OPINION: Sadly, COVID-19 is trouncing football season

For years, my sister Jo and I have returned with our college roommates for the Southern Miss homecoming game.

This October, we didn’t even think about it.

Unlike football players and coaches across the country, we had no intention of tempting fate and we’re old enough to know you don’t have to lend yourself to mistakes to learn a lesson. All you have to do is pay attention, look around a bit.

From what I can tell, COVID-19 is winning this fight hands-down.

As of a few days ago, about 8 million Americans have been infected and more than 219,000 have died. Those numbers are climbing every day.

And so you have to ask yourself what part of prolonged interaction with large crowds, minimal mask-wearing and no social distancing as the cause of the coronavirus spread don’t we get?

ExploreThere are no ifs, ands or buts: Not wearing a mask is pure selfishness

Even while we bemoan its impact on our daily lives and the national economy, we continue to question, indeed reject the notion that wearing a mask, avoiding large crowds, and social distancing protect us, that the sooner we join together to protect each other, the sooner we can return, hopefully, to the way we were.

Things aren’t looking very promising.

Just seven weeks into the 2020 football season, more than 30 college games have been canceled or postponed because of COVID-19. The upheaval comes not just from infections, but also players who have to quarantine as a result of contact tracing. Some teams like Houston, Memphis, Baylor, Arkansas State, and Charlotte have had multiple game disruptions.

ExploreWhy a return to ‘normal’ may not be good or even possible

Now, a pair of SEC programs — Vanderbilt and Florida come to mind — have been hit hard and forced to postpone games.

On Oct. 16, I learned the Southern Miss at UTEP game had been postponed due to positive COVID-19 cases in the USM football program. The plan was to return to action Oct. 24 when they travel to Lynchburg, Virginia, to face Liberty University.

The NFL landscape doesn’t look that different.

The Tennessee Titans, New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts have experienced outbreaks and postponed games.

My husband loves football. Well, that’s not true. He loves just about anything that includes a ball. It’s pretty safe to say that’s also true of my college roommate, Sherry.


Each week, Gracie Bonds Staples will bring you a perspective on life in the Atlanta area. Life with Gracie runs online Tuesday, Thursday and alternating Fridays.
Each week, Gracie Bonds Staples will bring you a perspective on life in the Atlanta area. Life with Gracie runs online Tuesday, Thursday and alternating Fridays.

I could take it or leave it, but for a long time, I’ve looked forward to October because it’s my birthday month, but more than anything, it’s the month I gather with my girlfriends to cheer our team, the Southern Miss Golden Eagles.

If you’ve never tried to relive your teen years, LOL, you probably wouldn’t understand. Homecoming is my time to try again.

This year, we settled for text messages and wishful thinking. It wasn’t nearly as much fun. If I had a word for it, it would be, well, sad.

The Southern Miss alumni association, in conjunction with the USM Foundation, Eagle Club and Office of Admissions, hosted a weeklong virtual celebration during what would have been homecoming week Oct. 5-10.

ExploreSchools adapt homecoming plans to pandemic precautions

It wasn’t the same. It wasn’t normal.

Nothing about this year has been normal. 2021 promises to be more of the same.

The sad part is we only have ourselves to blame.

Find Gracie on Facebook (www.facebook.com/graciestaplesajc/) and Twitter (@GStaples_AJC) or email her at gstaples@ajc.com.

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