If you are the sort of person who believes that COVID-19 restrictions of any sort are a significant infringement on American liberty or whatever, you will have to believe me when I tell you that from the other end of this—from the end where the meaningful infringements on liberty take the form of forcing people to play chicken with a deadly pandemic in order to avoid homelessness—Florida State cancelling its scheduled tilt with Clemson this past Saturday is perfectly, perfectly noncontroversial.
Here is the sequence of events: A player on Clemson was grody with flu-like symptoms in the week leading up to the game. Tests, we are told, showed that this player was negative for the coronavirus, and so this oozing player was allowed to practice with his teammates, and indeed traveled with them from Clemson to Tallahassee without any quarantine restrictions. Then, Friday night, the player’s latest test result came back positive. Florida State administrators, noting that a symptomatic player who was now known to be infected with the coronavirus had had close contact with basically Clemson’s entire football program, made the decision to cancel the game.
If you are on this end of things—we will call this the “non-psycho end”—the only troubling facts in that entire sequence are 1) that a symptomatic person traveled in close proximity to others from South Carolina to Florida during a terrifying nationwide surge in COVID-19 cases, and 2) that college football is being played at all, anywhere, during a terrifying nationwide surge in COVID-19 cases. From this end, of course Florida State would cancel that date. It is frankly appalling that multiple levels of government hadn’t already canceled it.
From the other end—the “psycho end”—what matters is that Clemson followed at every step of the way what our absolutely broken society allows to pass for protocols, and therefore Florida State has an obligation to accept the manifest failures of those protocols and subject their amateur athletes to what is very clearly a heightened risk of being infected by the coronavirus. Speaking for the psycho end is Clemson head coach and all-around shitbrain Dabo Swinney, who says that FSU is essentially rule-bound to put their players at risk:
“So now we’re changing the rules? You either trust the test, or you don’t. If the test is negative, we’re going to tell guys they can’t play anyway? That’s why we test. If a guy has an earache or a runny nose and tests negative all week, and we’re going to say we won’t take you? You either trust the test, or you don’t, and the rules are what they are. There’s been plenty of games played this year where guys were not positive one week and positive the next week. This is a virus. We all know what we’re dealing with. The bottom line is the rules were put in play for everyone, and we more than met the standard.”Dabo Swinney via ESPN
Dabo’s argument acknowledges that tests failed to detect coronavirus in a player showing actual symptoms, and that that player was therefore treated as if he definitively did not have COVID-19. Furthermore, he acknowledges that the testing program is very often failing to detect infection. And the conclusion he draws from this is that it is therefore bad and wrong that people in charge of the welfare of teenaged amateur athletes opted to exercise an extra degree of caution when confronted with an entire opposing football team that had been exposed to a symptomatic COVID-19 case. In fact, Swinney detects the telltale stain of cowardice in FSU’s refusal to play:
“This game was not canceled because of COVID. COVID was just an excuse to cancel the game. I have no doubt their players wanted to play and would have played. And same with the coaches. To me, the Florida State administration forfeited the game.”
It truly does not matter whether FSU was happy for an excuse to cancel its date with the Clemson powerhouse. Even if you accept that as fact, which you should not, Swinney’s response should be gratitude: Via their cowardice, FSU’s decision-makers spared Clemson from having to stage a football game with players that they know for a fact have been exposed to coronavirus, and have allowed them to refocus their attention on isolating, testing, treating, and contact-tracing.
But Swinney’s concern is not for his players, and it’s certainly not for the players on the other sideline. His concern, and the sole concern of the entire college football apparatus, is money. Swinney lamented the $300,000 that went “out the window” in travel costs, and told ESPN that any rescheduled game in Tallahassee is contingent upon FSU reimbursing his program: “We were there, we were ready. We met the standards to play … If the standard to play was zero positive tests, we never would’ve had a season.” Coach, you’re so close.