You know how much I love football. And you know how much I want it back. It is my personal escape from the rigors of the world. It is a symbol of what makes America great. It marks the time from August to January with weekly ritual and passion and glory.
It was my normal.
But even as a column I wrote — filled with endless data and analysis to help bring the Big Ten version of college football back from the grave in 2020 — went viral last week, I have increasingly come to understand that much of my motivation for such an intervention has to do far more generally with lives I will never encounter and concerns far outside the world of sports.
Whatever their version of normal once was, those lives desperately need it to return. Because there are people whose inability to return to normal comes with strings attached that far outweigh any frustration I might feel about not watching the Michigan Wolverines on a fall Saturday. In fact, their very lives are put in jeopardy because of the chaos we have let the national lockdowns sow into our sense of how to care for ourselves and those around us.
I read letters from some of those people on my show last week. That, in turn, compelled another viewer to share a story from the state of Tennessee for whom any return to normalcy will simply be too late.
A group called Tennessee Caregivers for Compromise is her megaphone as she remembers the final days of her husband, a man in his 70s dealing with dementia. Their normal wasn't always easy before the lockdowns, but it was theirs to manage together after 52 years of marriage with long walks, simple conversations, and a loyal dog.
That ended abruptly one day in July with symptoms that suddenly took them to the hospital. The man, agitated and unable to effectively communicate due to his dementia, nonetheless was prevented from having his wife — his primary caregiver and source of peace and stability — by his side for long stretches of time, day after day, following a COVID diagnosis.
Were the ensuing hospital transfers, medications, and restraints to calm the man all necessary in her absence over the next five days? It's impossible to know for sure. But what we do know is that a mentally broken man was discharged in poor health after less than a week and died shortly thereafter at home.
I simply can't tell you with any degree of certainty if this outcome could have been prevented if his wife had been allowed to be there to help the hospital navigate this man's challenges. But I am here to tell you with certainty that his wife should have been there regardless. Because it was civilized. Because it was normal.
We have been deeply confused during this pandemic about what is in fact essential and what is not. Sure, much of the “normalcy" that we had carved out for ourselves before COVID could often be construed as silly or pointless, but much of it is essential to the extent that it defines the very nature of humanity itself.
We were created by our Maker for companionship, with both Him and one another. And the best of relationships, the ones that reflect our Maker most deeply, are the ones that humbly survive no matter the ferocity of the storm. Because their promise to one another is eternal.
For better or worse. Rich or poor. Til death do us part.
Too many damn “experts" have stood in the way of that ethos since March. And I've knocked plenty of these pseudo-scientists off their pedestal these past few months, using actual data to crush their panic porn. But it's a shame that I had to, and still do, because this pagan flat-earth voodoo separated a wife from her beloved when it never had to be like this.
Too much of 2020 didn't have to be like this.