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Editorial


Front Page - Friday, August 14, 2020

#WeWantToPlay, but are we willing to put in the work?




#WeWantToPlay. Of course we do. Unfortunately, #WeDontWantToPutInTheWork necessary to allow us to return to pre-COVID-19 normalcy.

Last weekend, several college athletes, the most visible being Clemson quarterback and future No. 1 draft pick Trevor Lawrence, got together on a video call and began to use the hashtag #WeWantToPlay to voice their frustration with growing concern there will be no college football this fall.

Power 5 conference commissioners also met, and the Big 10 canceled its season Tuesday. The others might have followed by the time you read this.

All college football fans want the season to go forward. We yearn for the return of normalcy, and nothing defines fall like football. From tailgating to a drumline escorting the matching band into the stadium to the games themselves, football – both college and professional – is as much a part of autumn as falling leaves.

A return would represent a big step forward, even if stadiums are restricted to few or no fans.

And we could have had it all. But our leaders pretended COVID-19 would disappear. And our short spring quarantines conflicted with what we wanted, complete freedom to enjoy long Memorial Day and Fourth of July weekends and summer in crowded bars and pools and on packed lakes and beaches.

My psychology 101 professor told us one of the things separating the haves and the have-nots is a grasp of delayed gratification. People who do well financially are able to forego impulse buying in favor of saving or investing, giving themselves a greater financial reward in the future.

There have been many studies – one cookie now or two cookies in 30 minutes, for example – to help prove that smart people are willing to wait for a greater reward.

This year of COVID-19 has shown that we are clearly unable to delay our reward. We will gobble that single cookie, label those willing to wait as losers and demand three cookies as they are enjoying their two.

Which brings us back to college football.

“I would encourage people to pay attention to what we’re dealing with, and if you really, really want sports, football and all those things, then wear your mask and keep social distancing,” Phil Fulmer, the University of Tennessee director of athletics, said in June. He was right.

But football was months away, right? So why not pretend the virus would “simply go away” and not let it ruin our summer.

They didn’t get the message in Clemson, where at least 53 student-athletes have tested positive, reports reveal. The No.1-ranked Tigers will be without defensive end Xavier Thomas, a freshman All-America selection in 2018. He caught the virus in the spring.

And what of the team’s leader, Lawrence, who likely would have been the first player taken in the 2020 draft had he been eligible. Players must be three years removed from high school before being eligible for the draft.

So, barring injury or becoming infected with COVID-19, Lawrence stands to make millions following the 2021 draft.

As Kathy Carlson explains in an article beginning on page 7, doctors don’t know for sure what long-term effects are caused by COVID-19, but there’s a good chance those who recover will have heart, lung and cognitive problems. Professional quarterbacks need to have all three of those functions to thrive and survive.

Why would someone like Lawrence risk it when he could sit out the season, social distance, work on conditioning and reap the rewards he’s spent his life sweating to achieve.

Because #wewanttoplay.

Because now is always more important than later when you’re young and bulletproof.

He might figure it out. If so, he’ll be ahead of the 5.05 million-plus who have contracted the virus and the 162,000-plus who have died from it in the U.S.

The NBA and NHL have had the best outcome so far while playing “bubbles.” That’s not possible for college students.

Wear a mask in public and stay away from crowds. Let’s starve this virus so we can have sports, jobs and schools back.

Lyle Graves is associate publisher and executive editor of the Nashville Ledger, Knoxville Ledger and Hamilton County Herald. He can be reached at lgraves@tnledger.com.