Dietlin: Why Covid Can’t Keep Us Away from CFB

Posted on August 10, 2021


  By Mik Dietlin, SportsPac12

“Time is only an illusion produced by the succession of our
states of consciousness as we travel through eternal duration.”
—Helena Blavatsky

Before heading into the 2020 college football season, we all knew what to expect regarding the pandemic and the hope for a completed schedule.

It would be a war unlike any in NCAA history, proving to be an unwinnable one, as 139 games were canceled.

NCAA logoMany games were hurriedly assembled with less than three days notice. Nearly every team that participated experienced a postponement or cancellation.

You could say, in displaying that good ol’ pioneering spirit America was founded upon, we forged ahead despite the unrelenting force of our enemy, defying the odds as we went into battle.

We played football.

No player died or suffered a life threatening illness as far as I’m aware, though University of Illinois computer science professor Dr. Sheldon Jacobson foretold otherwise.

Dr. Jacobson

In June of 2020 he told CBS Sports he projected a 30-50% infected rate among the 13,000 players competing in the FBS, including 3-7 deaths if the season went ahead.

“A few of them could end up in the hospital, and you’ll have a small number that could die,” he said. “I don’t want to sugar coat it for you…I just want to give you the facts…If everybody comes together under normal circumstances, we’ll probably see that kind of outcome.”

Dr. Jacobson seemed to disregard the cautious nature of that statement by then proclaiming, “I guarantee someone is going to die. The virus does not discriminate.”

Not exactly Joe Namath predicting a Jets win pre-Super Bowl, and I don’t think Dr. Jacobson was sunbathing poolside at a Miami hotel confirming it.

I was of a similar mindset back in June of 2020, writing that the season should be canceled, even without an arsenal of analytical machinery proving how accurate I’d be.

It doesn’t matter whether you were for playing football or against it.

The differing opinions—mine included—all based on personal knowledge, which in time, had no exact relation to what was going to happen. It’s a mind trick.

When the season ended, at least a small amount of success was attained through sheer will power. And a little good fortune.

Mario Cristobal | goducks.com

I maintain that will power, in the case of simple activities like wanting to play football, is nothing more than having the desire to get what you want. There are other applications for the term not commonly considered that I won’t draw on now.

But for our purposes, if enough people want to play football in the midst of the largest pandemic in 100 years, then football will be played.

There’s nothing spectacular about our response to the pandemic last year. Protective protocols were installed, and off we went.

However, when you look at all the havoc caused by COVID-19 last year, it’s clear we were treated to a significantly inferior product than what we were used to. Were we ripped off?

No, because we gladly watched anyway.

It’s like buying tickets to see your favorite band, one you’ve loved for decades, knowing more than half the original members are either dead, taking up residence in a Lhasa monastery, or manager of a CVS pharmacy.

The old songs you grew up worshiping could never touch you the same way, but you have to find out if there’s any magic left.

Aging Beach Boys | beachboysopinions

Halfway through the show a bright light (not coming from the moth-eaten lasers above the stage) streams wisdom into your brain, confirming what you’ve suspected—there is no magic in the building.

The idea of time has played another trick on your consciousness.

Far too much energy was spent circumventing disease and not on the usual preparation of trying to win a football game. How else do you explain LSU’s defense last year!

Practice, in the months before the games, was severely restricted, if they happened at all. Still we went about the business of squeezing as much enjoyment out of college football as we possibly could, knowing this version was diluted.

Why? Without delving too deeply into it, we are a human race starving for constant entertainment.

We consume it like we consume calories—voraciously. There’s no thought that perhaps it might be a good idea to take a serious look at this insatiable desire to see if we can redirect the energy a bit.

We’d rather float along like amoeba on the ocean surface, helpless to do anything about it, just as we seem to be in front of so many other problems we ought to solve.

We like to think our modern civilization is far superior to any previous incarnation.

Neanderthal Man | wired.com

A common joke is to refer to a subset of society or anyone in particular we find inferior as “Neanderthal.” This is an insult to the Neanderthal, our highly efficient ancestors, who’s psychic prowess and physical-world understanding far exceeded our own.

But because they didn’t develop the technology to invent a hand-held computer to stare at all day, they will forever be consider a lower form of human species. Yet another trick of the clock.

The equation, Time + Technological Refinement = Superior Intelligence, is false.

You can say that the invention of the automobile has made travel more efficient, and therefore one example of why modern life is more intelligent than of centuries ago. But you also need to factor in the tremendous death and injury produced by the invention.

Can we still claim it a part of a higher form of intelligence? Maybe my point of view is ungenerous here, but I’m not changing it.

College football should not have been played last year. Dozens of elite players throughout the country thought so as well and opted out, fearful of jeopardizing their NFL draft opportunities.

Fine Art America

Fortunately they weren’t criticized for lacking that American can-do spirit at the time, pressured to put your big boy pants on and play. We understood they made decisions guarding future earnings, enabling them to provide a comfortable life for their families.

It’s now August of 2021, and another year of football is a few weeks away.

There’s a notable absence of pandemic discussion in the media relating to the start of the season, which is odd to me because of the Delta variant making the rounds worldwide.

The school division where I’m employed is already preparing for the possibility of another shut down shortly after school opens later this month.

This column is meant to sound a heedful tone, not a warning shot. I’m not suggesting anything here except for us to pay attention, stay prepared, and not go wandering into harm’s way.

It’s comforting to know we’ve got valuable experience and knowledge to rely on if infections skyrocket come late October.

Clemson vs. Alabama | Getty Images

But we’re dealing with a new variant, and a new unknown, possibly bringing additional challenges we have to be ready to face and adapt to no matter what the consequences are.

Like you, I’m ready to dive into football. I can’t wait to see The Big Three dominate yet again. I’m talking about Alabama, Clemson, and Ohio State of course.

And I’m being facetious: their dominance is making me weary, much like Nazi Germany must have grown weary of Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin, The Big Three of the 1940’s.

No one knows how this college football season will play out.

No scientist or doctor, no matter how many sophisticated gizmos are at his or her disposal, can tell us exactly what lies over the horizon. No amount of experience and knowledge can accurately predict the future.

In our quest for immediate gratification, we want to rush through the process and remove doubt before we begin.

Let’s dispense with speculation. We don’t know. All we can do is the best we can. And, at the end of the 2021 season, once we get there, we’ll know what happened.




—More from Mik Dietlin—