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College Football’s Flawed Season Gave Us A Flawless Champion
FiveThirtyEight
 

We start with college football’s national championship game, in which Alabama dominated a slightly winded Ohio State. The Tide’s victory was, seemingly, inevitable. But how they did it remains impressive — with an offense of stars, including DeVonta Smith and Najee Harris. If anything, quarterback Mac Jones has gotten sold a little short, putting up numbers similar to what Joe Burrow did last year. But Alabama’s absurdity of riches makes it hard for any one player to be the hero. They may not be perfect, but their opponents have to be in order to beat them — on both sides of the ball. We’re used to thinking about unstoppable offenses or immovable defenses, but this Alabama team can do it all. As soon as Ohio State punted for the first time, the game was kind of over. Monday’s result sets itself a little apart from the volatility of the 2020 college football season as a whole, and it will probably be easy to think of this Bama team separately from the trials and tribulations of playing in a pandemic.

Next, we look at how the sports world has gotten pulled into the political shifts of the past week. We talk about how the PGA of America breaking an agreement with a golf course owned by President Trump was only surprising inasmuch as the president seems to care about it more than he cares about getting impeached again. We also discuss how the WNBA’s activism on behalf of Raphael Warnock may not have been the difference in his successful run for the Senate, but it certainly counted for a lot, especially in the moment that players for the Atlanta Dream and other WNBA teams started wearing Vote Warnock T-shirts. With more visibility, Warnock was able to fundraise and consolidate his support for the Nov. 3 vote, uniting Democrats for the runoff election. While the effort was very specific in a lot of ways to the WNBA — a league that has a longstanding history of political engagement and in which Dream owner Kelly Loeffler’s political values are an outlier — it certainly paves the way for other teams in other leagues to be difference-makers in the future. We’ll likely see more campaigns like this as the country continues to become more and more polarized — both because athletes are more empowered to speak up about issues that matter to them and because sports aren’t as unifying a force as they were, say, in the aftermath of 9/11. Sports can and still do provide a lot of relief from the stress of our current political upheavals, but because this is a crisis that doesn’t make us feel like we’re all in it together, it’s hard for sports to be the glue that binds the nation’s wounds.

Finally, in the Rabbit Hole, Neil previews the exciting developments in this upcoming NHL season, with interesting tweaks to navigate the ongoing COVID-19 concerns, including an all-Canadian division. He also talks about which teams got better or worse over the offseason, including how the defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning are dealing with the loss of their best skater. And hey, budding hockey fan Sara Ziegler might be interested in committing to the New York Rangers, who have a bunch of exciting new players they’re building around.

What we’re looking at this week:

Sarah Shachat is Hot Takedown’s producer.

Sara Ziegler is the sports editor at FiveThirtyEight.

Neil Paine is a senior writer for FiveThirtyEight.

Geoff Foster is the former sports editor of FiveThirtyEight.

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