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2020: The season was over before it began

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There is still the pretense of a season, but every day it grows more fictional

NCAA Football: Tennessee at Texas A&M Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

A year ago this thing seemed unassailable: a vast network of fortresses spread around the country. Huge and bulky structures jutting into the autumn skies, towering above the modest skylines of their towns. Foreboding roars came from them that could be heard miles away. They oozed and seeped money for a quarter out of every year, and that made everyone happy. It’s only when you get up close to these shiny new structures like modern Kyle Field that you can tell they feel a bit hollow. They’re solid enough, and new, and all that seems fine. But there’s something gone. There’s no sense of blood or sweat or tears trapped in the stone anymore. The rawness is gone, the primal atmosphere that stirs up the excitement in our blood. The souls have gone from these buildings, replaced by state-of-the-art WiFi and gourmet chicken tender kiosks. These half-billion dollar fortresses could not keep a microscopic foe in check. They’ll now most likely stand stark and silent and empty on Saturdays, an apocalyptic incongruity.

The crumbling of the 2020 college football season is representative of the failure of all American institutions this year, and was hastened by all the same faults: reckless spending, addiction to debt, bloat at all levels, a lack of true investment in safeguards, constant shortsightedness, and a leadership that wants all the trappings and wealth and power associated with being at the top, but none of the responsibility or accountability. Responsibility not only for economic decisions, but for the overall good of the student population. Texas A&M is certainly not alone or unique in this, but that doesn’t make it any less impactful in this crisis.

Let us make something clear: nobody wants this. No college football writer is sitting in his mom’s basement covered in Cheeto dust rejoicing because they were right about something so obvious that most people with any perception have known it all along, but were afraid to think it out loud. The people who cover this sport dive headlong into it and rarely emerge for months. Speaking personally, college football is the center of my life when it rolls around, for better or worse. It’s the time of year I most look forward to: the slow and happy slide into the holidays, set over a backdrop of pleasantly cooling weather. It’s irreplaceable. To think we were naive enough back in March and April to have hope for this season is laughable now. It’s a huge void to fill in our lives, and while there are certainly plenty of other pressing things going on in the world with which to occupy everyone’s time, it will be like learning to walk all over again. So if you want to be on the same side of history as Clay Travis, Danny Kanell, or Joel Klatt, then by all means go ahead and blame the “media” for causing a frenzy that resulted in administrators “caving in to the mob” or whatever buzzwords y’all are using these days. It’s certainly much more convenient than taking a hard look at all the exposed and seedy corners of these sprawling empires that have been built on the backs of amateurism. Like it or not, there’s no line between sports and politics anymore. A lot of people are suddenly realizing it takes a lot of soul-searching to reconcile one with the other days, and soul-searching is hard.

NCAA Football: Central Michigan at Miami Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

This is Greg Rousseau. He’s 6’7” and weighs 265. He was the ACC Rookie of the year last season, was second in the nation with 14 sacks, and was a second-team All-American as a redshirt freshman. He was also the first ‘Cane to opt out of 2020 last week.

“Why would someone at the peak of their prowess just give up on their team?” you might ask if you are certain type of person. “Why would they throw away their future and chance at millions blah blah blah?”

Rousseau’s brother shed some insight into this: he’s opting out because his mother is an ER nurse. “The unknown long term effects of the coronavirus played the primary role in his decision to opt out this season.” She has seen young adults die from the virus. This is front-row, first-hand knowledge. This is a potentially life-or-death decision, and it is not anyone’s right to criticize that. The players, just like all the rest of us, need to look out for their families’ health first.

I’m not a doctor or a medical expert, although I have spent lots of time in hospitals. I was born with a gene that gave me cardiomyopathy when I reached my 30s. I’ve spent the night in the ICU and I’ve had open-heart surgery and dealt with years of arrhythmias. Who cares? Well, cardiomyopathy, according to the Mayo Clinic, is now emerging as one of the more serious long-term complications associated with those who have had Covid, even those who may be younger and asymptomatic. You don’t catch this with the flu, and I can assure you, it ain’t a picnic.

But that’s just me. I know I’m extra cautious because I’m several times more likely to die if I catch this than most people. Y’all tough freedom-lovers can go ahead and yell at people like me all day long, I don’t really give a shit. That’s your only recourse, because you’re too afraid to walk up to someone like Gregory Rousseau and tell him he’s a coward and that his mother the ER nurse is an “alarmist”. Go ahead and sit that one out; it’s too bad you couldn’t practice that kind of restraint back in April or May, or we may have had a shot at football this year. Like everything else, college football is failing because we were too arrogant and complacent to believe that it could.