Like everything else in society, college football can speak to our hyper-politicized culture. And no, I’m not talking about the vulgar chants directed at Joe Biden spreading across college stadiums. I’m talking about the unmasked fans and packed stadiums. Some, like the recent display in Happy Valley, Pa, in a matchup between Penn State and Auburn, had an excess of 100,000 fans. Dr. Anthony Fauci and a legion of sports journalists publicly fretted over those types of gatherings mere weeks ago.
“I would hope that most of those people in those stadiums were vaccinated, and even if they were, with that close congregant setting, they should have been wearing masks,” lectured Fauci on Sept. 7.
Yet, no COVID surges seem to have been traced back to these massive crowds. Clay Travis, the founder of Outkick, has made a name for himself challenging the narratives of liberal-dominated sports media.
“New York City requires vaccine passports to eat in a restaurant or go to the gym,” wrote Travis. “Meanwhile less than four hours away Penn State has over 100k people packed in a football stadium. Which life do you want? We really are living in two Americas right now.”
No, Travis is not a medical doctor or an epidemiologist. He’s an entertainer and journalist with a huge following. Most of his fans are men fed up with wokeism and the large swath of sports media members resembling MSNBC talking heads. Even in a post-vaccine world, social media is littered with journalists and fear-mongers still stoking hysteria over college football crowds.
His point is a good one. People know the risks, and we need to let them make their own decisions. This is what free societies do. They make recommendations without aggressive mandates or compelling people to do something that violates their conscience.
Still, college football is striking a blow against a culture of fear that has a stranglehold on so many who want to require others to live in the way they decide is best.
Travis pointed out another valid contrast in what was a day-care facility forcing a mask on what looks to be a boy no older than 2, who was clearly in distress. Yes, one event is generally outside and the other inside, but what does it say about us when government mandates cause so many to eschew basic compassion?
The mammoth crowds for college and many NFL games signal a large chunk of the nation trusts the vaccine or their natural immunity. They are moving on with their lives. Taking precautions is still wise, just as one should do with myriad events or occurrences in daily life.
Attempts to paint many fans or football-obsessed regions as Neanderthals unconcerned about public health won’t stick, either.
Many coaches, like Lane Kiffin at the University of Mississippi, encouraged people to get vaccines. “Obviously, we would love for everyone to be vaccinated who comes to games,” Kiffin said. “I know it’s controversial to say, but it’s the right thing to do.”
Football crowds should remind us we’re a lot safer than we may think, and that’s a cause for celebration.
Ray Nothstine is Carolina Journal opinion editor.