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Recap In Brief: Clemson Walks Through Soulless Deacs, 37-13

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This is going to be quite possibly the weirdest recap I ever write, but it’s a weird year, so heck with it.

NCAA Football: Wake Forest at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Wake Forest looked really bad. Clemson looked like they’re about ready to murder at least 95% of college football teams. And yet I just can’t seem to care. Here’s the thing, folks. What are we doing here? It’s a bizarre hellscape of a season. Multiple P5 conferences aren’t playing. Bowl games probably won’t happen. Schools that ARE playing are having this bizarre mishmash of what does and doesn’t constitute safe, which is the EXACT PROBLEM. I’m going to really try to not get overtly political here (I have Twitter for that). but I will say this. Honestly, at this point, if you don’t think this pandemic is real and also a problem, I don’t know what to tell you. I can appreciate the fact that the players want to play, and in many ways, I can respect it. Here’s the problem, though. Unlike the NBA, these players aren’t in a tightly contained bubble. They’re also not getting paid, which if I’m being honest has bothered me for a while now, even in normal times. But these aren’t normal times. That’s literally exactly why somebody like Sage Surratt is (wisely, in my estimation) sitting out the season.

Here’s the thing, y’all. I don’t think we’ll get beaten this badly every game this season. I don’t think things will be like this forever. Science will do what it does, medicine will crack this code, maybe at some point curves will flatten to responsibly flat levels, and we’ll get to a new New Normal. But now isn’t that time. And the part that bothers me most is, WHY are we doing this? Okay, the players feel better because they want to play. Sure, I guess. But that’s not why this is happening. It’s happening for money purposes. Money that will line the pockets of everyone other than the players. I’d even go so far as to say the idea that it’s helping local economies is kind of silly, because no fans. No fans, no concessions, no ushers, no tailgating (at least not as we know it) and there shouldn’t be, unless you’re totally cool with people getting sick.

I’m not mad at the players. They’re kids that just want to live their lives and are probably thinking “Who cares, I’ll only get this once.” And they’re right. And a lot of them probably don’t have the same perspective that I have. I’m not upset by that. What I am upset by is the fact that the conferences, but especially the NCAA, have the gall to continue crowing about how invested they are in this idea of the “student athlete” and “amateur athletics” while continuing to exploit them for free labor in what amounts to extremely dangerous conditions even during normal times, and for what? Heck, there aren’t even people in the stands making memories they’ll hold for the rest of their lives (some places anyway, Winston-Salem included). This game, and ultimately the season. poses an existential question of at what point sports cease to be sports. And in my estimation, it’s one thing in pro leagues where sports are what those guys do. But most college athletes, as the NCAA so LOVES to tell you, “go pro in something else”. So why are they doing this? Because the NCAA and the conferences have millions if not billions in TV contracts to collect.

Spare me the arguments, by the way, that this is done for the altruistic mission of saving less profitable sports. If we’re being honest with ourselves, if that was really the motivation, then the NCAA, sitting on more money than God, would figure it out. Again, we’re not talking about forever. We’re talking about a year, MAYBE two, even by the most pessimistic projections vis a vis getting this pandemic under control. This is about greed for the sake of greed, and a lack of perspective. I found myself, for the first time ever, watching college sports and feeling nothing. I felt totally hollow. I’d hoped that once the game started, I’d feel something. And that wasn’t for lack of trying, by the way, as lots of guys put it all on the line to go out there and put on a show and I love them for that. That goes for both squads. I appreciate what they did out there tonight. I don’t appreciate what the people who are supposed to be looking out for them are doing.

Donovon Greene is going to be a hoss. Boogie Basham will play on Sundays. Our defense was awful. Heck, everything was kinda awful, performance-wise. Clemson is, predictably, terrifying. There will be better games in terms of scoreboard. I don’t think this year should be used as a tool to knock any coach, because I can’t imagine the difficulties of trying to act and perform like everything is cool when this is a once-in-a-century or more set of circumstances. But I truly pray it means more to these folks than it does to me, because I couldn’t shake the thought that I was watching something that probably shouldn’t happen.

I still love sports. I’m just not so sure how much I love them right now. Readers, you have my word this is the first and last time I’ll go off publicly about this. Everyone else is doing their jobs, so I’ll do mine as best I can. I guess I just had to get it out of my system. If it helps, consider this like a post-game presser. I’m sure next week’s will be different.

On to the next. Go Deacs.

—SF