Well, the Big Ten finally cracked.
It was always too much to ask that possibly the only good decision the organization has ever made with regard to the well-being of student-athletes stand. After weeks of pressure from parents, brain-dead politicians, and a sentient lump of ear wax in the White House, the Big Ten announced today it will return to football at the end of October. For once, they had made the right decision but America browbeat them into reversing course, because that’s what America is these days. Ignorance and selfishness rule the land.
Nevermind that COVID is spiking at college campuses all over the country. Nevermind that just today, multiple White House staffers tested positive for the virus. Nevermind that President Trump curiously only seems to care about college football being played in toss-up states, not deep blue states, say, for example, like California, Washington and Oregon. The mouth breathers that refuse to wear masks want their college football, dammit.
And now they’re getting it.
The Big Ten was quick to let everyone know that they’ve “adopted significant medical protocols,” to keep everyone “safe, including daily antigen testing. Positive antigen tests will then require a more-stringent PCR test to confirm the finding. All this, despite the fact that the FDA’s website says that negative antigen tests may also need to be confirmed by a PCR test. So what is the point of the antigen test at all? Maybe we should ask the Big Ten.
But I’ve got another question: Right now, my son is holed up in an off-campus apartment at a Big Ten University. It was an agonizing decision to let him go to school at all. But, as his college was one of the first to shut down as COVID ramped up in the spring, my husband and I begrudgingly allowed him to try. Since then, he’s been confined mostly to his apartment, outside of taking walks and throwing the football around with his roommates. We’ve stressed the importance of creating a “bubble” to his group of friends, and for the most part, they’ve stuck to it (as far as we know). But it means no trips to campus, no parties, no activities, no hanging out in each other’s apartments — in short, nothing that makes college, well college.
Our son was tested when he got to school, but hasn’t been tested since, as all of his classes are online. What’s more, he can’t even get a test unless he suspects he has COVID. So, Big Ten, can my kid get daily testing and “enhanced” medical support in the event he tests positive? I mean, it’s all about the students, right? I’d love for things to return to semi-normal for my kid, and if the B1G can get these tests for athletes, surely they can get them for the rest of the students, too.
I’m being facetious of course. If my child was a college athlete, I wouldn’t let him anywhere near his sport, and I have serious concerns about the fitness of the parents who are screaming to do so. And I certainly wouldn’t put my kid’s safety in the hands of the Big Ten or college football coaches, who have been screaming ignorance into the void since this entire thing began. I mean, it’s not like the Big Ten has a raging history of ignoring the safety of students or anything.
Just yesterday, LSU coach Ed Orgeron admitted that “most of his team” has contracted the virus.
“Most of our players have caught it,” Orgeron said. “I think that hopefully they won’t catch it again, and hopefully they’re not out for games.”
Right. With all the evidence that COVID can lead to lingering heart damage, even in young, asymptomatic people, the real concern here is whether or not players miss games. Games seem to be the priority here, and an absolutely asinine number of people responsible for the care of young people seem to agree with Orgeron. We’re gonna need a remake of Idiocracy, because the original is starting to look more like a documentary than a farce.
At this point, it’s impossible to change the minds of those who believe COVID is a hoax, believe masks are part of a conspiracy, or who care about watching college football over and above the good of everything else in society. But as long as daily testing is supposedly making this “safe” for players, shouldn’t they also be available to college students on campus right now? Though my son doesn’t have to go on campus for classes, his school is in “hybrid” mode, meaning some of his roommates do. He interacts with them each and every day. That seems at least as risky as football practice. Shouldn’t we have “significant medical protocols” for all those students living and studying on campuses right now? Because if my child tests positive, we don’t have access to the “enhanced cardiac screening” the Big Ten is making available to athletes.
To be clear, I don’t believe any students — athletes or not — should be put in a position to contract COVID right now. If most parents had their way, we’d keep our kids safely ensconced at home until this entire pandemic is over. And I certainly don’t begrudge schools taking care of their athletes the best way they know how, no matter how ill-advised their decision to return to play is.
But each week, students from my son’s campus are now going to interact with players from other schools. They’re going to spit and scream and climb all over each other. Then they’re going to take whatever they pick up back to campus and spread it around. It’s inevitable. We can’t get grown adults to stop partying and defying bubble rules, how can we expect college students to be flawless in this regard?
Big Ten football is not only dangerous for athletes, it endangers the entire campus community. There’s no way for it not to.
So, Big Ten, when can my kid expect to start getting his daily test?