I’m not sure what’s receiving more coverage these days — the surprising news that college students returning to campus are having huge parties, or that we Southern rednecks want college football to continue this season.
Both are major stories for sure, judging by the amount of breathless national reporting that seems primarily focused on the South.
If you took the hot tub time machine back even a year ago, it would have been absurd to think there would ever be a question about canceling SEC football, or that a Sigma Chi kegger would receive ’round the clock media attention. But 2020 provides.
Why people are at all surprised or super chaffed by college kids having blowout parties in the face of the COVID-19 crisis is difficult to understand. Having blowout parties is typically the college students’ answer to dangerous situations. Cat 5 storm bearing down on your city? Hurricane party!
It’s been far easier to convince the post-graduate population of this country of the inevitability of death should they look at someone else without wearing a mask than it has to scare college and high school students out of the natural feeling of invincibility that is part of being young.
Surely some of that is simply the numbers don’t frighten young people. As I pointed out last week, Mobile County has only had one person under the age of 24 die as a result of contracting COVID, and statewide, people under 25 make up just 0.3 percent of the fatalities.
In the pantheon of risky college behaviors, COVID, so far, is way behind the Four Horsemen of casual sex, drinking and driving, taking drugs and chugging alcohol, in terms of what I personally would be worrying about if my kids were starting college this year. Even if the students haven’t taken statistics yet, they’ve still probably figured that out as well.
The argument that even though the young aren’t affected by COVID the same way older people — particularly those over 65 — are, they should be wary of bringing it home to their parents or grandparents is also probably lost on kids who aren’t living with either.
So, you get national outlets like CBS doing stories that say, “Alabama college students’ ‘ongoing party’ raises questions about safety — and football season.” In that particular story, Alabama Athletic Director Greg Byrne has a tweet quoted that shows a photo of unmasked students waiting in line at a bar while he implores them, “Who wants college football this fall?? Obviously not these people!! We’ve got to do better than this for each other and our campus community. Please wear your masks!”
We’re now in the strange position of using college football as a carrot to entice recalcitrant students into wearing their masks while trying to pick each other up for casual sex. Maybe all those students standing in line would be moved to pull out their masks if they read Mr. Byrne’s plea, but somehow I doubt it. For the vast majority of students, COVID hasn’t presented a personal threat.
And that’s another reason you see so many college football players saying they want to go on with the season. They recognize their time to play football is very limited, and for most of them, it will be the end of organized sports once they graduate. For others, the possibility of joining the NFL and perhaps making millions also hangs in the balance. Sacrificing a quarter of the time they have to prove themselves worthy of going to the next level in order to stay safe from a disease that’s almost certainly not going to kill them or probably even make them sick IF they catch it at all is a hard sell to student-athletes.
I know, I know … It all seems incredibly self-centered to talk blithely of having football games at a time when people are dying. The common thread in all of this is how selfish football players and football programs — as well as their adoring fans — are by pushing to play games at this time. In fact, our entire region is portrayed as being naïve and selfish for wanting to watch football and for the SEC moving ahead with an altered schedule.
“It just figures those pointy-headed, Trump-loving inbreeds want to play football while they drink hydroxychloroquine mixed with Bud heavy,” is the general attitude I’ve felt reading both outright criticism and “objective” news stories. The correct course of action, of course, is to shut everything down, hide at home and just wait to see if Putin loans us his vaccine, right?
It’s just as easy to look at that attitude as being equally selfish, though. Putting aside the simple fun of virtue-shaming parties and weddings where people weren’t wearing masks, taking football away from student-athletes when it appears highly unlikely the disease will actually harm them isn’t considering all of the hard work, hopes and dreams tied up in college football. Some of these students’ lives will be unalterably changed if the seasons are canceled. That’s the same at the high school level.
Many of those who want everything shut down hardly seem to care about such trivialities. There’s also little concern about the tens of millions who have lost jobs, lost businesses or will lose their homes, or the people starving to death all over the Third World because of the impossibility of making a living due to lockdowns.
But what if the script was flipped and it was made illegal for people over 65 to leave their homes? It would almost certainly cause deaths to plummet since that age group makes up the vast, vast majority of COVID fatalities. We’ve made it illegal for people to take the calculated risk of getting a haircut these days, but haven’t addressed the highest risk group of all.
Of course, I’m not suggesting seniors be banished to their homes, but think about how unfair it would be to not allow older citizens to gauge the risks for themselves, and then apply that to whether it’s fair for people who have a far, far lower risk factor to not have the opportunity to make the same choices.
Maybe sports or college beer bashes are just too much “fun” during this Draconian exercise in disease-fighting, but they still don’t present as much danger as continuing to dismantle nearly every aspect of life.
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