The People Desperate For Football Aren't Scientists Either

Brian Kelly
Brian Kelly / Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Kirk Herbstreit, a non-scientist, has taken significant heat for sharing his opinion that there will be no college football this year. Most of it came before the White House messaging was tailored to include a forecast of up to 240,000 deaths even if serious social distancing measures were enacted throughout the country, but it's continued unabated since then.

Notre Dame's Brian Kelly is the latest to do it. The Fighting Irish honcho appeared on 96.1 FM WSBT's Weekday Sportsbeat on Wednesday to offer empty platitudes cloaked as something helpful or even material to the process of navigating through sports' strange new place in the wake of a deadly pandemic.

"“If anybody can really predict what can happen next week, they should be in the stock market," Kelly said. "I heard Kirk Herbstreit come out and say, ‘No way.’ Kirk does not know what he’s talking about. Really? For him to talk in those terms, he’s not a scientist. He’s a college football analyst. We’ll let the scientists determine those things.""

Brian Kelly on 96.1 FM

Ah yes, who could have possibly foreseen what would happen to stocks as an unprecedented disaster brings a nation to its knees and, to date, 10 million people to the unemployment line over the last two weeks? You know, outside of the senators who were allegedly briefed beforehand and dumped their shares in soon-to-be-hard-hit areas and gobbled up Depression-friendly ones?

Who could possibly look at the situation now and deduce we won't be packing 100,000 fans into stadiums when the weather cools?

Kelly, of course, is not a scientist himself. The irony of him dismissing a divergent opinion based on a lack of accreditation he doesn't have either is plainly obvious. Kelly is an optimist, which does not come with a lab coat.

""We could be negative and think about a lot of things that could go wrong, or we can think positive," Kelly said. I’ve always chosen to think in the most positive terms that we’re going to have this pandemic under control to where we can resume in some sort of normalcy, where we can play college football in the fall.”"

Chip Kelly on 96.1 FM

And you know what? Good for him. Positivity is imperative at times like these. We must all believe there's a modicum of normalcy dancing over a near horizon. But positivity isn't capable of shaping this particular reality.

This college football season is not Peter Pan. Just believing the best will work out doesn't do anything. We can't make it fly as scheduled with our hearts' wings. We are in a terrible math equation right now. There can't be football, even in empty stadiums, until the curve moves to a manageable place where restarting life is worth the risks.

The 99 percent of people who don't wish to see the world burn want that day to come sooner rather than later. But what either side says five months before games are slated to begin won't tip the scales either way. Reality, and likely grim reality, will dictate the decision.

College football programs will try everything in their power to play football because they need the money. A solution will be found. Or it will not. One can quibble over the usefulness of long-term projections on either side. Clearly, everyone attacking the glass-half-empty camp for not using science must look inward and admit hope isn't scientific either. It is especially galling to discover the familiar concussion truthers embrace a new love of facts over feelings after denying data for years.

There's a very human desire to paint a rosy picture. And it's a smart financial one for those whose income is reliant on the playing of football this fall. Expectations, though, need to be tempered in reality and reasonable opinions allowed to co-exist in the ecosphere of debate.

These are bad times and we are desperate for distractions. Ignoring the elephant of looming reality in the room, though, has a very specific shelf life. We can't wish this away and silence those who are, in good faith, reminding us that it won't be going anywhere for a while.