When I used to dream of being a sports editor as an excited first-year, I always imagined it a bit differently than it turned out to be — I imagined having some games to cover.
With the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) postponement came the obvious disappointment, for the athletes, fans and myself, as I now have to scour the edges of my brain for any sort of content ideas this fall. It’s not only a shame that athletes won’t get the season they’ve worked for, but the announcement came as a grim reminder that our battle with COVID-19 is far from over.
Don’t get me wrong, I would’ve loved to have a normal season, and I was really hoping we would. But with the coronavirus cases skyrocketing nationally this summer — and many states still rising — waking up to a text that there would be no Loyola sports wasn’t necessarily a shock to me.
And really, it was a decision I’m glad the MVC made.
The United States has been averaging 40,000-60,000 new cases a day over the last couple weeks and college campuses have been getting sent home one by one with sudden spikes in cases. Even a professional league with well-funded protocols like the NHL recorded two cases in its training camp this July.
How do we expect college sports to have not only a safe but also meaningful season amongst all this?
As I often tell my friends, other countries’ governments came down hard on this virus, citizens followed guidelines and everyone earned the right to get their sports back. The German Bundesliga — one of the world’s top soccer leagues — was able to finish out its 2019-20 season and is preparing for 2020-21, and the KBO Baseball League in South Korea has been going for months. Germany saw below 800 new cases a day for almost the whole summer and South Korea never broke 100 until mid-August.
These comparisons aren’t to be reckoned with even when considering how large the U.S. is. While we have over 17,000 cases per million people, Germany is holding at about 2,800 and South Korea at 328 according to Google’s COVID tracker.
The Trump administration has called for the return of college sports multiple times on social media. Many colleges and conferences, on the other hand, have responded by tightening restrictions and even postponing sports altogether, like our own conference. Some, however, like the Southeastern Conference, have elected to trudge onward through this and attempt to play.
Considering the current state of the pandemic in our country and the way professional leagues aren’t even completely COVID-19 free, it’s foolish to make college athletes play and risk their health. A season can potentially return at a later date. Athletes’ lives and the lives of those they interact with cannot.
I — and I hope you, as well — care not only about college sports but also the well-being of the athletes who play them. Although I had some difficult conversations with Loyola student-athletes following the MVC fall sports announcement, each one said this was a necessary decision they saw coming.
The postponement of our conference is not just hard-hitting news we’ll have to reckon with as the semester begins, but a reminder that we all need to do better and encourage those around us to do better right now. This pandemic is a group project that sadly, we as a country, have been failing. Put the pressure on your elected officials to enact tougher restrictions. Put pressure on your friends to be smart.
Let’s get out of this not only for our athletes who deserve a proper season, but for our citizens who deserve to feel safe again.