Debate about college football embodies broken COVID response

"Whether to proceed with college and professional sports in the pandemic should be a fairly straightforward question. The risks of our activities have to be judged against their necessity, and given that no single season of a spectator sport is strictly necessary, any game that poses a significant danger of infecting and killing more people should be canceled."

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Opinion

August 17, 2020 - 9:08 AM

Kansas Jayhawks offensive lineman Brad Thorson (76) celebrates with quarterback Todd Reesing (5) in a 2009 college football game against Neraska. KANSAS CITY STAR/SHANE KEYSER/TNS

Whether to proceed with college and professional sports in the pandemic should be a fairly straightforward question. The risks of our activities have to be judged against their necessity, and given that no single season of a spectator sport is strictly necessary, any game that poses a significant danger of infecting and killing more people should be canceled.

Alas, little can be judged so rationally in our time and place, much less a sport with a propensity to make so many grown Americans as emotional as football does. With all the controversy but none of the import of reopening schools, the parallel debate over whether to play the college game this fall has devolved from public health debate to partisan culture skirmish.

Citing the danger to student-athletes and their communities, two major college football conferences, the San Francisco-based Pac-12 and Midwest-based Big Ten, canceled fall football this week. Still holding out hope of going forward with the season, however, are the three major conferences more rooted in Southern hotbeds of football fanaticism and, not incidentally, coronavirus transmission.

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