View from the Bottom of the Hill: Miss gameday? Get vaccinated

Kaden Gaylord-Day, Sports columnist

Conference USA made the decision to cancel all spring sports on March 12, 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That was almost 18 months ago.

We were lucky enough to find ways to put a product on the field while still prioritizing player and fan safety, but it was still a strange, stressful and uncomfortable year.

Stadiums that would normally rock and rumble with cheers after highlight reel plays were muted due to capacity limitations. We could no longer access players in the same way and had to conduct awkward interviews through Zoom, leading to all kinds of tech-related headaches. Fans would attend games in hopes of watching their favorite players only to find out on game day they would not be playing due to a positive COVID-19 test.

Nobody wants to go back to that. But a year later, masks are back after a brief summer hiatus and we find ourselves in the same precarious position even though there is an easy and accessible way to prevent a pandemic relapse from happening – Moderna, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson. Take your pick.

The point is, if we want life to start trending back towards normal, the first step is to get vaccinated. You probably didn’t want to be masked this semester and had already written off COVID-19 as a thing of the past, but the university recognizes the delta variant of the virus as a serious threat and is pushing masks and vaccines for a reason. WKU has even created a lottery where students can win prizes for taking their shots.

If all of that still isn’t enough to convince you, two big-time SEC schools led by two big-time SEC coaches are already leading the way back to normal by encouraging vaccinations among their programs.

Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin has announced that 100% of his football roster has received their shots, an impressive feat considering the Rebels play in a state that ranks near the bottom nationally in vaccination rates.

In an interview with ESPN, Alabama head coach Nick Saban revealed that all but one player on his team has received a vaccination — in the state that’s dead last in the United States for vaccination rates.

Remember what the atmosphere in Diddle Arena felt like when the Hilltoppers defeated Wisconsin back in 2018? Or when Lucky Jackson took a pass from Ty Storey 71 yards for a touchdown against Charlotte in 2019, causing the Houch to erupt? Or when the Lady Toppers hosted the NCAA tournament that same year and completely sold out the arena, allowing head coach Travis Hudson to experience the massive crowd he’s wanted to see his whole life?

We can ensure that special moments like these can happen this fall by making the responsible choice to get vaccinated. The quicker that happens, the sooner we can return to enjoying sports the way we’ve been dreaming of for the past year and a half.

Kaden Gaylord-Day can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @_KLG3.