Dietlin: We Know CFB will Happen & We Know it Shouldn’t

Our failed response to the upswing in COVID-19 cases makes playing sports this fall untenable

Posted on August 1, 2020

  By Mik Dietlin, SuperWest Sports

The most laughable thing in this suddenly not-so-wide world of sports doesn’t take place on any court, field, ice rink, or administration office.

Well, maybe in any of the aforementioned sports locker rooms or those luxurious gold-plated administration bathrooms, but we aren’t privy to the shenanigans those secure walls harbor, thank goodness.

Colin Cowherd | Photo courtesy MTSU Sidelines

It occurs on Colin Cowherd’s television show, specifically in the egocentric distance he places himself from his interviewees and co-hosts, operating from an elevated Wizard of Oz control panel.

You half expect he’s got the capability to press some red button and zap anyone he chooses to the Underworld where ill-informed guests and their substandard takes go to comprehend his masterful sports philosophies.

Only then are they able to return to Colin’s Earth (Not to be confused with the much better managed ego belonging to pro football commentator Colinsworth).

I’m ready to proclaim Cowherd a comedic genius if the aim is absurdity, exaggerating to an outlandish degree the universal talk show stage format of situating the star of the show at a slightly higher elevation than the peons.

That’s not what’s happening.

At least COVID-19 is giving us some respite from that bizarre visual, though it appears they could do a regular show with guests since everyone is positioned acres apart.

Cowherd is a harmless fellow, and one of the more entertaining personalities in sports. But he’s not remotely the dangerous, alternative voice in the vast sports-talk ocean of kelp he imagines he is. That territory is covered by the likes of Dan LeBatard and Bomani Jones, who also understand something about absurdity.

The real danger in sports, however, is how effortlessly the machinery is goose-stepping toward reopening, specifically college football.

Yes, questions and doubts are being raised daily by the media and fans whether playing football right now is a good idea, though you feel these questions and doubts are offered merely to satisfy either journalistic integrity, or social responsibility. Deep down, we all know their answer.

“Oh hell yes there’s gonna be a college football season!”

Samuel Jackson in Pulp Fiction. | Memegenerator

But there really shouldn’t be.

I’m not here to raise a bunch of questions and analyze the various components within.

I’m not even going to say, “No one wants the start of college football more than I,” then proceed to list all the reasons why it shouldn’t happen, as if I’m making some gargantuan sacrifice by giving up what I love for a few months, like I once sacrificed ice cream during Lent.

I will raise one doubt that for me, blows up the entire debate.

If a player tests positive for COVID-19, he’s quarantined for 14 days, minimum. Protocol necessitates strict contact tracing to determine if other players, coaches, or staff need testing. It’s not difficult to imagine if one defensive lineman becomes infected, one or more others will also, based on proximity to the infected player.

The fact that several members of a particular position group are missing at least 2 games due to “pandemic complications” is kind of a depressing thought I’d rather not lament while trying to enjoy a game.

There will also be those who choose to opt out, as Arizona backup quarterback Kevin Doyle Jr. did on August 1st, announcing—beyond criticism—that he will sit out the 2020 season for safety reasons.

And given the recent formation of a group of Pac-12 players threatening to opt out unless their list of demands on injustice, safety, and compensation issues are met, coaches might just find themselves shorthanded before the season starts anyway.

By the way, there’s no truth to the rumors these Pac-12 players are also demanding a helicopter and $5 million in unmarked bills.

We like to say football is a “survival of the fittest” sport, provided depth is relatively equal. If we’re full steam ahead on playing this season, the likelihood is it will turn into plain survival, as coaching staffs scramble to maintain complete rosters allowing them to take the field.

The NCAA’s Return-to-Sport guidelines, though an adequate foundation to help keep the spread of the virus to a minimum within the tiny scope of college athletics, fails to account for the inexplicable behavior from a great deal of the rest of the country, firmly entrenched in the New Hampshire state slogan, “Live Free Or Die.”

The NCAA is located in Indianapolis, IN

Remember those socially conscious restaurants long ago that sectioned off part of the dinning area for smokers, hoping to appease the complaints of educated non-smokers?

The idea was, “We obviously aren’t able to prevent smoke from escaping into non-smoking areas, but if we at least demonstrate to non-smokers we’re thinking about their health, maybe they’ll all just shut up.”

Similarly, we’re asking a small segment of the total population to adhere to rigid procedures to ensure safety while an immense number ignores them, rendering the entire practice ineffective.

Just ask Major League Baseball.

Recent data on COVID-19 spiking from John Hopkins University are simply embarrassing. Europe and Canada sit at around 75 newly confirmed cases per million residents. Japan is at the near-zero mark. And America—God bless her—is far and away Number One at 750, and rising.

Thankfully, the school district employing me is implementing the proper amount of caution, opting for nine weeks of student online home learning when school opens September 8th. Students will physically attend school when conditions decrease and maintain stabilizing levels for a definite length of time.

I’m unclear what the NCAA, University Presidents, and Athletic Administrators plan is for student athletes going forward, other than to get them competing as soon as humanly possible while establishing a “safety first and foremost” public perception.

How is traveling from Los Angeles to Dallas for a football game less safe than traveling from Seattle to Los Angeles?

Where is the scientific evidence proving that playing 10 or 11 games is safer than playing 12?

Image courtesy Barnes & Noble

The cancellation of not only sporting events, but events of every variety in American culture, are myriad and need not be listed to validate an argument. We are all aware. There’s no reason to think it won’t happen to college football.

Allow me to take you on a personal flashback that might prove relevant.

Date: 1995. Place: The Whiskey on Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles.

I was lingering among the scant but enthusiastic crowd awaiting Johnny Winter to torch his guitar strings. A noted heroin addict, Winter had reportedly kicked the habit.

The band members appeared as the lights were killed. Winter hobbled along like an octogenarian afraid of slipping on an icy sidewalk. In fact, he needed assistance from his bass player to make the harrowing journey across the stage to the front of his microphone stand, not to mention help strapping on and plugging in.

“Uh oh,” I said to my friend, who was far too busy drooling over the Hollywood fairer sex to notice the looming disaster.

What transpired remains the worst concert I ever saw, and will ever see.

I don’t know what combination of drugs Winter was under the influence of that night, but his incapacitated nature the entire evening, and his reliance on two easy licks during each and every pathetic solo, taught me a valuable lesson: On occasion, the show must not go on.

The gig should have been canceled. Greed on all sides prevented it. Winter’s contractual fulfillment (albeit in an abbreviated 45 minute set), guaranteed one and all made their money, and made the audience losers.

Granted, some have done everything they’ve been asked to do in this crisis. But as a nation, we’ve exhibited a sickening response to the upswing in COVID-19 cases since restrictions were lifted over a month ago and were officially allowed to go back outside and play.

We don’t deserve college football in the fall, or any other sports for that matter.

Call me cynical, but I don’t understand why anyone would really want sports to return under existing conditions. Sure, I’ll still watch the football games, which will resemble scrimmages more than real contests. After all, it’s my job to have a clue what’s going on. In addition to that, part of me has a perverse desire watching humanity screw up.

“Of course we can can gather a couple of hundred people together in tight quarters for several months during a pandemic we know virtually nothing about. And do it during flu season!”

Indeed, the unknown is embedded into every category and crevice of operation in this entire enterprise attempting to spit out a hollow form of entertainment to cash in on. It will be as lifeless as all the human cardboard cut-outs they’re bound to fill the stands with.

—More from Mik Dietlin—