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Virus Realities Not Sinking In With Football Coaches, Officials

KT King via Flickr

There’s hardly a person on the face of the Earth who hasn’t been affected in some way by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Virtually every demographic group has seen their lives fundamentally altered by the novel coronavirus, forcing us, theoretically, to alter our thinking and lifestyles.

You’ll notice that I said virtually. There is one group of humans who have marched on seemingly oblivious to the events of the last few weeks. That would be football officials.

Professional basketball and hockey and the entire college winter and spring seasons came completely to a halt, while baseball and the Olympics delayed their activities entirely. 

But leave it to the folks who run football, both professionally and on the college level, to totally misread what the public requires right now.

What we need is some time to process the profound transformation, the complete and total shock to our system we’ve experienced, in just a matter of weeks.

Rather than allow us that breather, that moment to reset and compose, football barrels on, promising more of the same, for the most obvious of reasons: money.

The NFL, for instance, is pushing forward with its plans to stage the most overblown annual event in American sports, the collegiate draft.

The selection of college players, which once was a one-day affair, has bloated into a mega-event, now stretched to three days on three television channels, on the theory that we need to have normalcy, and football will give us that.

The league and its commissioner, Smilin’ Roger Goodell, at least had the great, good sense not to hold the draft, slated for next week, in its originally scheduled spot, Las Vegas.

But the circus will still go on, albeit with Goodell reportedly announcing the picks from his basement,

Meanwhile, speaking of colleges, there is panic in the hallowed halls of academe over the prospect that football, the so-called amateur version, may not be ready in time for the fall. 

Campuses across the country have closed and courses are being taught online to keep students safe.

It would seem incongruous, then, to bring football players back to entertain fans and fatten the coffers of athletic departments and television networks.

Someone ought to spread that message to people who need to hear it. People like Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy, who showed a towering sense of ignorance and single-mindedness last week. 

Gundy, who has only had one losing season in 16 years in Stillwater, told a media conference call last Tuesday that his players needed to return to campus to practice and prepare for the 2020 season, even if we don’t know if or when that will happen.

The reason for the rush, Gundy said, is that the program generates nearly $40 million in annual revenue for the state, badly needed revenue.

And subjecting the players to exposure to the virus? Well, Gundy said, they’re young and they could fight it off.

By Friday, Gundy must have realized how colossally tone-deaf he sounded, perhaps with some prompting, and he apologized. 

The world may have changed for everyone, but for the NFL and people like Mike Gundy, it’s just business as usual.  

And that’s how I see it for this week.




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