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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It more of the same from the Houston Texans. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

Sunday afternoon provided a high-res snapshot of the state of Houston sports. The Astros, already assured of the best record in the American League, played a game they didn’t need to win. The Astros won, ho-hum, their 104th win of the season.

Meanwhile, eight miles away, the Texans, mired in last place with fan support dwindling, played a game they really needed to win. The Texans lost 34-24 to the Los Angeles Chargers in front of (giggle) 69,071 fans at NRG Stadium. The Texans really ought to stop saying the stands are packed. Every time a team punts, and cameras follow the ball skyward, there are thousands of empty seats on display. I know the NFL methodology for determining attendance, (total tickets sold, no-shows don’t count) but it just looks silly when the Texans announce 69,000 fans.

The Texans came close as usual before sputtering to another defeat. The Texans now stand at 0-3-1, the only winless team in the NFL. It’s the second time in three years they’ve started a season without a victory after four games. It’s telling to note that not one of the Texans opponents has a winning record for 2022.

In other words, the Texans have played four games they shoulda/coulda won. Shouda against the Colts, Broncos and Bears, and coulda against the Chargers.

Should/coulda four wins. Instead, none.

That’s the Texans. They’re in every game but can’t close the deal. Yeah, yeah, on Monday we hear, “the Texans are playing hard for coach Lovie Smith” and “they’re competitive” and “they’re a young team.” These are NFL equivalents of a participation trophy.

Sunday’s loss to the Chargers at NRG Stadium was straight out of the Texans playbook. Fall behind, make it interesting, lose. The Texans stuck to their script, timid play calling, momentum-crushing penalties (nine for 67 yards), self-inflicted drops, lackluster quarterbacking and Rex Burkhead on the field for crunch time. After one play where a Texan player was called for holding, the announcer said, “and he did a poor job of holding.”

Statuesque quarterback David Mills keeps saying “we’re in a good spot” and “we’re improving.” Statuesque as in he doesn’t move – or barely moves to avoid sacks. Sunday saw his first touchdown pass to a wide receiver. He’s now thrown four interceptions in the past two games. Let’s go to the tote board: 5 touchdowns, 4 interceptions, 4 fumbles, 11 sacks, qbr rating 28.5 – good for 28th in the league.

A bright spot, sort of. This was the first week the Texans didn’t cover the spread. They’re now 1-2-1 against Vegas oddsmakers, meaning you’ve won money if you took the Texans all four weeks. They head to Jacksonville next as early 6.5-point underdogs.

Meanwhile, Alabama’s brilliant quarterback Bryce Young, who will be available for the Texans when they draft first in 2023 (as Paul Heyman says, that’s not a prediction, that’s a spoiler), suffered a shoulder injury last Saturday. The Texans need to take out a Lloyds of London insurance policy on Young.

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