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Looking for football to provide normalcy no matter who plays

Last Saturday night I watched a surprise — college football on ESPN.

I say surprise because there has been so much discussion and doubt over whether there would actually be a college football season.

Ever since COVID-19 reared its head, the question of whether colleges should play football or any other fall sport has been actively debated with four college conferences, the Big 10 plus four, Pac-12, Mid-America Conference and the Mountain West Conference, as well as the Canadian Football League, canceling their football seasons.

But several conferences, notably the SEC and the ACC, have decided to play this season with stringent COVID-19 precautions in place. Still, there was always that shadow of doubt hanging over the months, weeks and days heading toward the season.

That’s why I was pleased and surprised to see Austin Peay and Central Arkansas meeting on the gridiron for the first game of the season. It wasn’t LSU-Alabama or Clemson-Florida State, but dadgum it, it was college football.

But the start of the season still raises some questions.

Football is known for attracting large crowds and traditional tailgating and that begs the question of how schools will handle the crowds both outside and inside the stadiums. There have been discussions on curtailing the pre-game tailgating and the locations of spectators in the stands. And what about those season ticket holders who will not be able to attend the games, will they get a refund on their tickets?

Will those who get in the games have to stay in one area or will they be allowed to find another open seat?

Players, we know from various accounts, will be screened multiple times during the week before games. What about the folks sitting in the stands?

Will spectators be screened for COVID-19 before they enter the stadium and if they are found to have a fever or other symptoms will they be allowed to their seat? Will facemasks be required?

As it has with other facets of our lives, COVID-19 is making us ask questions and take a closer look at how we are living our lives. Questions we have never asked before. 

And we are all looking for some sort of normalcy; something that will allow us to try, even for a moment, to have some remnant of the life we had before we heard of the coronavirus and heard the word “pandemic.”

It may be possible, even with shortened seasons and smaller crowds, that football will provide that umbrella to shield us even for a while from the daily assaults of confusion, doubt and fears we’ve faced since the pandemic began.

I, for one, am glad to see the season start even if not everyone’s taking the field.

There is a pretty good slate of games this weekend and I plan to watch a few, including Brigham Young vs. Navy Monday at Annapolis, Md.

The season is here and I’m ready to go.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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