We Don’t Need Football
As a country, we don’t need football.
We said we needed baseball, basketball, and hockey. But did the pandemic go away with their arrival? Has watching sterilized versions of each sport fixed the economy?
Of course, they have made us happier. They’ve taken up our time and given us something to talk about besides COVID-19. Except, if you follow the sports at all, COVID-19 is ever-present. From the suspensions for breaking protocol or leaving the bubble, to empty stands with cardboard cutouts, nothing feels normal. Sure, it’s better than those months where there were no sports. But it still doesn’t feel right.
Do I want college football? More than anything. I feel it in my bones every August. The allure of a crisp Fall Saturday filled with friends and football is what drags me through the malaise of another scorching hot Summer.
But, as a country, our problems won’t be fixed with football. We don’t need it, we want it. And even if the president himself says we need it, we don’t. I can’t imagine the rest of 2020 without it, but I’d understand the perspective of those who decide to cancel.
I’d be unhappy, angry, and annoyed at a lack of leadership and planning. But, that’s nothing new in 2020. If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that we can’t ever get what we want and, even if we try sometimes, we can barely get what we need.
But some people do need it. The coaches, players, athletic trainers, marketing professionals, ticket-takers, concession stand workers, media members, camera operators, referees, groundskeepers, and more all earn their livelihoods from football. Of course, for college football players, it’s not a paid job, yet. And some say therein lies the problem. In order to declare that football is a need more than a want, the players can’t be unpaid amateurs playing for the love of the game and a scholarship.
But even as unpaid amateurs, the players are declaring their need for the game. Trevor Lawrence is touted by many as the next Patrick Mahomes. Mahomes just signed a contract worth $500 million. Lawrence will likely be a top five NFL Draft pick whether there’s a season or not. If he does play and contracts COVID-19 and potentially gets a heart condition that ruins his career, he could argue a loss of potentially half a billion dollars. Yet, he says he needs to play.
Media and fans so often want to make the college football player out to be this unfortunate creature being forced to play a game without pay against their will. Truth be told, many of these guys would play for no money and no scholarship. That doesn’t make it right and I’m not defending the amateur model as it currently exists, but it’s true.
They just spent four years giving their heart and soul for a high school team you’ve never heard of. They risked career-ending injury every single time they stepped on a practice field.
Football isn’t like other sports. There are significantly more practices in football than there are games. Even at the top level of the sport, you get to suit up with your teammates less than 20 times a year. Your favorite college football player probably played less than 40 times for your school in his entire career.
So, no, you and I might not need football. But for the players who spend all year working out, practicing, putting their bodies on the line day-in-and-day-out, they feel like they need a football season.
That’s the balance that the administrators, conference heads, and school presidents have to strike. Do they feel okay taking a risk with the well-being of people who are willing to take the risk themselves? They might be young and feel invincible, but players are also adults who have the same access to information as everyone else.
I hope they take their time to make a well-informed and wise decision regarding this season. I don’t know what the right answer is, all I know is that they shouldn’t listen to the fans declaring their need or a bread-and-circuses statement from a president looking to keep us happy and distracted.
They should first listen to medical experts, but they shouldn’t discount the desires of players, coaches, and others who stand to accept the most risk and reap the most reward.