Let us start by saying that I am not an epidemiologist, although my fiancée does have that specific degree and she has been helping me with this whole situation daily. COVID-19 has affected every single one of us, some more than others, and it is not going away anytime soon. Instead of harping on the actual virus itself, of which I know very little, I want to talk about the effect it has and will have on the college football season.
To get this out of the way early, I want college football back, I think a countless amount of people want it back both personally and economically. But, my one question is, should we have it back? College football is not just a sport, it is a culture, it is a feeling, it is a way of life. It is what we look back on fondly in yesteryear, it is what makes us who we are, and it is what makes us passionate to this very day.
The question I pose is, SHOULD we have this season? Currently COVID is running rough shot throughout different corners of the USA, it has affected countless lives and families, it will change the way we look at the world, and it is here until we find a vaccine. Again, I am not an expert, but I do not believe the vaccine will be here for first kick, or even in 2020.
I have had countless thoughts on what this season will look like, but as my dad has always said “if you want to make god laugh, tell him your plans.” COVID-19 will change the landscape of what our reality is and will be for the immediate and possibly lasting future. We do not have a handle on it, we don’t know what caused it, we don’t know if we can re-infected, we don’t know the lasting impacts on the human body, BUT we are totally okay with bringing countless members from every walk of life and corner of the country and beyond into these locations.
Each player has a story, each coach has a story, and there will be countless records of these individuals making sacrifices that are necessary to wade this storm out. To make this about Penn State I will point to Noah Cain, having 4 members of his family test positive for COVID, and those tough conversations he must have had to get him back to Happy Valley to play football. In addition, Penn State’s coach James Franklin will be alone for the entirety of this football season. James’s youngest child has Sickle Cell Disease, and it was a family decision that he should not expose her to COVID, and potentially endangering her life.
This is probably just one of countless instances of sacrifice, potential loss, and so much more that not only our Penn State family is enduring, but countless others. We are asking 85 players to come to the middle of Pennsylvania, get tested constantly, make sure they social distance, and they don’t leave this bubble in Nittany Apartments so that the team will be safe(r) from this disease.
There are countless questions to be answered throughout this process, and I do not think there are any concrete answers. What if too many members of the team test positive and cannot play? What do we do with a potential player hospitalization? What if on game day the coach tests positive, or what if multiple coaches do? What is the risk of long-term damage to a player’s or coach’s immune system?
I do not write this article trying to be negative, more realistic. We are dealing with people’s lives and health, and I hope we put that in front of the economy. And I know how much these remote towns rely on these home games, spring games, and graduation, but these are crazy times, and I do not have that answer.
I think as a College Football collective we have mainly thought of “how many yards Chuba Hubbard will rack up”, “if Trevor Lawrence will win another ring”, or “if your team will make that run for championship?”. Not, “will this season even happen?” And if so, what will that look like for these towns that survive on this amazing sport we all love?
My last thought goes out to the elite of the elite, do you even play? Is the juice worth the squeeze? I personally want Micah Parsons to attack each opponent with his patented ruthlessness as much as the next guy, but I worry about the overall safety of these student athletes. Millions of dollars await the best of the best, and I do not know if there is such a thing as COVID insurance, but I would probably get it.
I want college football to be played, I want to see Penn State make an historic run into the playoffs, and I want to hear Herby & Fowler call those amazing Saturday Night games. But I also want these student athletes, coaching staff, media, etc. to be safe and to do it in a way that we all agree upon (wishful thinking I know). We are in unprecedented times, and I wanted to voice my opinion here, regardless of your opinion. I know we all eagerly await what Labor Day brings. I will be here and continue to cover the sport I love with my whole heart; I hope you read this and continue to support myself and my amazing Sidelines Staff.