Banter Lads coronavirus COVID-19 Opinion sport

Oliver & Company: Missing the Mark on Sport Reopening

Watch John Oliver’s stance on the reopening of sport leagues before diving in.

John Oliver and his staff are comedic and research legends when it comes to their ability to discuss some of the most intricate and thought-provoking issues in our world. From tackling the corruption in FIFA to the Indian Prime Minister, Oliver and his team never back down from taunting social and political issues while typically hitting the mark on their argument whether you agree with it or not. 

But their latest episode of HBO’s Last Week Tonight completely overshoots their landing when it comes to something near and dear to not only my heart, but millions globally. Sports and how it’s been impacted by the novel coronavirus.

With nearly every league and entity being put on an indefinite hold for the past few months, many are trying to restart with a heavy emphasis on the health and safety of players, staff, and other essential workers to the game. While Oliver states it was “emphatically the right thing to do”, and no one is truly arguing him on such, he misses the point on how leagues are going about figuring out how to restart. 

President Trump has stated he is sick of watching reruns of decades old games. He isn’t the only one. (Getty Images)

After taking his obligatory jab at President Trump for watching one or two batters of the classic baseball games being aired and wanting sports back, one that was not thought out properly regardless of your stance on how the current administration is doing, he goes on to back the President for being, “not entirely wrong there”. 

This is in light of the sport industry currently losing out on over $12 billion in revenue and causing hundreds of thousands of lost jobs. A number that will only continue to skyrocket if the likes of the NFL and college football seasons are interrupted. 

While Oliver appears to understand the economic ramifications of the loss of sport on our societies, he does not quite seem to understand all the proposals league officials are trotting out to ensure the bleeding stops sooner rather than later. 

From ripping into Oklahoma State football coach, Mike Gundy, for stating the statistically backed idea that most players will not become seriously ill or die from the disease saying, 

“Jesus Christ, I don’t know whose advice is worth the least during a pandemic — but guy who doesn’t mind unpaid college kids contracting a potentially deadly disease so everyone else can make millions, is right down near the bottom.” 

Sports Venue Business (SVB)

He fails to hit the mark on his tirade against sports restarting. This is a far cry from previous iterations of the show, which emphasized a heavy reliance on research, statistics, models, and more. He and his team couldn’t even be bothered to trot out how this disease is impacting young individuals, like I have done recently, or how this is going to destroy and possibly eliminate college athletics as we know it and potentially higher education too.

Oliver goes on to continue to try and make leagues out to be the embodiment of the devil for trying to reopen. With Major League Baseball trotting out a rock-solid proposal, Oliver couldn’t even be bothered to discuss the most recent and concrete plan. Instead, he went back to vaguely quote a league official from May 1st who told the Washington Post, “I would be lying if we were to say we have a good idea…they’re all degrees of bad.” 

That was two weeks ago, and he chose to cherry-pick one critic. It is beyond me how someone with a team of dedicated researchers couldn’t even do their due diligence on the new plan. One that emphasizes testing without taking from the general population and isn’t isolating players from their loved ones.

You don’t even want to get me started on how a respected site, such as SB Nation, backs him without doing their own research and just blindly putting faith into everything Oliver has to say on the matter. 

Is this a mess? Absolutely.

But for SB Nation writer James Dator to say, “none of this is worth anyone losing their lives over”, is disheartening. Life is chock full of risks and things the population that partakes in sports have a higher chance to die from. Again, go look at the statistics and the resources these players and staffs have available to them.

These breakdowns on COVID-19’s impact on sports is not the perspective we all need.I will put my faith in those in charge of the leagues before I begin to even contemplate the likes of Oliver or Dator when it comes to how we effectively reboot one of the few things our country can come together on. 

3 replies on “Oliver & Company: Missing the Mark on Sport Reopening”

Super nit picky is what I’m here to do. It’s cathartic when there’s so little to write about.

Definitely go read the plan because it doesn’t hope to completely isolate the spread, but create an environment that’s not conducive to it. They also plan on pulling any individual who tests positive to be pulled and then monitor others. It’s not perfect, but as I mentioned, life has risk and the data backs that it isn’t as awful to those in younger populations.

As for Gundy, could he have phrased it better? Sure. But I do believe that with the resources accessible for universities and their athletic departments, they should be more than fine. If they don’t want to play, they don’t have to. But what I’ve read and who I’ve spoken with that play, it is a risk they appear willing to take. We won’t agree on that, but hopefully it gives some clarity.

I do believe that this pandemic has continued to open the door for athletes, really just men’s basketball and football, to begin profiting off their play prior to going to play professionally if they make it.


A few thoughts, this is a well written article. However, John Oliver makes it explicitly clear that different sports will need to reopen in different ways to ensure safety. I think you are absolutely correct that they should have done better due diligence on the MLBs plan. But overall, I think Oliver is mostly correct about what he says and this is a super nit picky, but fair (given your own research), critique

You also mention in your other post (about the MLB knowing how to reopen) that they are safe because the average age of an MLB player is in the statistically “safe” range. I have to admit that I have not read the details of the MLB plan but I read your post about it. I think it is well said but I am skeptical the league will be able to limit the spread to men between the ages of 15-34, which is what the plan appears to rely on. I am also skeptical of the claim that they will have access to enough testing while not taking away from frontline workers.

Lastly, I think defending Gundy is a really bad look for you, even he recognized what he said was wrong and he apologized. In my opinion suggesting that players should risk contracting and spreading the disease for the profit of everyone but the players has no place in the conversation about how to safety restart.


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