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Adams: A call to arms for sports fans like you

| Tuesday, August 4, 2020

If you’re reading this column, you probably fall into at least one of the following groups: 1) You are a first-year during Welcome Week checking out the student newspaper for the first time (thank you very much and keep up the support!), or 2) You’re a Notre Dame sports fan wondering what in the hell we’re going to be doing this semester without the usual plethora of sports.

In short, we’re going to be making the best of a bad situation.

Back in March, I took over as sports editor of The Observer, and it was a bit of a tumultuous start to my tenure, to say the least. The NCAA Tournament was canceled (although one of our writers, Aidan Thomas, did simulate the entire tournament according to the latest Bracketology) and Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19 and consequently paused the NBA season. Ever since, a question mark has loomed large over the state of collegiate athletics.

We used Notre Dame football as a crutch when we shifted to solely online content in the spring. We previewed every opponent (many no longer on the schedule) and broke down every position group, and we even tried out some multimedia analysis of the men’s basketball team’s 2020 recruiting class.

As the spring faded into summer, there was still a lot of optimism. We were reassured by the fact that we were “flattening the curve,” and the knowledge that athletic budgets are even more dependent on college football happening since March Madness revenue fell through.

And then it hit the fan. Bowling Green was the first prominent university to suspend an athletic program as they dropped baseball (before eventually bringing it back). Football teams started bringing athletes back to campuses, a move frequently followed by an immediate suspension of athletic activities as programs fell victim to major outbreaks of coronavirus.

Several FCS schools announced they would not be playing football this fall. The Ivy League, after being the first conference to cancel its conference basketball tournament, was the first major conference to announce it would not be conducting any athletic activities in the fall. The Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC have all followed suit by announcing they are going to conference-only football slates. But even with this precautionary measure, there is still doubt that sports will take place at all this fall.

All the masks and hand sanitizer in the world, all the bubbles and social distancing policies implemented, and yet we find ourselves staring down the barrel of a world in which collegiate athletics will never look the same.

Stanford University, the winner of the Director’s Cup in 24 consecutive years, will be 11 sports lighter after this season. Many other schools will have to permanently cancel several sports, whether because of a lack of revenue or the ensuing Title IX requirements as men’s and women’s sports are dropped.

But what makes matters worse is the fact that we in the United States have nobody to blame for this scenario than ourselves.

Europe has started soccer back and several countries are recovering after it’s stints with the pandemic. In the United States, masks became politicized. The severity of this disease was not taken seriously by some. People like Clay Travis, who has essentially dubbed this entire ordeal a giant hoax to pander to his base, are fanning the flames of disorder and misinformation that will have negative and possibly deadly repercussions.

Colleges need so-called “student-athletes” to play sports right now, specifically football. Without it, the damage to certain other varsity sports will be irreparable. But the fact that they are being called upon to assume this risk serves as proof positive that the term “student-athlete” is an outdated and misleading moniker. They are treated as money-making tools by institutions, and that treatment provides a lot of credence to the Pac-12 athletes who have started the #WeAreUnited campaign for more equity in college athletics.

These young men taking the field are risking their lives to help keep colleges and universities afloat.

I suppose the silver lining of this entire experience is the fact it has rendered moot any logical argument that these kids do not deserve the right to profit off of their athletic ability in some way, and I’m not talking about a degree. That’s a debate I don’t feel like rehashing, but I would be remiss if I didn’t also acknowledge the way athletes across the nation and world have spoken out against police brutality and racial inequality, even those here on Notre Dame’s campus. So please keep in mind the struggle that so many of them have to endure, whether it is simply as a college student juggling academics and athletics or if their race puts them at an inherent disadvantage in society. But I digress.

We find ourselves in a very precarious predicament, so much so that I am imploring you, our new and/or faithful readers, to help us, and you can do so in a variety of ways:

1. Write for us
Email [email protected] or myself at the email address below. Have your friends do the same. We are always looking for new reporters, but we especially would like to add columnists to help fill space this year. We run Sports Authorities every day and would love to have you contribute.

2. Share your pain
Maybe you need come catharsis over the loss of sports. If so, please use our department as an outlet. If you simply want to share a favorite sports memory with us and others, email or tweet it at us @ObserverSports. We’ll share it with our community, and we can all try to get through this by doing what sports are great at getting people to do: coming together.

3. Wear your mask
As annoying and campy (and an assortment of other descriptors) as Notre Dame’s “HERE” campaign is, please, listen to them and wear a damn mask. I want sports, not just so we have something to report on, and not even so I have something to procrastinate my homework with on the weekends. More than anything, we should wear masks to keep each other safe.

We are a Catholic university, and our faith teaches us to care about our fellow man and woman. Help keep each other safe.

Now is a time for action. This is a call to arms for sports fans all across the tri-campus community. I’m begging you to help us and each other overcome this hiatus from all the sports we should be fully enjoying or anticipating right now. Here’s hoping and praying that we can elicit something akin to the feelings we would normally be experiencing at this moment, and maybe, just maybe, help speak and write college athletics back into existence.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Hayden Adams

Hayden is the former sports editor of The Observer. When he's not working toward his four majors (physics and film, television & theatre) and three minors (journalism, ethics & democracy), you can probably find him hopelessly trying to save his beloved Zahm House from being wiped out. He plans to attend law school at a TBD location after graduation.

Contact Hayden