Opinion: Former UGA assistant says ‘the country needs college football’ and he’s right
You’re probably reading this at home. That’s an easy guess at the moment because just about everyone’s at home all the time these days. You don’t need me to tell you why.
It’s an unprecedented event. We’re caring for each other by staying away from each other. It’s undoubtedly a noble cause, but its nobility doesn’t stop it from, at times, feeling a bit tedious.
Our restlessness to return to normal, and our anxiety about whether “normal” still exists is a real problem that’s only going to grow as more time passes.
The truth is — despite the occasional viral photo of too many people in too confined a space — folks are, for the most part, complying with the call to socially distance themselves. And they’re doing it for the right reasons, but this won’t remain true forever.
People will eventually need to see some evidence that the extraordinary steps they’ve taken have counted for something, and they’ll need to have some certainty about when it’s all going to end.
That’s where football comes into play.
Former Georgia offensive line coach and newly minted Arkansas head coach Sam Pittman made a radio appearance this week and was asked by the host whether he’d considered the possibility there would be no football season this year, and Pittman’s answer perfectly captures the sentiment of many fans.
“I don’t know if my mind won’t let me think about it but no. We have to stay safe, we have to do the right thing, the country needs college football,” Pittman said. “So, no, I haven’t thought about it. Obviously, we’ll do whatever they tell us to do but we’ll also be ready whenever they tell us to go, but no, that would be a sad situation and, of course, so is this virus, I understand – I’m not comparing the two by any stretch, but no, I haven’t really thought about it.”
Credit to Pittman for not minimizing the disease while, also, not minimizing the need for society to eventually recover from the disease.
At some point, we will need to start living again, and rebuild our economy again. That probably can’t be done until we do something to mitigate against the illness that’s spreading across the globe, and that’s what the shelter-in-place orders are for. Furthermore, the belief that the light at the end of this dark tunnel is a glowing stadium filled with football could be a powerful motivator over the next few weeks to convince people to stringently follow the advice of health experts and the orders from the government.
Alabama governor Kay Ivey seems to understand that. She mentioned football when announcing a stay-at-home order for her state.
“If you’re eager for a fall football season coming up, what we’re doing today gives us a better chance of being able to do that,” Ivey said.
It’s the kind of thing you’d expect a governor from deep in the heart of SEC Country to say, and it’s also probably the best message the residents of her state could hear.
Enduring unpleasantness now is made easier by the thought of happier times in the not-too-distant future, and nothing makes most of us happier than college football.
With that in mind, it was nice to hear Clemson coach Dabo Swinney say this week that he believes the season will start on time and go on as planned.
“That’s the best-case scenario, and I think that’s what’s going to happen. I don’t have any doubt. I have zero doubt that we’re going to be playing and the stands are going to be packed,” Swinney said.
Swinney’s obviously not an expert on infectious diseases, and, to some, his optimism might seem misplaced. But his prediction, even if it turns out to be too ambitious, is still probably better for our collective mood than the onslaught of doomsday projections that aren’t exactly in short supply these days.
For instance, former Kansas State president John Wefald said Friday on the Paul Finebaum show that the season would be canceled unless a vaccine is in place by July.
This statement is unhelpful and also probably incorrect.
Will America be able to successfully monitor the spread of the disease and treat those who have it well enough that we can confidently congregate in crowds together again this fall? That remains to be seen, but assuming we won’t is a recipe for a malaise that will have real consequences.
In other words, there’s no guarantee that we’ll have college football this year, but Pittman is right to say that we need it. We need the thought of it to motivate us to do what’s right in the present, and to help rebuild our economy once all of this is done.