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America needs football

The question from a fellow Georgia football fan came out of the blue. ’If the Georgia-Alabama game in Tuscaloosa was tomorrow with the stands full and I had a ticket and invited you, would you go?’ I didn’t hesitate in answering affirmatively. I am sure there are many who would answer differently but, among UGA fans, I have found only one who wavered a little when the same question was posed. Yes, we are saying we would risk getting COVID-19 to attend that game. It will be a clash between two Top 5 teams in a classic venue rich with tradition and a young coach in Kirby Smart matching wits with his mentor Nick Saban. They will oversee two of the three rosters with the highest number of blue chip recruits brought on campus over the past four years (the third being Clemson). Simply put, the game is likely to be an instant classic. Coronavirus has already taken too much from us. It has taken lives and livelihoods. It has helped create the tension which has led in part to the violence we see on the streets of major cities all across the country. It also brought sports worldwide to a screeching halt. No basketball, no baseball, no soccer, no horse racing, nothing, no sports on any level. People need their tribes and many of those tribes form around sports and individual sports teams. Take for instance last year’s Georgia-Notre Dame game in Athens. Sanford Stadium was packed to the gills with an estimated 100,000 additional fans watching from tailgates around the stadium and in downtown Athens just to take in the atmosphere. A huge throng was in town and no violence was reported. That scene is repeated at all levels across all sports all across the country. People gather around teams from Super Bowl combatants all the way down to youth soccer, football, softball, baseball and T-ball fields all over this country. Beyond that there are the millions of hours Americans spend watching sports on television. There are viewing parties in bars and backyards that bring people together and families gathering in the den to watch the big game. All of that was seemingly seized from us overnight and it is sorely missed. NASCAR began broadcasting races two or three weeks ago from tracks with no fans in attendance. Those broadcasts drew the highest ratings in the sport’s history. Why? Because most humans are competitive and they enjoy competing and watching competitions. It’s clear America needs sports and the season for football, the country’s favorite, looms on the horizon. High school athletes in Georgia got the green light to resume conditioning last week with some conditions in place. Workouts all over the state were packed. Nothing brings small town America together like uniting behind the local high school football team. We see that right here at home every fall and it is the same in countless communities across the nation. America and Americans need that camaraderie now more than ever. Grandstands full of fans. The odor of hot dogs and hamburgers sizzling on the concession stand grill. The marching bands. Pretty cheerleaders showing their athletic prowess, while encouraging the team, leading the grandstand in cheers. The sound of shoulder pads hitting shoulder pads and the cheers (and muttered curses) of wired-up coaches stalking the sidelines. Are we going to let a virus take that from us? I think not. I hope not. America needs football. America needs sports. It needs them badly. In the meantime, if you have a ticket to that UGA-Bama game and need a road trip companion, I’m easy to find. Walter Geiger is editor and publisher of The Herald-Gazette and Pike County Journal Reporter. He can be reached by email at news@barnesville.com.

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