We’re Dying, but we have Football! Thanks, guys!

It is now mid-November of 2020 and every day the news about COVID-19 and its victims gets worse.  I suppose when/if we ever get comfortable saying that the crisis has passed, there will be countless investigations, books, documentaries, etc. analyzing the policies and practices that got us to where we are.  People around the United States are dealing with various inconveniences in different ways.  Some of these inconveniences seem so trivial that it demeans those families who are struggling to help keep someone alive or are struggling to put their lives together after someone they loved has died.  Yet it is important for us, in the moment, to remember how and why all of this happened.  We don’t need to wait for expert analysts 2 or 3 years down the road to tell us what we already know.  We don’t need help seeing WHY we are where we are.

First, let’s look at something that many will think of as pretty trivial: college football.  As we head into the weekend of November 13-15, games are being canceled all over the country because of COVID concerns.   In the South, where SEC football would never be considered “trivial,” there’s great concern that the season may come to a complete halt in the coming days.  The SEC never considered not playing the season in the first place.  There’s too much money at stake, and college football is too deeply ingrained in the culture of the South.    

On the other hand, at the beginning of the college football season, the PAC-12 and the BIG-10 decided to cancel the season to protect their student-athletes and their fans.  But when the sound of cash registers began to crescendo from south of the Mason-Dixon, the two conferences who heretofore had the best reputation of trying to balance academics and athletics, sold out and put their young men and women back on the fields.  The enduring picture of the insanity of this decision comes from South Bend, Indiana on the night Notre Dame upset the top team in the country, Clemson.  Granted, the best quarterback in the country had COVID and couldn’t play for Clemson, but that didn’t stop thousands of college students clad in green from charging the field after the game in what will certainly be the biggest super-spreader event since the last Trump rally of the 2020 presidential campaign.

I wanted to talk about Trump anyways, so it’s a good time to switch gears.  Where was the leadership when schools were trying to decide whether they should put thousands of people on their campuses in harm’s way in order to play football?   Not only was Trump not urging schools to play it safe, he actively promoted the restart of the season and publicly shamed the PAC-12 and the BIG-10 who were sitting it out.  When those two conferences finally buckled, here’s the accompanying Trump tweet:

“GREAT NEWS! PAC- 12 football is back this Fall! Congrats to the players, their families, the coaches, and the universities. The west coast games will kick off soon – You’re welcome!!!”

You’re welcome.   People are going to get sick.  People are going to die.  The academic process in this country is going to be severely disrupted.  Did I mention people are going to die?  But you’re welcome.

Trump’s legacy will be inextricably linked to his refusal to do what governments are supposed to do in times of crisis.  His inaction, lies, and ineptitude will be written off to his incompetent, lying, inept self.  “Oh well,” they’ll say “it’s Donald Trump.  What the fuck else did you expect?”   But his role in promoting the restart of college football goes far beyond inaction, lies, and ineptitude.  Its criminal.  He actively and intentionally added to the COVID death toll in order to promote his political fortunes.   People love football.  People vote.  People are getting football.

And it happened here in Michigan too, but the stakes were not college football.  As I watch the horror stories coming out of northern Michigan this week, I am reminded that ALL of them could have been avoided.  All of them.  If only there was some way to know that COVID killed people unless people masked up, stayed out of groups, quarantined when exposed, etc.  If only we knew that. 

Yet today, the hospitals in northern Michigan are overflowing.  There are not enough beds to care for those who are sick.  The infection rates are through the roof.  Some schools are finally closing in the wake of these numbers, but the idea that they were ever opened this Fall remains a tragic absurdity. 

Wasn’t Michigan the state with the Nazi Governor who was taking away everyone’s rights so that people could survive the pandemic?  Wasn’t Michigan among the top two or three states in the country in containing the spread of COVID? What the hell happened?

Lee Chatfield happened. 

When all this is over and Chatfield decides to run for public office again, remember this week in November 2020 when the blood on his hands is visible from hundreds of miles away.  It was Chatfield who did everything he could, legally and illegally, to prevent Governor Whitmer from protecting the people of this state from COVID.   This guy, without an ounce of intellectual, academic, political, or moral credentials to be making decisions on our behalf, worked tirelessly to make sure as many of us as possible could be exposed to COVID.  And he did it for his own political gain.  His fallacious arguments about “freedom from tyranny” should be included in the obituaries of every person who dies because of Chatfield’s actions.   There’s no avoiding this, northern Michigan, you are suffering directly because of Chatfield’s approach to the pandemic. 

So when the books, documentaries, and investigations come out in a couple of years, I won’t be reading them or watching them. I won’t need the revisionist versions of this pandemic.  I’ll have my memories of Trump and Chatfield and the absurdness that either of them was ever put in a position to oversee the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people…all so they could score political points with a group of people who have been led to fear their government and forsake their part of the social contract.  And there’s blood.  There’s plenty to go around, but it pools at the feet of Trump and Chatfield, and no amount of dancing will erase that image from our heads.

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One Comment on “We’re Dying, but we have Football! Thanks, guys!”

  1. Jim Baumann November 12, 2020 at 11:52 am #

    Great column, Mark.

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