Essential reporting in volatile times.

Click here to stay informed and subscribe to The Charleston Gazette-Mail.

Click #isupportlocal for more information on supporting our local journalists.


Learn more about HD Media

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic’s disruption, our desire for the pre-pandemic routine might transport our thinking to strange destinations.

To our dismay, we expect no help from the Trump administration. Disorder and upheaval are circumstances evidently preferred by the president who, in March 2018, said, “I like turnover [of Cabinet secretaries and White House aides]. I like chaos. It really is good.”

Free of charge, I offer our president an alternative view: Chaos is awful.

Closer to home, we observed this week a notable trickle-down manifestation of the president’s chaos-friendly leadership style as dozens of parents and students assembled at the Capitol to chant, “Let ’em play.” This as new child cases of the virus are soaring nationally.

Doubtless, those parents are fortified with good intentions. But have they considered that, as they say “Let ’em play,” they simultaneously deny their children an opportunity to learn how to deal with disappointment? They tell us that there are potential college scholarships and opportunities to play professionally that depend on Johnny playing football. But wise heads know, as the NCAA reports, that a high school senior footballer has a roughly 1 in 20 chance to play in college, and a microscopic 1 in 1,100 possibility of playing professionally.

This is happening even while COVID-19 quickens its pace. In West Virginia, 98 days elapsed between our first death and our 100th. By comparison, it took just 39 additional days for the number of dead to top 200. And, as this is being written, the total hovers near 300, after a mere 21 more days. Thus, the virus hastens its work as Gov. Jim Justice bows to election season pressure from families of athletes.

Gov. Justice this week added another color, “gold,” to the COVID-19 risk-assessment map, a move designed to accomplish its preordained result — deluding ourselves into discounting the pandemic threat just enough so that sports may take place.

It is reasonable to ask whether we are prepared to grieve for today’s player who becomes tomorrow’s statistic. As well, we might ask whether the color spectrum will hold out if additional self-interested groups protest to the governor. If so, perhaps none of us will have to be inconvenienced in any way, ever.

Disappointing episodes serve a purpose, beginning with the youngest children. A favored toy is lost. A best friend moves away. A beloved pet dies and a parent or guardian uses the sadness to teach, enfolding that child in the arms of tenderness and consolation. Although it hurts, the child learns they can endure and grow and do well again. He or she learns that it is possible to successfully deal with disappointment.

Over time, the sources of hurt change as the lessons continue. These are opportunities to prepare for the inevitable, much larger, unknowns that await in adulthood — a frightening diagnosis, the loss of a job, the death of a loved one or something else.

COVID-19 is not the flu. It has killed 200,000 Americans. The flu generally kills 30,000 to 40,000 a year.

Let ’em play? Right now, to play high school sports is to be at a political rally or a church service or a bar, shoulder-to-shoulder and without a mask. It is to walk a tightrope under which lies an opportunistic virus that doesn’t care about a football game.

Joseph Wyatt is a Gazette-Mail

contributing columnist and emeritus professor at Marshall University. He may be reached

at Wyatt@Marshall.edu.