Here is what our fear and frustration boils down to, something Big 12 Conference commissioner Bob Bowlsby said last week:
“Right now, I don’t think there’s a crystal ball on the planet that can tell us what’s going to happen in the coming months.”
People have ideas. I suggest we listen to our doctors and scientists for them, but even they are struggling to pin down a timeline for the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s asking for the impossible right now, though bless them for their efforts.
It leaves us to wonder and worry, since that’s what we tend to do when our lives change and we are cooped up as a result.
When can we go out with the gang again? When can we have that wedding? When can I go back to the office? When can I go get my hair cut?
When can I go see a ballgame?
Sports are more serious than ever, but they are still a prime coping mechanism. They still help us escape and decompress. They help us mark time.
We rely on them. When they are taken away, we need to know: “For how long?”
“We have the same questions all of you have. When do we return to normalcy or some semblance of normalcy?” Bowlsby said during a media teleconference Thursday. “Is it going to be May? Could it be June? Could it be July?”
It’s so hard to realize the right response here, same as everywhere right now, is: “I honestly don’t know.”
ESPN commentator Kirk Herbstreit got us worked up last week when he said he would be “shocked” to see college football next fall. Sports Business Journal got our attention by reporting Friday that among the options for a revised college football season is a July-August-September calendar.
It’s possible one of these scenarios materializes because all scenarios are on the table.
“Do you play the games? Do you play the games without fans? How are the fans going to respond if this thing does lift? Are they going to be afraid to come out in crowded situations like football games are?” Tulsa athletic director Derrick Gragg said last week. “All those types of things are being talked about.”
We’d like just one firm answer.
We’d like to know if we’re going to see TU play at Oklahoma State on Sept. 12. We’d like to know if we’re going to be allowed into OU’s game against Tennessee that day. We’d like to know how we’ll be protected if we have that option.
That just leads us to more questions: How long does the coronavirus linger? How seasonal is the virus? How much can our immunity to it change? What’s the status in the labs where they’re working on a vaccine?
“I think the uncertainty to all of this is unnerving,” Bowlsby said.
In the commissioner’s world that translates to athletes stressed about where they’re supposed to work out with gyms closed, coaches stressed about their players’ physical and academic disruption, and administrators stressed about the potentially overwhelming financial hit their departments could take.
Many of us are panicked over our finances. We sweat our physical and mental health, and that of family and loved ones.
What we’d like to know, for sure, is we’re going to be OK. Everything is going to be OK. Everything is going to return to normal soon.
What we’d give to see the Sooners, Cowboys or Golden Hurricane play a game. Heck, to just watch one on television that wasn’t played 20 years ago.
What we’d give to know when that will be, to know when anything will be and what that will look like.
“It’s hard to forecast things,” Bowlsby said, “because we have things happening right now that we couldn’t have envisioned three weeks ago.”
Or three hours ago. This is such a grind, isn’t it?
The timeline to the pandemic is a theory, not a fact. The only thing we know for certain is there is so much we don’t know.
“I don’t think for a minute we have access to all of the information we need to say we’re gonna be back playing May 15 or back playing June 15. I don’t think it’s that kind of environment,” Bowlsby said. “I remember well the time period after 9/11. That one was awfully difficult on our nation, and yet little by little you saw returns to normalcy after three or four days, then after 10 days, then a month.
“This has a much longer tail and it has a great deal more uncertainty. It’s an invisible enemy that we don’t know fully how to fight.”
Until we know more, we should understand we’re all going through it, conference commissioners, sports columnists and everyone else, and maybe we can help each other along the way.
In the meantime, we must accept “I don’t know” to our questions since this is being honest and fair given our circumstances, while anticipating decisive answers are coming.