Cedric Golden: Football is the best dangling carrot

©Austin American-Statesman

Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News/The Dallas Morning News/TNS

If we have to use football season as an incentive to rid ourselves of this virus, so be it.

Pathetic, right?

The threat of taking away football should not wield such power, but in the state of Texas, it does.

All of a sudden, people are freaking out because the proliferation of positive tests in Texas has put the most popular part of the year for sports in a slippery holding pattern. Football fans nationwide have engaged in the same semirealistic conversations in the months since COVID-19 barged into our lives in March like an interloper arriving at your favorite tailgate wearing the other team’s colors.

Do any of these lines sound familiar?

“We’ll be fine once we get through the summer.”

“This will go away by football season.”

“Maybe the hot weather will help get rid of it.”

And so on.

It just doesn’t work that way.

Besides, Gov. Greg Abbott reopened the bars and restaurants, so everything had to be OK, right?

Wrong.

Some thought this would all go away with hope, will and prayers. There have been those willing to do anything to help speed up the end of this pandemic — short of staying home and wearing a mask in public.

Masks and social distancing? That’s so Memorial Day weekend, they muttered. Yeah, a neurosurgeon can wear one during a six-hour operation, but you and your friends can’t mask up during a 20-minute Walmart run?

I was all for peaceful protests, but I noticed that while their hearts were in the right place, their faces remained uncovered.

So while states like New York sacrificed leisure time for the public good — that state is now trending at less than 1,000 people hospitalized after that early outbreak in February — some of us went back to kayaks, beaches, lacrosse tournaments and youth baseball games with the ignorant assurance that it would all work out in the end.

Making it worse are the images we see of future Hall of Famers Tom Brady and Russell Wilson conducting private workouts with teammates with no masks in sight.

Major setbacks like the ones we’re experiencing — the Houston school district just closed its strength and conditioning facilities for the next three weeks amid a spike in positive cases — can happen when you prematurely force a return to normalcy without making sure the public understands its role in such a return.

So is going back to a shelter-in-place possible? Sure, as scary as that sounds. In the meantime, do us all a favor and don’t confuse a public safety issue with some political agenda. Put on the mask, avoid unnecessary gatherings, and practice social distancing — if not for yourself, then for loved ones.

If that’s a problem for you, imagine the following:

Friday nights in Texas without high school football.

Sept. 12 without the massive Texas-LSU matchup in Baton Rouge.

The Dallas Cowboys missing out on a chance to disappoint their fan base once again.

In other words, it can all start tumbling down if you don’t do your part.

Who could have ever imagined that football would be a dangling carrot capable of influencing the actions of the irresponsible to help the long-term health of a nation?

CAM REIGNITED

The New England Patriots didn’t bring in Cam Newton to light a fire under Jarrett Stidham. Not even close.

The former league MVP will start Week 1, and we will see more zone reads and designed quarterback runs in the first game than Tom Brady attempted in his 20 seasons.

Newton will be the most watched quarterback on opening weekend because he’s the new face of the Patriots. Bill Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels will put him in the right position to light up the scoreboard — that is, if the offensive line can keep him upright for a full season.

Newton is 31, which is a pup when you compare him with the 42-year-old guy he’s replacing. He has plenty of football left in that body, and with the way his one-year deal is structured — he could earn up to $7.5 million — he has all the incentive in the world to ball out.

SOME NBA PLAYERS OPT OUT

Not lost in the NBA’s plan to restart its season on July 30 are the decisions of players such as Wilson Chandler who have chosen not to participate.

Chandler informed the New Jersey Nets that he would not play out of concern for his own health and that of his family.

Brooklyn’s Kyrie Irving, Houston center Dwight Howard, Portland ‘s C.J. McCollum and Trevor Ariza, and Lakers guard Avery Bradley, a Texas ex, have also been linked to reports of not playing.

It’s their choice, and kudos to the league for not trying to take any punitive action against them for opting out. That said, it will be interesting to see if the league can make it through the rest of the season with a huge influx of positive tests. It not’s a question of if, but how many.

———

©2020 Austin American-Statesman, Texas