SportsPulse: Paul Myerberg and Dan Wolken dissect how college football got to this point and rendered completely helpless to the raging pandemic in America. USA TODAY
The temper tantrums from the adults were something to behold Monday afternoon. Nebraska’s Scott Frost was going to take his football and run to another playground, perhaps to be joined by Penn State’s James Franklin, Ohio State’s Ryan Day and Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh. Those heroes of the last-minute broadside against knowledge and wisdom revved up a formidable social media brigade until their end run ran right into science and sanity.
Five weeks after the Ivy League canceled football and the rest of its fall sports, the mighty Big Ten did the same. The Big Ten used the word “postponement,” but it’s one and the same. If it’s safe to play sports in the spring, then everyone will be playing in the spring. If it’s not, then, sadly, the year will be lost for hundreds of student-athletes who had the terrible luck of being in college when a global pandemic hit.
Ohio State and the rest of the Big Ten won’t play football this fall. (Photo: AJ Mast, AP)
Contrary to what the football-loving, mask-hating Twitterverse believes, there is no joy for anyone in this decision. When the Big Ten postpones football, volleyball, field hockey and the like, it’s a horrible day. I’m a Big Ten alum, a proud Northwestern grad, and my sadness reaches far and wide: from the student-athletes and coaches to the administrators who must now try to keep everything together – psychologically, emotionally and financially — as millions and millions of dollars that would have come in during a football season now will not, surely leading some schools to have to eliminate sports and jobs.
It’s brutal. But also necessary, and historic. The Ivy League, the smartest people in the room, knew exactly how to handle playing sports during coronavirus: you can’t. The Big Ten, the conscience of the Power Five, knew too. With so much more on the line, it took the conference a few more weeks to get there. The Big Ten’s western cousin, the Pac-12, naturally followed the Big Ten’s lead, leaving the ACC, the Big 12 and the SEC embarrassingly still standing.
WHAT WE KNOW: Updates on fate of the college football season
NEXT UP? Now that Big Ten, Pac -2 won’t play football in fall, will all Power Five conferences follow?
Those three conferences need to answer this question: How many illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths will they accept to have their beloved football in the fall? Is there a number – a total for players, coaches, officials and administrators – that you’ll tolerate for your Saturday kickoffs? Does that number reach double digits?
And what about myocarditis, the inflammation of the heart muscle that has been detected in young athletes who had COVID-19? How many of those cases are acceptable? What about deaths of 18-to-23-year-olds caused by a damaged heart?
These are tough questions that require leadership – intelligent, thoughtful leadership – not the outrage and bluster of a rogue, immature coach like Frost, pandering to fans and Twitter blowhards while doing immeasurable damage to whatever national reputation he once had.
The Ivy League was up to the task, obviously. The Mid-American Conference too, and the Mountain West, and UConn, and others. And now, the Big Ten and the Pac-12.
Wisconsin athletics director Barry Alvarez said Tuesday that he had “a hollow feeling.” But that didn’t stop him from also saying this: “Sports are simply different from other campus activities. There is no way to preserve physical distancing during competition, and masking can make competition very difficult.”
It’s just good old-fashioned Midwestern common sense. So why the cacophony of dissent? Is it perhaps not love of football, but love of one’s political career? There is something very wrong with people who are angry about the noble decisions these conferences are making. For example, the pathetic political posturing of the Society of the Maskless, led by Rep. Jim Jordan, Gov. Ron DeSantis and Sens. Ben Sasse and Marco Rubio, is reprehensible.
If those so-called leaders had encouraged mask-wearing in March, perhaps we would be in a place to play football in September. But we are not, yet they still can’t see what they did, or how they failed us all, their complaints now simply the background noise of those who have been out-witted, out-smarted and out-thought.
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