Forget football. Focus on safety and living.

The Big Ten and Pac-12 college football conferences became the first top-tier groups to pull the plug on fall football o college campuses Tuesday. The decision came as president Donald Trump urged all colleges to keep football playing amid the pandemic that has killed more than 160,000 people in America.

Others, however, praise the decision to put the safety of student athletes first.

“Don’t let the baying noisemakers and the desperate politickers for college football distract you from a central fact about the novel coronavirus epidemic,” writes columnist Sally Jenkins of The Washington Post. “Caution works. So far, nothing else has.”

Jenkins adds:

No doubt some outraged folks will rebel — folks who have never shown much inclination to put anybody’s health above wins and losses. Never forget, Maryland couldn’t save a kid from dying during offseason sprints, and Notre Dame once sent a student videographer to his death up a lift-tower in 50-mph winds just to film a football practice. You can see the same sensibility at work in this pandemic — from office seekers as well as profit seekers.

We’re seen some anger here in Floyd County from some who decry the Virginia High School League’s decision to push football and other fall sports to late Spring next year. But in a school year when high school students will spend more time online than in a classroom, an emphasis on safety should always be more important.

Virginia has more than 100,000 cases of the COVID-19 Coronavirus infections that have hospitalized more than 8,500 and killed at least 2,352. In Floyd County, where no cases were reported as April began, now has 90, with more than half of that number occurring in the last 30 days.

How many more must die before people start taking this pandemic seriously? Will it take the death of a loved one? Or a child? Or a baby?

I’ve spent a considerable portion of my life around horrifying deaths, covering the 9/11 terrorist attacks at the Pentagon in 2001, photographing carnage in the Mideast and other parts of the world and experiencing it personally within my family.

Yet this pandemic scares me more than other situations where I faced danger and possible death. Part of that fear comes from trying to deal with a deadly virus that is out there, ready to strike. But what I fear most is the widespread ignorance of the threat it poses.

When I see a mask-less parent with a baby in their arms, anger starts to build and I have to walk away. We’ve taken to shopping outside the county, at establishments that enforce the mask and social-distancing rules required by the Commonwealth of Virginia. As much as we want to “shop local,” we also want to shop safe.

Like many, we now struggle to pay bills as the pandemic takes its toll on my ability to work with revenue that photographing high school sports and area entertainment could have provided over the last five or six months.

It is a price we have to pay. Hillsville kept delaying the inevitable decision to cancel this year’s Carroll County Gun Show and Flea Market and town leaders openly admit that they didn’t want to lose the tax revenue and other income from an event that draws thousands.

Virginia Tech is bemoaning the millions it will lose without football this fall. Perhaps the one good thing that might come out of this pandemic will be a return to a focus on academics and a education without all the hoopla of big money sports.

For the time being, maybe we can focus not on the money that football brings, and we can think more about simply living.

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