The Southeastern Conference and LSU are doing what they can to give football a chance to be played.
They have rolled out new protocols, new schedules, clamped down on access to their facilities and even made players and coaches meet and practice with masks on.
“We have to walk in and they take our temperature, and they give us a wristband to be able to walk through the building,” senior safety JaCoby Stevens said Wednesday in a video media interview session. “We have to wear a mask wherever we go in the building or on the field.
“It took time to get used to. I know I ran on the field for three years without a mask, so I know the first couple of times I had to run back to my locker and put it on. You’re going to have those kinds of growing pains, but other than that we’ve been really good here on our protocols. We’re making it easy for the people whose job is to take care of all of that.”
Tigers quarterback Myles Brennan gave some insight Wednesday into his hermit-like existence, or at least the existence of a hermit who can throw a football on a string 40 yards. He lives by himself, goes to the football complex, goes back to his apartment and takes online classes.
If Brennan wants to see the sun, other than the way it beats down on LSU’s practice fields, he can Google it.
The SEC and its member programs have made clear their intent to play football, starting Sept. 26. Maybe it’s the right path — a path the Atlantic Coast Conference and Big 12 are agreeing with. Maybe it’s a dead end and the Big Ten and the Pac-12 are right to postpone their fall football seasons (though it really feels like they’re canceling).
The point is, the SEC and its schools are totally committed.
It is time, beyond time, for fans and students to be totally committed as well.
If you want the pleasure of watching college football this fall, folks, wear a mask. Do the social distancing thing. Wash … your … hands. Even then it’s no guarantee coronavirus won’t come knocking on your door, but it is a pretty sure bet it will help us knock down the spread and the number of cases and positive tests.
In other words, do just a little of the sacrificing that the players and coaches are doing right now.
You think Brennan really wants to shut himself off from the non-LSU football world? You think Stevens wants to try to huff and puff through a workout wearing a mask? Of course not. But they are doing their part, more than their part, for the effort.
And make no mistake. This is like a war effort. A war not against bombs and planes and some nation’s armored divisions, but an insidious microscopic virus that gangs up on you before you know what’s happening.
Unfortunately, what’s happening in and around a lot of college campuses that are trying to play football is tipping the battleground in favor of the virus. There are scenes of young people going around campuses not wearing masks, or worse, congregating in parties and huge groups.
It’s things like that which prompted Notre Dame and North Carolina to pull back to online-only classes. It prompted Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne to call out his school’s students in frustration when he saw images of them packed, sans masks, in front of a near-campus hangout in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
“Who wants college sports this fall??” Byrne asked Sunday in an exasperated tweet. “Obviously not these people!! We’ve got to do better than this for each other and our campus community. Please wear your masks!”
More cases on college campuses and in the towns they occupy are bound to occur if schools insist on bringing students back to campus. Personally, I believe it's worth the gamble. But the angels of our better nature apparently are still on summer break and not on the shoulders of a lot of folks.
We live in an age of instant gratification (or at least the gratification of buying something online and waiting for it to arrive instead of making a quick, masked-up dash to the store) and an age where self-sacrifice is not viewed as a virtue.
But we need to be on a war footing, people. Not a war like the soldiers landing on Normandy’s beaches in 1944, but a war like people back home fought in 1994 when they had to use ration coupons to buy sugar, meat, canned goods and gasoline for the car.
They did it then. Can we do it now? And if not, what’s the problem? Is it because coronavirus is the enemy with no face? Do we need an enemy that looks like Adolph Hitler to focus our attention?
There have been a few players opt out, and they must be respected. But by and large, college football players appear desperate to play, as evidenced by Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields’ much-celebrated petition. And they are pleading with all of us outside the relative cocoon of the football facility to do our part.
“Just be clean and follow the protocols,” Stevens said. “I promise you, the governor is not putting in rules just to be mean and just because he has the power to. He’s doing it because he genuinely cares about every citizen. Just follow the protocols LSU is putting into place as well.
“I promise you, if you follow the rules everything will go all right. We’ve learned this since we’re 5 years old, so it’s time to put them into action.”
So, as Denzel Washington’s lawyer character from “Philadelphia” might have said, explain it to me like I’m a 5-year-old.
Wear a mask.
Wash your hands.
Stay home if you’re sick.
Follow the rules, and maybe, if you’re good, we’ll get a football season to follow this fall.