Wiedmer: If it saves lives, is losing football for a fall the worst thing in the world?

AP photo by Ross D. Franklin / Ohio State football fans celebrate after their Buckeyes scored a touchdown against Clemson during the Fiesta Bowl national semifinal on Dec. 28, 2019 in Glendale, Ariz.

My Ohio friend is hurting today. Hurting bad. The most passionate Ohio State football fan I know - not that I know enough of those to fill a Volkswagen Beetle - her pain is due to the cancellation of the Buckeyes' football season this past week because of the Big Ten's decision not to play sports until 2021 due to coronavirus concerns.

Or as she wrote me in an email: "I'm devastated by the OSU news. Wrecked. The only thing that has been getting me through this summer is looking forward to my Buckeyes playing on Sept. 3rd. And (hopefully) getting revenge on Clemson, winning the natty maybe. And it was taken from me, from my team.

"If I have to watch Bama, LSU and Clemson play on Saturdays while my team is sidelined, I'm going to lose it totally. Literally every single thing I've looked forward to has been taken from me since March. Every. Single. Thing."

The reality is, almost all of us who love sports, especially college or high school sports, are no doubt similarly struggling with the potential loss of most of those sports through the end of 2020, if not longer.

And as my friend so emotionally pointed out, it's not just sports. For those of us wise and unselfish enough to wear masks, socially distance and avoid crowds as much as possible, every single thing we've long enjoyed can seem lost these days.

No in-person church services. No movies. No large gatherings of any kind, from Riverbend to the triathlons Chattanooga has become famous for to weddings to, well, almost everything. Sadly, we can't even pay proper respects to those who have passed away these past few months, because traditional funerals bring us too close together.

So it stinks. It hurts. All over. Economically. Physically. Emotionally. But that doesn't mean we're wise to view the cancellation of football as a life-and-death issue as opposed to the real life-or-death issue we're trying to avoid.

Because for all the joy and anticipation and normalcy that has already been taken from us and may continue to be taken from us via the cancellation of sports and other activities due to COVID-19, the far greater calamity is the nearly 170,000 lives lost to date in the United States and the more than 5 million of our fellow citizens who have contracted the disease, with complications that have yet to surface in some of those.

Just look at 27-year-old Boston Red Sox pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez, projected to be the club's ace this season before he contracted COVID-19. He initially appeared to have recovered, then grew exceedingly tired after throwing just 20 pitches in a practice session.

It was soon discovered he had myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart that's being seen more and more in coronavirus patients. He has been shut down for the season, and his long-term baseball future may be in doubt.

Asked about myocarditis, Dr. Harish Manyam, chief of cardiology at Erlanger Heart and Lung Institute, wrote in an email Friday: "In some cases, patients may develop a weakening of their heart muscle called heart failure, which could predispose them to a dangerous life-threatening arrhythmia called ventricular tachycardia. A (German) study showed that 78% of patients may have cardiac involvement after COVID with 60% having active inflammation based on cardiac MRI. Sixty-one percent of patients who died had inflammation of their heart muscle."

Said Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom in a Boston Globe article concerning Rodriguez: "We were optimistic that it would resolve in short order and that we would be progressing back to pitching. As we've continued to monitor it, it has not resolved. It is still there."

There is also this from a Washington Post article, a virologist telling the Post: "Often (COVID-19) attacks the lungs, but it can also strike anywhere from the brain to the toes. (It's) just so new that there's a lot we don't know."

This may be why the Big Ten and Pac-12, two-fifths of the Power Five conferences, have already canceled football for the fall. There have reportedly already been at least 10 cases of myocarditis among Big Ten players.

One of those is presumably Indiana freshman offensive lineman Brady Feeney, whose mother, Debbie Rucker, posted the following on Facebook: "Here was a kid in perfect health, great physical condition and due to the virus ended up going to the ER because of breathing issues. After 14 days of hell battling the virus, the school did additional testing on all those that are positive. My son even received extra testing because he was one of the worst cases. Now we are dealing with possible heart issues! He is still experiencing additional symptoms, and his blood work is indicating additional problems."

From the brain to the toes, indeed.

A doctor who played both high school and college football wrote this week to tell me how opposed he was to anyone playing football at any level this fall.

Within that email he wrote: "The universal positive everyone cites as to why kids should play sports is that it's great practice for dealing with life's ups and downs."

COVID-19 is undeniably the worst "down" we've faced as a society in more than 75 years. But if stopping football means sparing even a few folks the potential horror of myocarditis, or worse, then isn't what we've gained far greater than what we've lost?

photo Mark Wiedmer

Contact Mark Wiedmer at mwiedmer@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @TFPWeeds.