It has been said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.
Perhaps nowhere is that statement truer in 2020 than in the world of college football.
Consider if you will, the University of Houston Cougars. The Cougars were set to kick off the 2020 season with a game against the Memphis Tigers, but the Tigers had a COVID-19 outbreak and had to cancel the battle of the big cats on the gridiron.
Never fear thought the intrepid Cougars, we will just schedule a game against the Baylor Bears to fill the slot left open by Memphis canceling. Come hell or high water we are going to play football this year the Cougars shouted confidently to their fans.
While the Cougars had managed to dodge one COVID-19 outbreak and find a new opponent, the other shoe dropped the day before kickoff when it was announced that the Baylor Bears also had to cancel the game since, like the Memphis Tigers before them, the Bears were also dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak within their ranks.
Cougars and Tigers and Bears, oh my!
So, while some teams have managed to cobble together enough healthy players to field a somewhat competitive team, other schools are yet to kickoff the season either due to their own outbreaks of COVID-19, or outbreaks on their opponent’s roster. The list of teams canceling games continues to grow as COVID-19 case counts rise from the east coast to the west coast and all points in between.
To think that there wouldn’t be outbreaks of COVID-19 on college campuses is completely idiotic, or if one prefers, insane.
From coast to coast colleges are having to place students on lock down as they try to get a handle on the virus that is sweeping the nation like an ear worm song of summer.
The reason for the outbreaks on college campuses can best be summed up as college kids being college kids. While some students are socially distancing and wearing masks, others are having large parties and foregoing the masks and social distancing. Apparently not even a global pandemic can stop the party for some students.
The reaction to COVID-19 on college campuses mirrors the overall reaction within American society. Some people are heeding the warnings and trying to stop the spread of the virus, and others just want to party like the virus does not exist and pack hangers at airports shoulder to shoulder.
This just in, COVID-19 doesn’t care if you don’t care about it. The virus will infect you whether you think it is a hoax or not.
And, it is not like college athletes are being sequestered from the regular student population on campus, so any outbreak on campus puts the athletes at risk. One could even go a step further and say that the fact that athletes are traveling from city to city to play games means that they could be bringing COVID-19 back to their campuses.
But, by all means, play that college football to earn those lucrative television dollars. For those who question whether money is the real reason behind the push to play college football in the middle of a global pandemic, I submit to you the Big 10 Conference.
The Big 10 Conference was one of the first leagues to say, “you know what? We care more about our students as human beings than we do about them as commodities. As such, we do not feel it is safe to play sports this year.”
I applauded the Big 10 when they made that decision. Unfortunately, soon after they announced they weren’t going to play, the bullies started harassing them and calling them wimps and losers. Parents threatened to sue if their kids couldn’t play. It quickly went downhill from there.
Instead of standing their ground against the bullying that reached all the way to the oval office in Washington D.C., the Big 10 reversed course and decided that they would play football after all to get their slice of the pie.
The bully in chief did a victory lap and claimed responsibility for bringing football back to the huddled masses of the Big 10 by shaming the schools into playing. I suppose people demanding the return of Big 10 football were afraid that they might actually have to talk to their families on Saturdays if there wasn’t any football to watch.
Don’t get me wrong, as I have said many times, I love watching college football and would like nothing more than to watch games in packed stadiums from the time I wake up until the time I go to bed each Saturday in the fall.
But this is not a normal fall, and pretending that it is a huge slap in the face to the friends and families of the 200,000 Americans who have died from COVID-19. It is also a slap in the face to the people who are still battling symptoms of the disease months after being deemed “cured.”
Finally, it is a slap in the face to the millions of front-line essential workers who are risking their lives every day to take care of the people with COVID-19, while also providing services like grocery pickup for people to help them avoid catching COVID-19.
Insisting on playing football in the middle of a pandemic is a lot like someone who insists on keeping a tee time at the golf course in the middle of a hurricane.
Much like our imaginary golfer who has to hit the links, the people determined to play football in the middle of a pandemic are hoping that they can stay in the eye of the storm where it is nice and calm while the rest of the world deals with the devastating wind and storm surge.
Hurricanes don’t work that way, and COVID-19 doesn’t work that way. In hurricanes and pandemics, things get worse before they get better and how much they impact people depends an awful lot on the steps they take before the storm hits. In short, neither disaster cares that you have a tee time.
College football is certainly not alone in the desire to bring live sports to the masses.
After insisting that teams be allowed to play in their own Ballparks for the regular season, I applauded Major League Baseball (MLB) for finally seeing the need to use bubbles for the postseason. With the expanded MLB playoffs taking place in four Ballparks in two states MLB finally is making wise decisions, even if they are coming a few months late.
Of course, football is not using bubbles, unless you are referring to a bubble screen pass to a tight end. Instead, football says, let some fans come and watch us play and we will entertain you like there isn’t a pandemic, five named storms in the Atlantic Ocean and wild fires raging uncontrolled in much of the west.
Speaking of those fires, the smoke and air quality in Seattle is so bad that the Mariners cannot even play in their home Ballpark and are being forced to have “home” series in other team’s Ballparks.
But go ahead and ignore the science related to how viruses are transmitted and how global warming is real. Saying a lie over and over again like “nobody could have reacted better,” and “it will cool down someday,” doesn’t make it real.
Yes, insanity definitely is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. You know what is not insane? Not playing sports in the middle of a pandemic and actually having a centralized plan for how to get a handle on the disease.
Instead of being so focused on the economy, elected officials should be doing everything in their power to end the disease by listening to the science and not the stock market.
What good is an economy if no one is alive to spend any money in it, or there are no workers left to do those essential jobs that keep the wheels of the country spinning.
There will be a time when sports can return. This is not that time.
Despite science and common sense telling them that playing sports during a pandemic is not wise, teams will continue to battle outbreaks as they hobble down the path to crown champions; because apparently that is what some leaders think the people want.
This is truly a let them eat cake moment, or in this case, a let them eat nachos as the world around them burns, floods, and gasps for air on ventilators.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I am off to place my guess in the office pool for what team the University of Houston tries to schedule next to start their ill-advised season.
Copyright 2020 R. Anderson