Auburn, the friendliest village on the plain, faces a hostile reckoning.
Many of the old-establishment downtown business are warning that if college football does not return to the gridiron this fall, an economic crisis will become economic catastrophe.
Corona, meanwhile, doesn’t give one damn about either.
How ugly is ugly?
Too many Americans are too slow in coming to realize that the coronavirus pandemic, tabbed COVID-19, is more than a simple inconvenience, deadlier than a flu bug because of its continued mysteries, and not the political scam or made-up conspiracy that hard-right or far-left pundits use for attention.
No, it’s a killer.
It’s an ugly killer. The best way to describe how those unfortunate to get the worst of it suffer is “by drowning for air,” as one local nurse — yes, that’s local — said in describing the horror of seeing victims basically suffocate.
Southerners especially seem arrogant about this wicked witch Corona because Southerners, as proud as we are, are among the stubbornest breed of humans on Earth.
We dare defend our rights. Even to die.
And we refuse to give up our traditions and passions without a fight.
Football means cash
Gov. Kay Ivey knew exactly what button to push when she decreed that if the residents of the great and sovereign state of Alabama didn’t follow recommended guidelines such as wearing a mask, social distancing and washing our hands, we could forget about football in the fall.
Some scoffed at that notion at the time. Not anymore.
Start with the downtown business community. Corona is like the unwelcome guest who just won’t go away. Give Corona more punch, and the drunker it becomes.
So what are business owners to do? Many can’t survive with corona still on the loose; and they sure can’t survive in making a living if they can’t keep the doors open and the customers buying.
It means creative and responsible action from all parties involved, and if any one of them don’t oblige, we invite grave danger.
“Is there any other kind?” quips a famous actor in the movie “A Few Good Men.”
Exactly. COVID-19 isn’t just a simple cold if it takes root to do its evil.
It’s a killer.
A mean, ugly, unrelenting, slow-working, agonizing killer.
Haters gonna hate
So what do we do? Put chains on the doors, close all roads and evacuate to the woods?
No, we get serious in telling those “all parties” involved to get serious.
Start with Auburn football. The hometown Tigers’ stadium can hold nearly 88,000 fans, and this past week, the university president suggested football will return, on time.
Does anyone really think that sitting elbow-to-elbow with 88,000 people around you is a safe thing to do yet?
Haters gonna hate, deniers are gonna deny. But go ask that nurse what he/she thinks, sees and fears, and if you’re still not concerned, go to work with them a day or two.
Can we still have football in the fall, safely?
Maybe. But it won’t please everyone.
Think, don’t panic
One idea is to have a lottery among season ticket holders.
Lottery winners get to go the game and still practice social distancing from those outside their immediate circle of kinship, and lottery losers get a refund or remain in the lottery for the next game.
Another idea is to have some sort of pregame testing in place, with a plan for handling those who test positive.
But that requires A) a test that can provide immediate results, and B) a plan that requires spaced-out lines for those waiting, and C) a willing patience that most excited football fans seldom exhibit on game day.
What about playing the games without fans?
That’s a bit like eating a bite of chocolate during a sinus infection, but hey, something is better than nothing, right?
No doubt Auburn would have one advantage with that idea this year: It plays road games at Georgia and at Alabama.
The bottom line
Regarding downtown Auburn, there remains plenty of room for creativity and cooperation there, too.
Don’t forget about the idea tossed in this column a year or two ago about turning the heart of College Street into a pedestrian mall, with outside umbrellas and tables, and plenty of room to walk and socialize — or, to avoid such.
It works for special events, but why not seek a viable way, hard as it would be, to reroute traffic and make downtown Auburn an attraction that also deals with the reality of corona?
Bottom line is this:
The more of us who ignore COVID-19 as a serious threat, who refuse to wear a mask when close to others, who refuse to exhibit courtesy to others whether we believe or don’t believe, who refuse to understand the plight of business owners and workers trying to make a living and respect their needs both monetarily and physically, the more misery and pain we all will suffer.
And the longer we will suffer it.
Personally, I’d love to see enough courtesy and respect commonly shared that we get our football back, with safety first for the players and the fans.
The unwelcome guest is looking for another dance.
Please, someone, change the music.
Troy Turner is editor of the Opelika-Auburn News. He can be contacted at email@example.com and followed on Twitter @troyturnernews.