Clarence E. Hill Jr.: Fall football amid COVID seems foolish for Dallas Cowboys, NCAA and Texas high schools

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What are we doing, people?

From the NFL to the NCAA to Texas high schools to the pee wee level, everybody is gearing up for the return of football in the fall.

And it simply makes no sense with the coronavirus pandemic still bulldozing the country, the world and, most pointedly, the state of Texas, like Hall of Fame running back Earl Campbell in his prime.

And if you are too young know him, think Adrian Peterson and Marshawn Lynch wrapped into one.

That idea has been on my spirit and on my heart for a while now.

There is no cure. There is no vaccine. There are plans and protocols to detect its presence but there is simply no fool-proof way to control the spread of an invisible killer.

The supposedly smart people in the NFL — who normally break down everything and are now full believers in analytics — are trudging into the unknown despite data that suggest otherwise seemingly just because.

Make it make sense.

Again, what are we doing, people?

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the leading figure in the federal government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, offered a voice of reason when he threw down the gauntlet of skepticism on the NFL’s grand plan to return to football for the Dallas Cowboys and the rest of the league on Thursday. He says football may not happen at all.

“Unless players are essentially in a bubble — insulated from the community and they are tested nearly every day — it would be very hard to see how football is able to be played this fall,” Fauci told Dr. Sanjay Gupta of CNN. “If there is a second wave, which is certainly a possibility and which would be complicated by the predictable flu season, football may not happen this year.”

Now, this is Fauci’s opinion on the NFL, which has top doctors and a detailed protocol return plan barring no expense.

Still, the NFL is planning to return like coronavirus is just going to disappear, same with the NCAA and high schools.

Now, consider the NBA’s plan to return in a bubble with 22 teams isolated at Walt Disney World in Orlando for 3 ½ months.

Each team will be allowed to have a travel party of 37 people.

But before going to Orlando, players will be tested every other day, as well as the two days before teams are scheduled to leave for Florida. Players will first be tested for COVID-19 and for the presence of coronavirus antibodies.

Once teams arrive in Orlando, players and staff will be isolated in their rooms for 36 to 48 hours — until they have two negative PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests at least 24 hours apart.

Players also will be allowed to wear a smart ring that could help with early detection of COVID-19. The rings will track temperature, respiration and heart rate.

The NFL is not doing all that. The NFL can’t do that because of the size of the rosters, coaching staff and support personnel.

More important, college football teams aren’t doing all that. Hell, Ohio State is asking its “student-athletes” to sign a waiver to release the university of liability.

And while college teams are testing players as they come back, there is nothing they can do to stop something they have no control of.

The University of Texas announced Thursday that 13 players have tested positive. Consider that the norm for the rest of college football.

If the numbers are this high for individual workouts, I can’t even imagine what they will be like when fall camp starts.

And it goes without saying that high school and AAU sports programs are not doing anything close to colleges or the pro sports leagues in regards to testing because they simply don’t have the money and resources.

That should be frightening to school administrators and parents who are sending their kids to summer football works and back to other sports programs.

It’s also concerning to coaches, many of whom have underlying conditions that put them at greater risk for deathly impact of COVID-19.

Take Arlington Sam Houston coach Anthony Criss, for example. He is a stroke victim. He has diabetes and high blood pressure.

He has the triple crown of risk factors. Per the CDC, patients with underlying conditions were 12 times as likely to die of coronavirus as otherwise healthy people.

That’s not even including the disproportionate impact cororavirus is having on the Black community.

But football season is here as the Gov. Greg Abbott gave the UIL the green light to return and it’s Criss’ job to coach his team.

“I am very worried,” said Criss who broke barriers as the first Black head football coach in the Arlington school district when he was at Bowie in 2000 and who also has elderly parents he cares for.

“I am very concerned. We are working on the auspices that the kids have it. We have to assume that a kid or two are asymptomatic.”

Criss said high school programs across the state are following the lead of the NFL and colleges but don’t have the same tools to work with.

But he is making the best of the situation. He coaches from the press box on the public address system with the other coaches on the field and the players social distancing as much as possible.

The coaches check the players’ temperatures every day and they ask the players about their health, symptoms and people they come in contact with.

But the reality for Criss and the rest of the high school coaches around the state is that this process is inherently faulty.

They have to trust that teenagers are going to be truthful, but, more important, be responsible after they leave practice.

“I am not worried about the three hours they are with us, it’s the other 21 hours that have me concerned,” Criss said.

We should be very worried and concerned about the return of football as well as all youth sports in the fall.

Fauci is skeptical.

Why aren’t you?

What are we doing, people?


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