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Earlier this week, both the Mountain West and MAC collegiate sports conferences announced that they were going to "indefinitely postpone" fall sports as a reaction to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. Both said that they are planning on rescheduling games for the spring if the pandemic has subsided. The Big Ten and PAC-12 followed up a day or two later by announcing that they will also cancel their fall sports season. The remaining power five conferences are currently planning on going through with their fall schedule.

The Big Ten specifically cited concerns over a condition called Myocarditis, which is a complication of the COVID-19 disease that leads to long-term or permanent heart problems. A number of players within the Big Ten have already been diagnosed with the condition following recoveries from COVID-19, and physicians are warning that the normal fall timeline would not give those players enough time to recover from the condition (assuming that they ever recover at all).

The cancellation of Mountain West football means that my alma mater, UNLV, won't be playing this year. 2020 was looking to be an especially exciting transitional year for the team, as they would be breaking in the fancy new Allegiant Stadium which was built for the Raiders' move to Las Vegas, and they would also be introducing a high profile new head coach in Marcus Arroyo. I was definitely looking forward to not having to sit out in the hot Las Vegas sun during those August, September, and October games.

I was looking forward to seeing Marcus Arroyo as the UNLV head coach.

That being said, I was also terrified of the idea of attending a sporting event during the midst of a pandemic. With the pandemic numbers in southern Nevada being as high as they are, my dad and I would probably have been forced to stay home for at least the first few games -- probably the whole season, since it doesn't look like the pandemic situation is going to improve at all. Even though I would certainly have had to chose to stay home in order to protect myself and my family, it was a decision that I really did not want to make. In that sense, I'm kind of relieved that the Mountain West conference let me off the hook by canceling the season.

Or at least, they delayed my decision. The cancellation is actually a "postponement". The league has said that they want to play the conference games in the fall. I assume the non-conference games would likely be cancelled altogether, unless the non-conference schools also decide to reschedule. But I'm not optimistic that the pandemic will be over in the spring. Instead, I suspect that we'll likely be on the tail end of a massive uptick in cases, as the normal fall and winter cold and flu season exacerbates the COVID-19 situation.

This is not a situation that gives me any joy in saying "I told you so", but back in April, I posted a YouTube video expressly warning about the possibility of the football season being canceled if the country did not take social distancing, masks, and business lockdowns seriously. I warned that if state and local governments re-opened their economies too early, that infection rates would spike, and they likely would not be brought down in time for the fall. And the spread of the disease would only increase as the normal cold and flu season kick in. If the pandemic was not under control by the middle of summer, then it would not be able to be controlled in time for football.

I warned of exactly this situation back in April, and was harassed for having done so.

Picard facepalm

Instead of maintaining shutdowns until the new infection rate was near zero, governors and mayors rushed to re-open their economies prematurely. A couple weeks later, infection rates spiked. Now it seems that at least half of the college football schedule won't happen. The best we can do now is to rigorously maintain social distancing measures, wear masks in public, and also honor any business closures, lockdowns, or quarantines that are deemed necessary by public health officials. That is our only hope of seeing the rest of the college football season in the spring.

Not all conferences have announced the cancellation of fall sports. In fact, the Big Twelve was the first to pledge it will play in the fall. The remaining power five conferences followed suit a day later. I fear that this decision will have dire consequences for many of the athletes who will be playing.

I doubt they'll make it past week 3 before players start getting sick and continued play becomes nonviable. The conferences and universities will then be dealing with their liability in jeopardizing their players' potential future pro careers, and maybe also their lives. I hope it doesn't come to that, but it seems like the most likely outcome given the current state of affairs, and the unlikelihood of the pandemic disappearing in the next few weeks before the fall season begins.

As for the NFL: they're still planning on playing as well. In fact, the greedy bastards in charge of the NFL even considered taking advantage of the loss of college ball and re-scheduling some of their games to fill the gaps on Saturdays. But with half the college conferences still committed to playing, I can only assume that the NFL will maintain its Sunday schedule.

Just like with the college season, I fully expect that the NFL will not make it through a complete season. I worry for the players whose careers and lives may be put in jeopardy if outbreaks happen among the teams.

Yes, COVID-19 does affect younger adults. In fact, CDC data from July showed that a vast majority of positive cases were occurring in people under the age of 60, with the incidence of infection being evenly distributed between the ages of 20 and 59. Even people as physically fit as professional athletes are susceptible. Even if the players are young and healthy enough to recover without long-term effects, the older coaches, trainers, and other support staff will likely not be so lucky.

The athletes can also spread the disease to the wider population, especially as they travel around the country for games. NFL teams will be better able to control the movement of their players, and restrict their contact with family, friends, and the rest of the public. Colleges, however, will have a harder time with their athletes. Those students will (presumably) be expected to attend classes. They are, after all, students, right? If the universities sequester their athletes away from the rest of the student body and hold them out of classes, that would shatter the long-standing illusion that the athletes are "students", and that providing them with an education is compensation enough for their athletic play.

So while I am personally relieved that I will not have to make the tough decision to skip UNLV's home games for the first time in my life, I am terrified for what the decision to continue playing will mean for the student and professional athletes in the NCAA and the NFL.

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