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Sunday, June 16, 2024

Wsg sports: the college football playof is still on for tonight. Probably

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There’s good news to report about today’s College Football Playoff semifinal games: they haven’t been canceled! Well, not yet. But you never know—the Holiday Bowl this week was called off hours before kickoff, when UCLA declared that its Covid-19 situation left it unable to play North Carolina State. Feelings were hurt. The Covid equation has also hung over today’s games—Alabama vs. Cincinnati at 3:30 p.m. Eastern and Georgia vs. Michigan at 7:30 p.m. Eastern. The teams seem to be doing their best to make it to kickoff time. They all sport high vaccination rates and, more importantly, none of them require Covid testing for players unless they are unvaccinated, symptomatic or have been identified through contact tracing as having a close exposure. On the field today, the Orange Bowl matchup between Michigan and Georgia figures to be the most closely watched, as the Big Ten tries to snap out of a lengthy period of futility against the SEC.

Omicron continues to cut its disruptive path through the rest of sports. U.S. Olympic skier Mikaela Shiffrin tested positive this week and is hoping that the virus came early enough that she can return to competition in plenty of time for Beijing 2022. In the Premier League, one team seems to embody the ups and downs of another crazy pandemic year: Chelsea. The Dallas Cowboys are one of the NFL teams that shut its facilities recently—but the team feels ready to power through thanks to tips it learned from a pair of virtual-learning experts it consulted with in the offseason. 

If you’ve lost track of the NFL during the holiday season, Jason Gay can catch you up here. The short version: there are a lot of mediocre teams in the mushy middle that still might make the playoffs. We also had a look at a little-known legal battle that could have a big impact on the future ownership of the Denver Broncos.

Of course, all of the NFL news this week was overshadowed by the death of one of the game’s most enduring figures, John Madden. You may remember him as the firebrand Oakland Raiders coach in the ’70s; or for his surprise transition to broadcasting, where he effortlessly established a gleeful, unstudied persona; or as the icon of a videogame blockbuster. As Jason Gay wrote in a remembrance, he made every game feel like the backyard fun that made you fall in love with football to begin with. If you’re feeling nostalgic, here’s the proof. 

–Bruce Orwall, Global Sports Editor

Reach me at bruce.orwall@wsj.com and Twitter: @BruceOrwall

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