Coronavirus is the defining crisis and issue of our lifetimes. It is far and away the biggest crisis this nation has faced since World War II. My naive and flawed assumption was this would be our era’s World War II, a chance to forge political unity and a new understanding between our people. This idealistic and hopeful view was in retrospect incredibly ill-conceived. Too many people who are led around by this President and his social media acolytes like the pied-piper would never have let this be another World War II.
What I had hoped would be an opportunity for the United States to move past petty political squabbles and the ideological warfare of recent years, has instead become the greatest sign yet that the United States is descending into a farcical territory both politically and from a perspective of governance. That the US is led by a man in Donald Trump, with no core convictions no discernible political ideology (he is NOT a conservative) and motivated solely by self-preservation, often of the short-term variety fits this country’s current state very well.
The Battle over College Football
The latest example of this nation’s drift into the abyss is the battle over whether College Football is played this fall across the country. In the past, I have noted that College Football (a sport that I will admit I was once obsessed with myself in the interest of full disclosure) has in my opinion contributed to tribalism and anti-intellectual/non-critical thought among the most obsessive of its fans. I’ve even commented privately to more than a few prominent people that I believe that this specific sport and its impact on people’s minds (as well as the number of prominent people around the sport that are MAGA-types or culturally insensitive in general) helped lead to Donald Trump’s election. In many cases, I speak from experience with understanding the fandom around this sport in particular.
It’s also been telling to see how selfish many fans of the sport are. It’s okay for unpaid student athletes to risk their eventual livelihood and health of their families so the fan can be entertained, or more likely obsessed and angry on Saturday’s giving the individual a further excuse to be angry and get drunk in the middle of a pandemic. This is the very definition of entitlement.
College Football and Americana
College Football did have a positive role in a normal society. Once an event that brought people of different backgrounds and races together, and allowed urbanites to mix with those who live in small towns, it’s played a key role in the forging of a uniquely American culture. But that culture, like so much in this country has been corrupted in the 21st Century, by money and political thuggery. College Football in 2020 contributes more to the cognitive dissonance in American society than anything other than perhaps reality TV and violent binge-able Netflix series.
The past week’s events have confirmed all of this for me. College Football is more important to both the President and many of his supporters than the general public health of the nation. College Football is the “bread and circus” of the declining American Empire, that allows ignorance, cognitive dissonance and selfish arrogance to thrive in much of the country.
President Trump and his political acolytes pushing so hard for College Football to be played over the objections of medical professionals, University Presidents and academics demonstrates how important this sport is to distracting the public from the declining fortunes of this country and the mishandling of COVID-19. Trump’s comments also threaten the independence of academic institutions from political interference, as any decision to play football might be interpreted by many of us as a concession to Trump and his orchestrated campaign of bullying.
The last week has also further demonstrated how different than other major industrialized nations the United States has become.
Western Europe and Sports
When Coronavirus hit Western Europe (around the same time it arrived in the United States), sports including football (soccer) whose fans over there most resemble college football ones, suspended play. Sure some fans were unhappy, but realizing soccer was jeopardy motivated people to buckle down. Others smartly put things in perspective realizing in the middle of a global pandemic, and perhaps the biggest worldwide crisis since World War II, men and women kicking and chasing a round ball no longer mattered.
Western Europe gradually beat back the virus and this summer resumed football – without fans. Even as Covid numbers for the entire EU are on a daily basis smaller than here in the state of Florida, football and other sports resume without fans, and with incredible safety protocols in place. In fact, it appears most of these precautions and protocols will last the remainder of 2020 if not longer.
America had MONTHS to save College Football
Contrast that to the reaction this past week when it became obvious it would dangerous and perhaps also financially untenable to have college football played this fall. A nation who was afflicted with a Coronavirus crisis at the very same time as most of Western Europe, yet six months later is in WORSE shape than other major industrialized nations were at the “peak” of pandemic in early April.
Yet, many Americans persisted in protesting mask wearing, gathering in large groups, crowding into bars, defying safety protocols and holding massive house parties. College Football’s potential cancellation is on these people.
I have been told by many who have pushed back on my arguments the last few days that people’s mental health will be impacted by cancelling the season and suicides could occur. While I am sympathetic to anyone with mental health issues, I also must point out many of these same types of people argued that sacrificing thousands of lives to the virus while they pursued selfish individualism was a sign of “freedom”, and that driving a car in traffic was more dangerous Coronavirus.
It is the fault of those individuals more than anyone if big-time college football is not played this season.
Anti-intellectualism and Cognitive Dissonance
We have always seen a strain of anti-intellectualism and splendid isolation in American society. Separated by the oceans from the rest of the world and with less interaction to other major industrialized nations and cultures than most first world nations, the USA is unique. American culture has grown separately from much of the rest of the world because of geography, but also because of arrogance.
What has become obvious is the critics of COVID-19 reactions cannot often think for themselves. They repeat discredited non-scientific theories, they rush to quick judgments and they take any piece of questionable data and use it against the proponents or magnify the importance one scientific study that is out-of-line with 25 others. Most of these critics do not care about humanity, only whatever selfish pursuits they involve themselves in.
College Football represents one of these pursuits. Whether it is desensitizing us to violence, bullying or the radicalism bordering on racial insensitivity of many high-profile coaches, college football stands above all as a problem especially since it is so popular. This past week has just further reinforced this view.
Perhaps it would finally serve as a wake up call to President Trump and his followers if College Football were shelved for this year, thanks to academics and the people who take science seriously. But with football coach Tommy Tuberville likely headed to the US Senate as a Trump acolyte, and this being a “cause” in the Trump-MAGA universe, nothing is likely to change.
Our Crisis of Reason
We face a crisis of reason, a crisis of trust in data and crisis of critical thinking. None of this will be solved overnight. Perhaps if College Football were shelved we can have a calm discussion about how far adrift we’ve become? Or maybe it will just be a greater cause of acrimony and anger splitting this nation apart? Either way, we’re in some seriously polarizing times that call for a greater faith in science, reason and data.