Counter-productive perversity at the New York Times: Two sportswriters who don’t want college football this year are accusing those who do of putting lives at risk (even though college football games started up two weeks ago, and so far, so good).
The Big 10 Conference executed a reverse of its previous decision to delay its football season, and will instead play games this year, starting in late October. That reversal gave two of the paper’s ostensible sports columnists corona-induced heartburn.
Billy Witz, who for some reason is the paper’s “On College Football” columnist, was distressed to learn that more college teams would be playing this year: “The Situation Has Changed. Or Has It?” The text box: “The Big Ten tries, sort of, to rationalize its decision to play.”
Members of several fraternities and sororities at Michigan State University have been ordered to isolate for two weeks after a coronavirus outbreak on campus. Wisconsin’s chancellor urged students to “severely limit” their movements after more than 20 percent of its tests on students over Labor Day weekend came back positive….
It was against this backdrop that the Big Ten Conference, with the virus running rampant on many of its campuses, reversed course on Wednesday and declared it would play football starting next month. Conference leaders, who only five weeks ago postponed the fall season until the spring, said the science related to the pandemic had changed so much over the intervening 36 days that it was now safe to play.
The way the decision was met with hallelujahs in locker rooms, coaches’ offices, the warrens of social media occupied by die-hard fans and even at the White House — to say nothing of congratulations offered up by several reporters on a conference call with Big Ten leaders — it might have seemed as if Jonas Salk had risen and delivered a new vaccine.
Alas, a more fitting image is this: the conference presidents, fitted with fire-retardant suits, ordering another cocktail while their houses continued to burn.
Kurt Streeter’s Times column adopted the same wearying, hectoring tone: “A College Football Conference Can Choose Players Over Profits for a Change.” (Streeter doesn’t like the NFL playing games either.) Streeter begged the Pac-12 Conference not to follow the Big 10 Conference into the valley of death:
We are witnessing an egregious preference for profit over public health and disregard for morality and common sense, not to mention the health of young athletes.
Don’t fall into the trap, U.S.C., Oregon, Stanford, Washington State, Colorado, Utah.… Stand firm Pac-12.
With the coronavirus raging from coast to coast, the Big Ten voted Wednesday to play football this fall. It bent to a chorus of players, coaches and fans, including President Trump, who had demanded it.
It is a birthright, the chorus rang out, not only for the N.F.L., but for college campuses, too.
It is not.
One rather doubts anyone called college or pro football a “birthright.”
The Times normally welcomes empowered athletes — until they disagree with a Times columnist:
But these are college kids, not pros. They are not living in anything like a controlled environment. If they get infected, as have the majority of football players at Louisiana State University, its coach and athletic director said, then what?
It will be next to impossible to keep an 18-year-old football player who has contracted the virus — but feels just fine — from seeing his girlfriend, going to campus parties, or returning home for grandma’s birthday.
Perhaps keeping themselves corona-free so they can play football on Saturday is actually a powerful incentive for those 18-year-olds? Practicing and playing football is certainly safer than late-night bar-hopping at campus bars.
At least Times writers like Witz and Streeter are there to “care,” even if greedy, callous football fans aren’t.
Sending young, unpaid Black athletes to provide football entertainment for wealthy, predominantly white universities that are laden with the virus — and knowing many of the players will return to their vulnerable neighborhoods and possibly spread more infection — is a dubious proposition. It could end up adding more layers of suffering.
Too many people do not care.