Sara’s on vacation this week, so it’s the perfect chance for Neil and Geoff to talk hockey. We begin with the NHL’s many, many postponements because of COVID-19 protocols. The league has been slow to catch up to the level of rapid testing necessary to curtail the worst outbreaks. On the ice, last year’s Stanley Cup winner, the Tampa Bay Lightning, still looks dominant, but there have been some surprises, too. The NHL’s North Division, for one, has had with great play by the Maple Leafs and Canadiens (and the Jets and Flames, too) — and very few COVID-19 issues. So while it’s likely that the NHL will need to go back to points percentage to decide the last playoff spots again this year, we cannot, alas, blame Canada for the season’s uneven start.
Next, Neil is joined by two guests, FiveThirtyEight designer Emily Scherer and writer and podcaster Kat Bailey, to talk about the return of EA Sports’ College Football video game series and the state of sports video games generally. The franchise’s return has been made possible because legal heat around the use of player likenesses has died down, and a spike of nostalgia has pushed gamers to the familiar comfort of NCAA Football 14 during lockdown. Sports video games are about the wish fulfillment of taking a player and/or a team all the way to the top, and the best of them — from Backyard Baseball to MLB’s The Show — are the ones that find creative and compelling ways to simulate that fantasy.
Finally, in the Rabbit Hole, Neil looks at the remaining players available in MLB free agency and builds a pretty decent expansion team — the Kraken of baseball, if you will — out of guys in their early 30s who will probably only get signed to one-year deals. That trend is likely to continue as we get more data about how players age (and get further away from the age of steroids, when players could peak in their mid-to-late 30s). But for organizations looking to get better right now, there is still a whole team’s worth of talent for the taking.
What we’re looking at this week: