New Meaning To 'Taking One For The Team'

Chris Dufresne

It hit me this week that I may never attend or cover another sporting event in my lifetime.

A bit dramatic there, Grantland Rice?

Maybe.

As I sit here watching this pandemic nightmare unfold, though, it appears a growing portion of "We The People," tired of shelter-in-place and having to drive to Georgia for a haircut, has made a calculated, moral and ethical decision.

That decision, unraveling in different ways in different states, is that the country needs to reopen in order to save our economy. And certain folks are going to have to pay for it with more than their taxes.

Here's the new wrinkle: Not only is COVID-19 deadly sinister, it also discriminates. It bypasses or minimally impacts most young people, with obvious exceptions. It attacks hardest those who are older and immune-compromised.

I am 62-year-old sportswriter (in today's lingo a non-essential, non-worker) who had a relapse of childhood asthma last year. All it took was an inhaler to blast it out but now I wonder how vulnerable I would be anywhere, including a Pac 12 press box.

I've rarely set foot outside my house in two months.

Government types and a large segment of our citizenry have made the calculation that people like me need to "take one for the team."

Let the virus swirl among the healthy masses, the theory goes, so that we can start the NFL season on time in the hope "herd immunity" will take the virus out.

People over 60 need to be protected, of course, so long as it doesn't impact the stock market.

Beyond that, Grandpa, it's been nice knowing you.

"There are going to be deaths," former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie told CNN this week.

Never before, however, at least with a disease, has one demographic been so bluntly identified and pulled out of the lineup.

 "You Gotta Play Hurt" is something we sportswriters have been known to say in a press box the morning after a heavy night of drinking.  It's based on the title of Dan Jenkins' hilarious book of same name.

Jenkins NEVER never suggested "You Gotta Play Dead."

You might as well just call us 60-and-overs "The Expendables."

As Christie explained, "they're the ones who are really going to swallow this burden badly."

You looking at me, chubby cheeks?

Note how the President has pivoted to calling us "Warriors" for what we, gulp, are about to do.

In truth, no political plan of national COVID-19 attack is going to change our plight. We're screwed both ways: stay inside with "shelter in place," or stay inside with the loosening of restrictions.

Venturing out for a football game at the Coliseum this fall seems wrought with peril--a chapter ripped straight out of Conrad's "Heart of Darkness."

How will our "kind" be treated? Will the recovered "asymptomatics" look at us like lepers who need to be quartered to a certain section of the stadium?

I spent my career being shoe-horned into basketball press rows, breathing in coughs on crowded elevators and hop-scotching jock straps in sweaty locker rooms.

Maybe school officials will construct tents for the "Bubble Men and Women" in our age-group predicament. 

Perhaps we'll be given wrist bands after we clear security (and an MRI?) to identify us as "at risk" spectators/media.

I can imagine a player at the post-game presser saying "Get this dinosaur reporter away from me cuz I'm not going be responsible for giving him the 'Rona."

Is this, as a society, where we are now?

Gratefully,  I've attended and covered enough great games to fill my life's bucket list. I can still fulfill my professional obligations by reporting in my living room from "Panasonic Stadium."

I still like getting out to a few Angel games every year but maybe not this year, or next, or ever, for I am an "Expendable," a modern-day super hero with a mask. But no super powers or a cape.

"And it's one, two, three breaths we're O-U-T at the old ball game."

I don't know if the NFL or college football will be back this season. I THINK so and truly hope so. But, as an Expendable, this might already be the end of us. No one is rooting harder for a vaccine than yours truly.

Take one for Team America?

I would like to interject Gen. George Patton's great phrase here: "No bastard ever won a war dying for his country.  He won it by letting some other poor damn bastard die for HIS country!"

Teachers in school always told me I worked well with others and my performance reviews at the L.A. Times were generally positive with regards to being a good colleague.

I believe, in my heart, I am a Team Guy.

Gov. Christie, who is only 57, says maybe I need to suck it up and help get this country back on its feet.

"I don't know what the choice is," he said.

To that I could only add a few choice words...

Oh, if you do see me at a USC or UCLA game this year, I'll be the guy in the Hazmat suit.

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Chris Dufresne

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