September 29, 2020 10:33:14 AM
From a public health perspective, whether Mississippi State should be playing football during the COVID-19 pandemic remains a valid question whose full consequences cannot be accurately determined.
But from a mental health perspective, football may be just what the doctor ordered.
Since March, the spectre of COVID-19 has hovered over the landscape. In the U.S. there have been more than 7 million cases and 205,000 deaths. Worldwide, there have been more than 33 millions cases with a million dead.
But the effect of the virus goes beyond those worst outcomes. Everyone in some shape, form or fashion has been affected. It has disrupted our economy, our lifestyles, our routines and our attitudes.
COVID-19 fatigue has set in as we comply with guidelines and recommendations and worry about whether it's wise to send our children back to schools or attend public events, including church services. There is no one whose life has been altered by the virus in some way. And it's been that way for more than six months now, with no sure end in sight.
So, particularly in the South, where college football is widely considered one of the best parts of fall, Saturday's opening day of SEC football was a pleasant diversion, an escape from the tedium and worry and all things associated with the virus.
Before Saturday, the mood among most MSU fans was one of curiosity to see how the team's new coach, Mike Leach, would fare. In January, MSU hired Leach, one of the most highly-publicized hirings in college football. Leach's "air raid offense" has long defied conventional wisdom that says teams must have a balance between running plays and passes and there was some doubt about whether his scheme would work in the SEC, where football is almost like the mortal combat of trench warfare.
Saturday in Baton Rouge, MSU fans got a sneak-peak of what Leach would do at MSU. It's fair to say, he exceeded all expectations. The Bulldogs passed LSU silly. Stanford transfer quarterback K.J. Costello set an SEC record for passing yards in his first game in a Bulldog uniform, throwing for 623 yards and five touchdowns as the Bulldogs stunned sixth-ranked and defending national champion LSU, 44-34.
On Saturday, MSU will play its first home game and the excitement is palpable.
For a few hours, we can forget COVID-19 - but not entirely.
Attendance will be limited to 25 percent, about 16,000 fans. It is to those people we urge caution.
Those who attend Saturday's game should adhere to the guidelines established, which means practicing social distancing and wearing masks. A crowd of 16,000 can be a petri dish for COVID-19 if these rules are not faithfully followed.
If those rules are ignored the result could be an outbreak that could put a halt to football almost as quickly as it begins.
So, if you really love MSU football, show it by doing your part.
It would be a real shame to forfeit the diversion and entertainment college football provides because of non-compliance.
MSU is off to a wonderful start. Bulldog fans should do their part to keep it going.