Ben Sasse Is Willing To Sacrifice Your Kids For College Football. Why Aren’t You?


The Broadway League announced in June that the New York theaters would be closed through the end of the year at least. It's also uncertain when movie theaters will fully reopen. For some reason, though, Republicans assumed their favorite fall pastime, college football, would remain unscathed by the nation's piss-poor COVID-19 response.

The United States needs a lot of things right now, including a comprehensive coronavirus testing strategy and 160,000 Americans to no longer be dead. We could also use a new president and fewer Republicans in Congress. We don't need college football. This isn't just a coastal elite dismissal of something “real Americans" enjoy. We don't need theater or movies, either. We want them. We'd desperately like to have them again. They are an important part of our lives, but the people who complain the most about our current lack of a “normal life" have done nothing to alleviate the situation. They've arguably made it worse, refusing to wear masks or social distance. Actions have consequences. Conservatives might think this unpleasant fact only applies to the poor, but they're wrong. And now they have no college football.

The Big Ten presidents voted Sunday to cancel the 2020 college football season because they aren't sociopaths and have a sneaking suspicion that the coronavirus exists. A formal announcement is expected Tuesday, although no “final decisions have been made."

Sports Illustrated obtained a draft of a letter Republican Senator Ben Sasse plans to send urging the Big Ten to reconsider. It's a doozy.

SASSE: We should not cancel the college football season.

Life is about tradeoffs.

This is already not the most inspiring version of the St. Crispin's Day speech. Sasse isn't risking his life or health. He's suggesting other people do so — mostly young Black kids.

SASSE: There are no guarantees that college football will be completely safe — that's absolutely true; it's always true.

Yes, college football players were also at risk for traumatic brain injury even when there wasn't a pandemic.

SASSE: But the structure and discipline of football programs is very likely safer than what the lived experience of 18-to-22-year-olds will be if there isn't a season.

It's almost impossible to interpret this in a way that isn't grossly racist. The implication is that these mostly Black kids are “safer" in a controlled environment run by white men. They are somehow less safe either at home where they aren't recklessly exposed to COVID-19 or on the college campuses that are still open.

SASSE: As a former college president, I know many of you actually agree — because I've heard multiple presidents say it when the cameras aren't rolling.

Well, duh, it's no surprise that college presidents who are mostly white men might privately say callous and racist shit. College presidents aren't medical experts, either. Dr. Anthony Fauci has clearly articulated the risks football poses during a pandemic that's not even close to contained.

From NBC Sports:

FAUCI: This is a respiratory virus, so it's going to be spread by shedding virus. The problem with virus shedding is that if I have it in my nasal pharynx, and it sheds and I wipe my hand against my nose—now it's on my hand. You see, then I touch my chest or my thigh, then it's on my chest or my thigh for at least a few hours. Sweat as such won't transmit it. But if people are in such close contact as football players are on every single play, then that's the perfect set up for spreading. I would think that if there is an infected football player on the field—a middle linebacker, a tackle, whoever it is it—as soon as they hit the next guy, the chances are that they will be shedding virus all over that person.

Even with the best testing regimen, we'd have to trust that college football teams would bench — that's the term, right? — their best players if they tested positive before a big game. When a US senator is already publicly referring to “tradeoffs," such trust seems misplaced.

This is all about money. College football generates billions in revenue, none of which student athletes see for themselves. And although college athletes are required to have health insurance, the NCAA doesn't mandate that colleges pay for students' policies. COVID-19 is arguably a greater known risk than even “normal" physical injuries on the field, but it's not clear that coronavirus-related treatment would quality as an athletic-related injury. (First rule of Fight With Your Insurance Club is not to count on your insurance covering any “gray areas.")

Many young people who've “recovered" from COVID-19 suffered longterm, potentially permanent, health issues. Beyond the risk to athletes' lives, rushing them on the field now could jeopardize their academic and professional futures. The chances of going pro are already small but shredded lungs and blood clots won't help. Sasse doesn't even suggest guaranteeing scholarships for students who risk their lives for the college football.

SASSE: Here's the reality: Many of you think that football is safer than no football ...

What idiot thinks that? Football was never safer than no football, even without COVID-19.

SASSE: ... but you also know that you will be blamed if there is football, whereas you can duck any blame if you cancel football.

Yes, college presidents will be blamed if they let student athletes get sick and die. No one's “ducking blame" by approaching the spread of an infectious disease with an abundance of caution. Is this asshole really going to try to spin a “let the chips fall where they may" approach as bold, decisive leadership?

SASSE: This a moment for leadership.

Guess so. Fuck you, Senator.

SASSE: These young men need a season. Please don't cancel college football.

What these young men need are elected leaders who care whether they live or die. Cancelling college football until we've contained COVID-19 is the responsible, humane choice, so naturally, we'll have to fight Republicans on this one, as well.

[Detroit Free Press / NBC Sports]

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."


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