CECIL HURT: Football's COVID debates have become exhausting
Mike Tyson is too old to keep on fighting.
So am I. But there is no option for throwing in the towel.
Trying to keep up with all the nuances and factions of the football/no football debate, to say nothing of the politics, it seems unavoidable. People — some logical, some not so much — are divided which means every position, every comment, has to land on one side of that divide or the other. There is no way to make everyone happy, or convince everyone into consensus and about the best you can do is try to keep focused on the issue you want to discuss and not wade into the trap of fighting everyone on whatever side issue they want to fight about.
Two quick examples: on Sunday, I was in downtown Tuscaloosa (prompted by a photo posted by Alabama football player Chris Owens, so I was sticking to sports like an adhesive), observing what was going on and posting comments and a couple of photos. And, while it pains me as a writer to say this, if you don’t think a picture is worth a thousand words, post one on Twitter and see what happens when an athletic director picks up on it.
The arguments ensue, from every angle ranging from “constitutional rights”to an unintended but unavoidable stereotyping of Tuscaloosa, again, as the land of the COVID parties. (That angle seems to have died down in the constant churn.) Rather than rehash those battles, here is what promoted them in a nutshell.
First, having football would be great and important but if the SEC decides that the medical risk is too high, the league should not play.
Second, there is time to observe more data. Say what you will about the Big Ten and its perky Pekingese puppy, the Pac-12. Their decision to cancel may prove to be correct but the timing and disdain for consensus has led to two weeks of vicious bickering and posturing that may ultimately amount to nothing but “bragging rights.”
Third, the SEC cancellation protocols include this ominous line: “Campus-wide or local community positivity rates that are considered unsafe by local health officials.” That is the hurdle that every single person involved, including Nick Saban, is staring at.
Fourth, there is no question that the campus and city economies will take a hit at currently proposed levels and that a shutdown will consign many Tuscaloosa businesses, my employer quite possibly included, to economic purgatory if not oblivion. But that still doesn’t mean UA should play if it is too high a risk in the opinion of the SEC medical advisors.
Fifth, it is possible to hold the position that if September 26 is unsafe for football, then early January will be unsafe as well and those risks — and the additional risks of playing 20 games in a calendar year — would be undertaken for a truncated spring season of what Saban has alluded to as “JV ball.”
At this point, most people seem to be past convincing, one way or the other. Like Iron Mike, it would be unhealthy for me to try. But if I must get into the ring, the position should be clearly articulated but someone helps me through the ropes.
Reach Cecil Hurt at firstname.lastname@example.org