This week the Big Ten Conference announced that college football would return with an eight-game conference-only schedule beginning on October 24th. The reversal comes only 36 days after the initial decision to cancel all fall sports for the year. As excited as I’m sure we all are (I know I’m ecstatic), it’s going to be hard to have a season faced with so many obstacles and challenges.
While no students will be allowed to enter the stadiums to attend games due to COVID-19 restrictions, I’m sure there will be tailgates and darties around just about every corner on campus. While for some people it’s more about the game and watching each play, for others, it’s all about the gameday experience and more importantly, the tailgate.
For the University of Michigan, a campus with about 31,000 undergraduate students, it’s hard to maintain safety measures, especially on a gameday. With packed tailgates, a sea of maize and blue, and people rallying to support the Wolverines, there is going to have to be heavy enforcement of coronavirus restrictions in order to keep everyone safe.
Campuses are going to need to increase testing and be prepared if more people test positive. Without having more tests available for students, the positive case number will be incorrect and more people will unknowingly have coronavirus and be spreading it around campus.
Here are some ways you can prepare to celebrate game days while staying safe:
1. Wear a mask.
Even though you have probably heard this about a thousand times, I’m saying it again. Wear your mask. Whether you are walking over to your friend’s house to go tailgate, or playing beer pong with your neighbors, wearing a mask is one of the most effective ways to prevent the contraction of coronavirus. For the safety of others and yourself, pull out your most festive mask and wear it proudly.
2. Stick to small groups
Yes, big tailgates with loud music where the energy is high and everyone is dancing is an experience that everyone should have; however, now is not the time. Tailgate with no more than 10 people. Find your closest friends, set up a table in the backyard with a speaker, and press play. It’s possible that you will have even more fun with your small group of friends than at a big party. This minimizes your risk of catching and spreading COVID-19, while still making sure you can have fun with your friends.
3. Drinking Games: Don’t use communal cups
If you decide to play games like beer pong, stack cup, or flip cup while you are tailgating, avoid using communal cups. Instead, fill those cups with water (for beer pong) or nothing for the other games. Have everyone use their own cup/bottle/glass when the time comes for a person to drink. This avoids exchanging unwanted germs with the people around you.
4. If you feel sick, stay home
Although this also seems like a given, many people do not listen to this advice. If you do not feel good, it is probably not a good idea for you to go out and hang with friends. Trust me, you are not missing out on anything amazing. You will have plenty of other opportunities to tailgate and have a good time with your friends. Don’t put your friends at risk just so that you can have a good time.
5. Take time to actually learn what football is about
Take this time as a learning opportunity to actually learn how football works and what it is about. Many students on college campuses like gamedays for tailgating and the fun. Personally, I like them for the game, but unfortunately, many people get bored and don’t really know what is happening on the field. Use the time you could be tailgating to learn about the game. Learn why your favorite players are your favorite; what makes them so good? Find out what an interception is, a down, a pick-six… find out why America’s favorite sport is football.
Overall, it’s good to be excited about college football coming back to Big 10 schools, but that comes with precautions. Do your part to keep yourself and others around you safe so that maybe next year you can be watching the game from the front row instead of your couch. As Coach Harbaugh said in his speech after the season was announced, “Stay positive, test negative. Let’s play football.”