Had this been an ordinary Saturday afternoon in September, I would have scanned the “crowd” at the Marshall v Eastern Kentucky football game and shaken my head.
Attendance was sparse. People were seated in knots of small groups throughout the stands. Some were solo. It looked as if the Joan C. Edwards Stadium – which holds 38,227 – was about one-third full.
But, dang these fans were making some noise.
My son attended Marshall and I’ve been to that stadium many times. Fifty years after the plane crash that killed most of the team and coaching staff, they treasure college football in Huntington, West Virginia.
Last Saturday’s anemic crowd was simply college football in 2020 thanks to the fear of COVID-19, which had some colleges, including ODU and the entire Big 10 conference cancelling their seasons.
Yes, I saw the opinion piece by ODU President John Broderick and Wood Selig in yesterday’s Washington Post defending their decision. What did you expect them to pen, a big mea culpa as they watch the rest of Conference USA playing without them?
I also read the fearful comments by Karens on social media, fretting that Herd fans weren’t wearing masks in the stands.
How about we all try to flatten the fear a little bit? It was 80 degrees outside in Huntington and outdoor spread of COVID is rare. There was nothing particularly dangerous about this behavior. The players are young and healthy and – despite the hair-on-fire headlines about teams with positive tests – by all reports the athletes are mostly asymptomatic and faring well.
Oh, and no one will be forced to attend a college football game this fall. If you believe sitting in a half empty stadium on a sunny Saturday afternoon is risky, you’re free to stay home. What am I saying? Most of us who long to attend a college football game won’t be able to get a ticket this fall.
The happy scene at Marshall, where the Herd showed no mercy to the FCS Colonels, will not be repeated in Virginia.
Gov. Ralph Northam, who seems to be a devotee of numerology rather than science, has decreed that college games in the commonwealth may have no more than 1,000 fans in the stands. No matter how big the stadium.
That means Liberty, with a stadium that holds 25,000 fans, will have just 1,000 tickets available and so will Virginia Tech in stadium that seats 66,233.
It also means the Cavalier on horseback will not gallop into Scott Stadium in Charlottesville to the cheers of 61,500. It will be a paltry group of 1,000.
In fact, any noise coming from the handful of spectators allowed to attend games by our all-powerful governor will be diffused over row after row of empty seats. Without the energy of fans, Virginia’s teams will give away much of their home-field advantage.
At last count, 77 colleges were playing football this fall. A few are not allowing fans at the early games but it seems most stadiums will allow between 20 and 25% capacity in their stands. Doesn’t it make sense to gauge your crowd on the size of your stadium rather than some arbitrary number?
Meanwhile, Northam is insisting on fewer than 2% attendance, which is ludicrous.
Why the 1,000 limit? The governor can’t give a reason based in science because there isn’t any. Just as there was no real reason to demand that King’s Dominion and the 383-acre Busch Gardens limit visitors to 1,000 a day, which resulted in the parks closing and thousands of jobs lost.
Northam has a thing for the number 1,000. That’s the only possible answer.
It’s worth noting that most experts believe that the spikes in the coronavirus this summer were due largely to people retreating into air conditioning, not from outdoor gatherings. The virus thrives in cool, dry air and is barely airborne in a hot, humid atmosphere.
College football may seem unimportant to those who do not understand the extent of its reach. But when football is cancelled, especially in small college towns, the entire economy suffers. Hotel rooms are empty, restaurants, too. Everything from convenience stores to liquor stores is damaged.
My daughter attended Ole Miss. Once, during the dreadful Coach Houston Nutt era, I took my car into a service station in Oxford, MS. The manager complained about how bad business had been because people weren’t going to games to watch the team lose. His wife, who cleaned rental homes on football weekends, was out of work.
Cancelling football, or restricting it to the point where almost no one is allowed to attend, hurts more than just the fans. It has a domino effect through localities that are already suffering.
This is just one more sector of the economy where powerful governors arbitrarily pick winners and losers.
Virginia is a loser. Thanks to Northam.
This column was published with permission from Kerry: Unemployed & Unedited.There are currently no comments highlighted.