Bock’s Score: The Big 10 Comes Up Big

In the midst of a devastating pandemic that now has claimed over 170,000 American lives, today’s award for head spinning and downright dumbness goes to the Big Ten conference and the parents of its players.

About two weeks ago on the same day that the University of Connecticut and the Mid-American Conference decided their student-athletes would not play football this fall, the Big Ten Conference released its schedule.

Let’s see. When is the Michigan-Michigan State game?

Pandemic? What pandemic? Get out the pads and tackling dummies. Fire up the barbecue for the parking lot cookouts. We’re playing football this fall.

Yippee!

Six days later, in a sudden attack of common sense, the conference pulled a 180-degree reverse, deciding it would not take the risk. There would, instead, be no games this season.

Wait. What? No games?  No marching band member dotting the i in Ohio State? Scared off by a puny looking virus with pretty little red spikes sticking out from it? No way.

Parent groups at Ohio State and Iowa decided that was unacceptable. They shipped their football-playing sons off to bigtime football programs and by God they expected them to play football. No virus that sometimes kills people was going to change that.

If they don’t play, how will NFL scouts discover them, draft them and sign them to fancy professional contracts? No, sir. They have to play.

And so the outraged parents fired off a letter to Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren, demanding that he do another 180-reverse and restore football. Their kids risk concussions on every play and if they’re OK with that, they’re certainly OK with challenging the invisible virus. And just to show how fair-minded they are, the parents offered to have the players sign a COVID-19 liability waiver.

That was nice of them. After all, they would not want the conference or its member schools have to worry if any players get sick on their watch,

Now you have to wonder if these people are paying any attention to what is going on around them. Their Big Ten brethren at Rutgers had 30 football players test positive for the virus and the entire team was put on quarantine. On the same day that the Big-Ten parents sent their indignant letter, nine players at Oklahoma tested positive.

And the beat goes on.

Given the option, some 90 NFL players opted not to play in whatever season the league manages to cobble together. Rather than charge ahead and challenge the virus, they chose a strategic retreat. That’s a sensible idea. Maybe the Big Ten parents ought to consider it.

 

 

About the Author

Hal Bock

Hal Bock covered sports for 40 years at The Associated Press including 30 World Series, 30 Super Bowls and 11 Olympics. He is the author of 14 books including most recently The Last Chicago Cubs Dynasty and Banned Baseball's Blacklist of All-Stars and Also-Rans. He has written scores of magazine articles and served as Journalist In Residence at Long Island University's Brooklyn campus where he also served on the selection committee for the George Polk Awards.

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