Like It Is:

Coronavirus prediction woefully misses the mark

By: Wally Hall
Published: Sunday, July 19, 2020

During a phone conversation in late March with Dennis Dodd, the prediction was made that the coronavirus would peak in early-to-middle July and there would be a football season.

“I hope you are right,” said the CBSSports.com reporter and longtime friend.

The doubt in his voice was obvious.

At the time, your scribe wasn’t taking the virus seriously.

Within a day of that conversation, management of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette sent almost everyone home to work, and my opinion changed drastically.

With just 12 days left in July, the prediction that covid-19 would have peaked can go alongside the one made in 1979 when ESPN announced it would broadcast sports 24-7.

Never will work, it was written here.

Now, more than 40 years later, ESPN is facing a broadcast crisis. If there is no college football, what will it broadcast that is worth the money spent on your cable bill?

Last week, Greg Sankey and the SEC put on a brave face and said the league, along with the ACC and Big 12, will not make a decision about fall football until the end of the month.

That’s 12 days from now.

University of Arkansas Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek also put on a brave face, but admitted he was leaning 50-50 on whether there would be football. Two months ago, he was at 70-30.

The SEC and Arkansas announced Friday they would honor all athletic scholarships even if an athlete chooses not to participate because of virus concerns.

On the surface, that action seems like one of two things: A., there is not going to be a football season, but the league and schools are maintaining their integrity; or B., if there is football, the schools and conference won’t be liable if someone gets the virus.

Maybe it is a little of both, but mostly A.

Sportswriters and sports fans generally love numbers. Scores dictate winners. Statistics dictate play and progress.

For the longest time, Arkansas ranked No. 37 in the country for virus cases per 100,000 people. A few weeks ago, that started to change.

We became a hotbed.

In fact, most of the footprint of the SEC is one big hotbed.

As of Saturday, Louisiana was No. 3 in the nation in cases since the pandemic started. Florida was No. 8, Mississippi No. 9, Alabama No. 12, South Carolina No. 13, Georgia No. 14, Tennessee No. 20 and Arkansas No. 22, just behind Texas, of course.

Missouri is way back at No. 41, and Kentucky is No. 42. Maybe all the SEC games should be rescheduled to be played in those two states.

Friday was a national record for new cases with 77,233, and for hospitalizations wth 57,705.

In other words, we are just now starting to peak.

This invisible assassin has taken more than 141,000 American lives. More than 600,000 worldwide.

It is not a hoax, joke or trick play.

Now is when we need to be hearing from the scientific experts who already had been trying to warn us before they lost their stage.

This is not about politics. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp is suing Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance for trying to save her city by mandating masks, and he should be impeached. Today.

On a more comforting note, the UA along with the SEC, Big 12 and ACC are listening to scientists, not politicians.

Yurachek is also listening to his athletes. He talks with them about what they want, and they want to play.

We all want them to play. We need sports.

We may just have to wait a few more months.

The new normal is not normal, but the day is coming when you won’t need a mask, and you can attend church and go out to eat without worry.

It just may not be as soon as we hoped or predicted.

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