SOMEBODY HAS TO ENFORCE THE RULES

New safety protocols at college football games could be missing one key element

We need to mask up. Image via: SEC Network/Screenshot

Texas A&M is taking this coronavirus crisis very seriously.

How seriously? The school recently announced the following changes:

  • Attendance at football games will be held to 25 percent of Kyle Field's 102,733 capacity.
  • Hand sanitizing stations will be located throughout the stadium.
  • Drinking fountains will be turned off.
  • Concession stands will only provide "grab-and-go" items and have plexiglass barriers between customers and workers.
  • Customers will have to pay with credit cards (no cash transactions).
  • Social distancing will be enforced everywhere (including restrooms).
  • Elevators will have reduced capacity.
  • Fans in suites must stay in those suites (no suite-hopping).
  • Yell leaders must keep off the field.
  • The famed Parsons Mounted Calvary cannon won't be fired after A&M scores (they taped the cannon's sound earlier and will play that).
The college hired extra security personnel to enforce these safety rules. Security would have the authority to eject protocol violators from the stadium.

A&M isn't missing a trick, good for them. It's critically important to enact these extraordinary rules, especially with coronavirus cases rising lately in Texas and 20 other states, according to Johns Hopkins University. Young adults are driving the increase in cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Texas A&M recently reported about a 10-percent positivity rate.

I know that wearing a face mask can be unpleasant and I'm like you, I keep forgetting to bring a mask as I approach a store and have to shame walk back to my car to retrieve one. I haven't been to an athletic event, but I'm certain that sitting for several hours wearing a mask can't be fun. But if we're ever going to kick coronavirus and return to the "old normal," we need to mask up.

Saturday night I watched the A&M vs. Vanderbilt game on TV. Every time the camera panned students in the stands … no social distancing and few masks. I don't know how other Southeastern Conference teams are enforcing coronavirus safety protocols. A&M was the only game I watched Saturday. From what I saw on TV, there was little enforcement.
You know, enacting a rule is one thing …

What would Ken do?

Last week, I had one of those "What Would You Do?" moments. I was in a supermarket, and a guy passed me with his mask down around his neck, like the Lone Ranger's kerchief, not over his mouth and nose.

Don't know about you, but this infuriates me. I don't care about your reason – "It's not a law! I think masks don't work! I am not a sheep! I don't like breathing my own carbon dioxide! I heard a doctor say it's unhealthy! – just wear the damn mask. Or shop online. Or send a friend to do your shopping.

Now I had two options during my supermarket visit: ignore him or confront him. I chose option three, I squealed on him to a supermarket employee. I come from a long line of cowards. The employee did tell the man to either pull up his mask or leave. The man didn't put up an argument and pulled up his mask. I'm thinking I may be related to the guy.

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The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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