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What if the coronavirus means there’s no USC football in 2020?

Michael Castillo
Mar 27, 2020, 6:03 AM PDT
USC football players. (Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy)
USC football players. (Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy)
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With the coronavirus pandemic shutting down everything, it’s time to start wondering there will be any USC football games in 2020.

For USC football fans, College football boasts the longest offseason in sports. Four months of bliss —if you’re fortunate enough to go bowling— are followed by eight months so monotonous, middled aged men wind up consumed with the day-to-day happenings of teenage recruits to pass the time.

From the 24/7 NFL news cycling revolving around former college football players to March Madness having you remember to wear your colors in March, seemingly everything in the sports world serves as reminder that it’s not college football season.

It sucks. And that was before the coronavirus pandemic drastically changed our lives overnight. Everything but horse and marble racing is shutdown for the foreseeable future, leaving the possibility of the unthinkable.

What if September rolls around and we’re still unable to gather in large groups due to COVID-19? It’s something on the mind of ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit, per an ESPN Radio interview on Thursday.

“I’ll be shocked if we have NFL football this fall, if we have college football,” he said, as transcribed by TMZ.

“Just because from what I understand, people that I listen to, you’re 12 to 18 months from a [coronavirus] vaccine. I don’t know how you let these guys go into locker rooms and let stadiums be filled up and how you can play ball. I just don’t know how you can do it with the optics of it.”

If that happens, college football —the only sport to play through World Wars— would alter their schedule for the first time in over 100 years, dating back to the Spanish Flu outbreak of 1918.

READ MORE: How the 1918 Influenza Pandemic impacted USC Football

Quite simply, there wouldn’t be football. At least not as we know it.

No College Gameday. No tailgates. No pep rallies with the band. No pole kicking. No aroma of danger dogs throughout Exposition Park. And surely, no high fives with everyone around you when Kedon Slovis throws a touchdown pass your season ticket holder buddy missed because he’s been arguing about the play calling on Twitter.

Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images
Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

It’s unimaginable, as an eight-month offseason could more than double. If the 2020 season was simply canceled and skipped over, we’d go 20 months from LSU’s recent anointment as national champions to USC’s 2021 season opener against Who-Cares-As-Long-As-It’s-Not-UC-Davis.

Twenty months! That’s longer than the United States’ involvement in World War I.

Unimaginable. Because for many of us, college football —and USC football in particular— is a defining aspect of our lives. My childhood revolved around going to games with my dad, only to grow up and spend the last decade writing and podcasting about the Trojans. A season being canceled isn’t just a blow to the soul, but a hit-stick to the livelihood.

Your relationship with the game can’t be much different. Because for some, it is an escape. For others,  it’s a way to bond with family and friends. It’s a different kind of special to everyone enamored with the stupidly beautiful sport that is college football.

How could we possibly fill that void in our lives?

Binging old games on YouTube and Remember the Titans on Disney Plus only goes so far. And unlike with every other sport, there isn’t an active college football video game that could provide us with a synthetic high of hearing drum cadences on 2nd-and-12.

RELATED: Five Great Films USC Football Fans Can Watch While Quarantined 

For the football-obsessed, it sucks now. So it’ll surely suck then, because heck, just taking the time to wonder —and fear— the gut-wrenching thought of a football-less fall sucks.

But as USC athletic director Mike Bohn said in a letter to fans on Friday afternoon, it’s an unsettling reality because as much as we hate to admit it, football begrudgingly isn’t everything.

“This pandemic is so much greater than sports,” he wrote.

He’s right.

It’s a bizarre feeling during a telling moment in our world’s history, but saving lives and protecting ourselves is a far more pivotal task at hand than seeing if Todd Orlando’s new-look Trojan defense can set an edge.  (Or recognize a scrambling Ian Book on 3rd-and-10, for that matter).

Staying home takes precedence over finding a way to replace Michael Pittman. Washing your hands matters more than Clay Helton’s job status, despite what SCbro97 might write on a message board.

For us, football is life. But it can only be so if life is there to be had.

So while it’s heartbreaking to think of going 20 months without the greatest sport in the world, coming to terms the severity for why it’d be necessary, before a 20/20 hindsight of regret can, might just be how we get through 2020.

For now, we do our part to flatten the curve, while hoping for the best.

But for real, we can all agree no one wants that USC-Alabama game anyway. Right?

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