Bleak Questions Without Good Answers

Well, this sucks… and it might get worse? Numerous positive tests, over a dozen caught in contract tracing, and a game against Wake postponed till December. This isn’t the time for “I told you so,” but it’s always felt like we’d get to this point at some point in this bizarre season. The fallout is where things get really interesting — how quickly can this outbreak be contained? When Irish football returns in two weeks, how much of the team is actually available to play? How much of this information is going to be outdated by the time I hit publish on this post? And will all of this happen again?

Jack Swarbrick and the administration can guess the answer to the first question, the football staff might have an inkling about the second and third, but no one knows we’ll land for the fourth. Sadly, it’s probably naive to think this will be the end of our COVID cancellation woes, whether the team faces another outbreak down the line, or an opponent does. Positive cases and the contract tracing that follows will keep large groups of the team out for an ACC-mandated 14 days, at least. That could mean more games like last Sunday’s, with backups becoming starters en masse, and it could even mean outright cancellations if things don’t get under control quickly. If the majority of a core position group is kept out for two weeks even two separate times across the season, is it really possible to re-schedule those games? We’ve only got one more genuinely open window before the end of the season with our second bye on November 21. We might soon be asking how many games Notre Dame, or any team, needs to play to justify a spot in a bowl game, qualifying for a conference championship or even calling it a proper “season.”

So where do we go from here? All we can really do is wait and see. To quote Andrew’s pre-season Tweet, this season is either not going to happen full, or it’s going to happen and be extremely depressing, questionable and problematic. We’re tuning in to watch a team that, for the sake of entertaining us and generating revenue for the school, is unquestionably putting the rest of the Notre Dame campus community at risk (to be clear, that’s a burden that falls 0% on the players). And the impact of the manufactured COVID-spreader that is college football in 2020 is never contained to just one campus, even when all the right measures are taken — USF has shut down their football operations until they can confirm negative tests across the roster. Fingers crossed the news of the past 24 hours is the worst we get here.

It’s just tough. Watching that decidedly dominant performance last weekend was awesome. We saw freshman flashing, the defense asserting their will, explosive plays while Running the Damn Ball — the steps we’ve hoped to see as we push for a one-off ACC Championship and maybe more. But the fun of that game really just overshadowed its grim start. Multiple starters getting pulled from a game hours before kickoff isn’t normal. Team operations being shut down and regular season games being pushed into mid-December isn’t normal. Just how abnormal can this season get without being put on hold entirely, and just how far can everyone involved with Notre Dame football suspend their disbelief before this gets beyond uncomfortable? We’ll wait and see.

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