This is a scary time to be alive. There is no sugar coating it. It is just a fact.
It doesn’t matter if you’re the type that stays home, washes your hands every hour, and wears multiple masks any time you have to leave the house, or if you are the type that believes the virus hates us for our freedom and sacrificing lives to the economy is the honorable thing to do. We have leaders that view science as politics, and that means we live in a state of uncertainty. Nothing is scarier than that.
Uncertainty is the right word to use for college football right now. We’re coming off of a week where the Pac-12 and Big 10 both announced that their schools would be playing conference games only. It looks like the ACC is leaning the same way, which would put Carolina’s biggest rivalry in jeopardy.
Long before this week, we have been bombarded with reports from dozens of schools with overwhelming numbers of positive COVID tests amongst football players. Now we’re in a state of wait-and-see when it comes to campuses even being open in the fall.
There is a lot of reason to fear we aren’t going to have a college football season in 2020. When a writer or TV talking head points that out, they aren’t rooting against a football season. They are evaluating the evidence and drawing a logical conclusion.
I have seen a lot of sportswriters trying to score points with Tactical Sunglasses Twitter by making claims that if you don’t think there will be a football season, it means you don’t want there to be a football season.
“Think of the jobs lost and the businesses affected beyond just the football team,” they will say. “It’s really easy to not want sports to resume when you are gainfully employed and don’t need them!”
Is there a stupider argument? What do these people think will happen to college football writers if there is no college football? We are talking about a non-essential employee covering a non-essential entity. No one that covers sports is “gainfully employed” if there are no sports.
Everything is turned into part of the culture war in this country. It is so prevalent that people are willing to argue points they absolutely know are wrong/dumb just to avoid agreeing with someone of different political stripes.
Look, I’ll put my cards on the table here. I don’t see an obvious way we can safely play football this fall, and I think requiring football players to take on risk that you aren’t asking any other student to puts these schools in a position where they have to answer an uncomfortable question: Do we consider these players employees that deserve compensation or do we consider them pawns that have to do what we say no matter how unsafe?
Now, I also don’t blame the SEC for trying to try its damndest to pull off some type of season. Columbia is large by SEC standards. It is a city that will be fine without the revenue generated by Gamecock football. But what about Starkville or Auburn or Oxford or Athens? Without football revenue, those are places at risk of becoming ghost towns. The conference wanting to protect its members and the communities that support them makes total sense.
Frankly, I am rooting for a season. I started a podcast and a business based entirely on my love for college football. I am being realistic when I say I don’t know if there will be a college football season. If you think that means I don’t want one, you’re nuts.
And here’s the thing. I don’t think the people that say those of us that are skeptical don’t really want a college football season even believe that themselves. They just know that college football is the sport with the largest passionate and vocal fanbase. It is the perfect formula for chasing clicks, likes, and RTs.
If you want to live in a world where facts you don’t like don’t exist and if we all believe really really hard we can will a normal football season into existence this year, fine. Just don’t tell me that we need more positive news. I know we do, and I wish I had real positive news to give you. Don’t tell me that it is a writer’s or reporter’s or host’s job to provide the fans with hope. It’s not. Our job is to review evidence and form opinions, and the evidence isn’t especially encouraging right now.
In my opinion, the best thing the SEC could do is move not just to a conference-only, but a division-only schedule and then match the top two teams up in a neutral location, be it Atlanta or somewhere deemed safer. At this point, a normal season is a bridge too far. That is why I will root for something that seems feasible while acknowledging the realities of the world around us.