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How much longer will sports fans be so well behaved?

It was two months ago this week that Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz publicly acknowledged his positive test for the coronavirus, not merely prompting the NBA to suspend its season, but resulting in the collapse of the other sporting dominoes that have halted our games as we know them.

How ironic that it took a sick man to preserve the health of so many others. Empty arenas and stadiums have undeniably slowed the spread of COVID-19.

Sports people — officials, players and fans, too — have done well to maintain perspective, understanding that the games we play are largely irrelevant during a pandemic. Basketball and baseball fans have adjusted to life without their sports and probably wouldn't stage a coup d'état if their seasons aren't completed — or if they resume sans fans.

I fear the train ends there.

Because a portion of this country — most of the south — will go Vesuvius without college football. The same applies if there's college football in empty stadiums. Put it this way: Go tell Jimmy Dean from Abilene that he can't watch his Longhorns live this year. Same for Lola from NOLA who wants to yell "Geaux Tigers!" after parking her RV on the LSU campus Tuesday in preparation for Saturday's game.

Southern football fans won't take it well. When we don't take something well up here, we drive around the governor's mansion and honk a few horns. That'll feel like a Von Trapp family picnic in comparison to S.F.O. (Southern Football Outrage). Lest we forget college football is an afterthought up here, but met with religious zealotry below the Mason-Dixon line.

Not that the whole North v. South thing is new, but this pandemic illustrates a little more every day that northerners are from Mars and southerners are from Venus. COVID-19's dangers don't seem to have captured the fancy of as many southerners.

Example: A Dallas-based Texas restaurant chain will reopen soon at 25 percent capacity, according to published reports, but forbids its employees to wear face masks or face coverings of any kind.

One employee of the Hillstone Restaurant Group "expressed discomfort about it," per CBS Dallas, and was removed from the work schedule. Another employee said some agreed to work because they were offered 40-hour work weeks, but were told if they wore face masks, they wouldn't be eligible for rehire.

Hillstone management told employees, "face masks don't complement the restaurant group's style or level of hospitality." Management also released a statement saying, "current (governmental) orders do not require our staff or guests to wear face masks. If you are concerned about your safety in this respect, we hope you will join us a later date."

That's either called moxie from Dixie or totally thumbing your nose at society in general. They make no apologies, either. And it's this kind of attitude — a more cynical fellow might call it insolence — that will permeate the minds of southern college football fans if they're told to stay home.

More North v South: Eight of the 14 schools in the Atlantic Coast Conference say they're still on track to reopen for classes in the fall. Among the six who are undecided about reopening? BC, Pitt and Syracuse. Three schools from the north. Coincidence? I think not.

Generally, college football poohbahs have remained steadfast in the following: If colleges and universities aren't open to students in the fall, the season probably won't start on time. Per USA Today: "The optics of having football players on campus when it is deemed unsafe for other students would not just be bad and potentially undercut the argument that college sports are tethered to education." (Insert your own joke here).

Even if the season begins on time, would fans be allowed in the stands? If they're not, the relative silence from sports fans we've heard through two months of post-Gobert home confinement would morph into national protest. Guaranteed.

I wouldn't be surprised if protesters even came armed, given the penchant of some to maintain avid interest in the Second Amendment.

This will be fascinating because other tentacles exist besides fan revolt. Football revenues pay for other "minor" sports on campus. Would declining revenues mean the suspension of non-revenue producing sports for a year or more? Will that influence leaders in and out of the educational and political spheres to open college stadiums even if it's not necessarily safe?

As T.O. once said rather famously, "getcha popcorn ready."

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro


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