is, until there are court challenges to these decisions predicting what local courts would do, what appellate courts would do, and what the Supreme Court might rule is nearly impossible.

And I don’t think there will be court cases because I think these prohibitions will be relatively short lived.

The biggest irony of all of this to me is that Democrats who have spent years telling us that Trump is a dictator who can’t be trusted are now the ones demanding that Trump take on as many dictatorial powers as possible.

Dan writes:

“How about leftists turning on Dr. Birx? Do they hate science?”

Leftists hate anyone who says anything remotely positive about Donald Trump.

Even brilliant doctors who are doing fantastic jobs trying to help our country fight off this pandemic.

John writes:

“Do you think college will resume in person in the fall?”

A tentative yes.

One strong reason I believe this may happen is I think the idea of sending college kids back to live with older people might actually be a bad idea.

Generally speaking college kids have nothing to fear from the coronavirus, they aren’t dying from it hardly at all.

I think it might well be safer to have them all present with each other on college campuses than it is to have them at home. This, again, speaks to the lack of fulsome knowledge we have on the virus and its particular proclivities.

I do know this, ultimately colleges are a business. And many parents are going to be asking why they are paying as much money as they are, especially in a tanking economy if that happens, to have their kids sit in front of computer screens back home.

Kyle writes:

“Who gets the nomination for the Democrats if Biden were to have a serious health issue after he is officially declared the nominee? It’s clear he isn’t in the best of health – has a nominee ever been changed after a convention?”

First, the Democrats are in a tough spot because their convention is July 13th through the 16th in Wisconsin.

They picked that date to try and ensure they were able to meet before the Olympics began. I don’t know when their drop-dead date is on deciding whether to have it or not, but the Republican convention is not until August 24th to the 27th in North Carolina and that gives them a ton more leeway.

Second, Joe Biden has mostly been kept out of the public eye for the past month or so, but he emerged to do several interviews this week and they were almost uniformly a disaster. I like Joe Biden, I think he’s a really good guy, but he reminds me quite a bit of your elderly grandfather at Thanksgiving dinner when he’s tottering on the edge of retaining all his mental faculties. You’re just not sure when he starts a sentence or starts a story that he’s going to be able to finish it.

I thought Biden did pretty well against Bernie Sanders in their final debate, but he did awful in these interviews.

I know Democrats went after Donald Trump’s mental faculties early in his tenure — attacking the health of a candidate is a common theme when our candidates of late are all so old — but it’s hard to watch Trump at these daily coronavirus press conferences and still argue he’s not in control of his faculties. You may disagree with his positions or his statements, but Trump is fielding questions with ease, answering them, delegating the questions to the appropriate people on the stage without a moment’s hesitation, I can’t see Joe Biden managing these public press conferences right now very well at all.

I don’t think there’s a precedent for a nominee stepping down for a medical reason, but Democrats have to be whispering about this behind closed doors. I suspect that what would happen is whomever Biden selects as his vice presidential running mate would be elevated to the nominee.

Which is why I think Biden’s vice presidential nominee is so incredibly important.

Because I think that person may well end up being the nominee before all is said and done.

Thanks for reading Outkick and I hope all of you have fantastic weekends.

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