Why are football teams, both college and pro, playing football in the Year of the Virus? 

It makes no sense unless all the college presidents, pro owners and coaches are fans of President Trump’s medical adviser Scott Atlas, who says all that masks stuff is baloney.

Players, and even Alabama coach Nick Saban, have come down with Covid-19 but the college presidents and the pro owners keep saying the show must go on. 

No fans in the stands, so what’s up? Ah, yes, those TV contracts. How could I have overlooked that? All these years as a journalist and I forget to follow the money?

I’d hoped UH president David Lassner, smart guy that he is, would shut down Rainbow Warrior football. But no, they are opening against Fresno State at Fresno. And then on to the next game, and the next.

All the teams are testing player and coaches. They sit out the ones who test positive. Even a quarterback without whom their winning odds plummet. The game must go on —- on TV. But what about players and coaches who get a false negative. Or play on a no-test day and are asymptomatic?

Here’s what a Wall Street Journal article said recently:

The dangers come because of the nature of the sport itself and the players it features. Football is incompatible with social distancing. It also relies on a large share of people, despite their relatively young ages, who could face a disproportionate risk of severe complications from the coronavirus. According to the NFL Players Association’s ongoing research, more than 70% of NFL players fall into a serious, at-risk category, such as being African-American or having a high body-mass index.

A rare heart condition thought to be linked with the coronavirus hasn’t much slowed down the viability of football this season. Myocarditis, inflammation of the heart muscle, has been found in at least five Big Ten Conference athletes and among several other athletes in other conferences.

Dr. Matthew Martinez, director of sports cardiology for Atlantic Health System in New Jersey, said he has received calls from physicians from at least a dozen colleges who have identified more than a dozen athletes with some post-COVID-19 myocardial injury.

People can get myocardial inflammation, feel fine and never know it. Most athletes who get myocarditis will be able to safely return to sports after a restriction of activity for three to six months. But in some cases, the inflammation can turn into scar tissue and put the player at risk for an irregular heartbeat that can lead to sudden cardiac arrest, which can be triggered by exercise.

A study published in July in JAMA Cardiology found that out of 100 patients in Germany who had recovered from the COVID-19 infection, 60% had findings of ongoing myocardial inflammation.

Barring changes to uniforms and equipment, all team sports violate three of the basic factors behind slowing the transmission of the coronavirus: masks, distance and density. Football is simply the worst transgressor. As USA TODAY reported:

It’s a sport played in close quarters even on the fringes of the action, with wide receivers and defensive backs jostling for position near the sidelines. The center of the action, meanwhile, exists over the ball — linemen repeatedly come into contact, pause at the whistle, return to the line of scrimmage, wait for the next snap and repeat.

But the games must go on, right? It’s about school spirit, the players who may have the right stuff for a pro career — oh, and the TV money. Did I forget the TV money?


Published by Bob Jones

Journalist since age 19. St. Petersburg Times, Noticias y Viajes in Madrid, Overseas Weekly in Frankfurt and Paris, the Louisville Courier- Journal, the Honolulu Advertiser, KGMB-TV, NBC News foreign correspondent in Africa and Southeast Asia, and MidWeek columnist. LL.B LaSalle University Law. 3 years in the U.S. Air Force. Covered: Biafran War in Nigeria (1968) Vietnam War (1969-73), Iraq in 1991. George Foster Peabody Award for distinguished journalism for reporting in China. 2 Emmys for documentaries. Married to journalist Denby Fawcett; one daughter. Brett Jones, foreign service officer, State Department.

4 replies on “Listen Up, David Lassner And Todd Graham!”

  1. Why does Hawaii even have a football team? Trying to mimic the mainland? What about those obscene football coach salaries? Absurd! My alma mater will play it’s first game Saturday. The arguments have been fierce in the Big Ten to let them play After the first courageous no.. Covid-19 pause has shown us just how unconscionable so many choices with little regard for human life, well-being. Thanks for approaching this issue.

  2. Agree. Totally bad idea. Couldn’t watch the NBA season. I expect that that down the road, Covid 19 after effects will become evident.

  3. Thank you for focusing on this issue. Maybe a high percentage of football bigwigs still support Trump and share his approach to the virus.

  4. “Principles are nice things. If you can afford them. I like to think I am a principled man, but then, most men do. The fact is, we all have a price, we all have buttons that can press to make us do things that are not entirely honorable. Principles do not pay the mortgage or clear our debts. A principled man is generally a man who has everything he wants or absolutely nothing to lose.”

    C.J. Tudor

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