The Super Spreader Called ‘Attending a College Football Game’

College sports fans are putting themselves in harm’s way, and institutional leaders are enablers.


According to a recent article published in the Bangor Daily News/AP, a wedding reception in early August has been traced to more than 175 cases of the virus, with seven deaths to date. None of those people attended the reception, and only about 65 family members and friends were on the illegal guest list.

The sad impact has reached beyond the guest list. The minister who officiated has ten cases of the virus in his home church.

It’s not an isolated story, either. America has spreader events, including motorcycle rallies, political gatherings, and social protests. And make no mistake about it–football games are super spreaders, too.

What’s beyond me is why we continue to deceive ourselves and refuse to accept a foregone reality. And even when institutional leaders ‘get it right’ (e.g., the Big 10 Conference), they reverse course and say, “Let’s play!”

This past Saturday, I witnessed the conclusion of the Notre Dame football game. Players sang the school fight song, standing six feet apart. Then they walked or jogged into a tunnel. Most of them touched the ‘good luck’ sign before squeezing into a narrow stairway, now shoulder pad-to-shoulder pad. So much for social distancing.

COVID-19 is 5x as deadly as the flu, and it’s an airborne-transmitted disease. Still, we act as though it’s not there–like that minister who conducted the wedding in Maine. Funeral services follow.

Overhead shot of U. of Texas stadium on September 12, about 20 minutes before kickoff (photo, The Texas Tribune)

The bottom line is this: an airborne virus will eventually conquer us. The defense against it is to follow science by hunkering down and minimizing social interactions and then wearing masks and social distancing. We can do all of that–and need to do it–short of having a proven vaccine available widely.

We must bite a hard pill, sports fans, and isolate ourselves. Otherwise, the outcome is inevitable–many people will fall ill, and some will die.

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