Santa Clara County has been among the quickest and most aggressive geographical entities in America to react to COVID-19, so maybe it shouldn't have been such a shock to learn as we did Saturday that the county has essentially closed Levi's Stadium to the company that owns it. The San Francisco 49ers are now the first team to be exiled from its home, and are in search of an Air B&T (Block and Tackle) for at least the next two weeks. Whether or not they see this as more political treachery from a civic opponent or not, what we have seen in Baltimore and Denver of late suggests that the supervisors are on solid civic ground.
But of all the places in the country that have been chewed and spat back out by a virus whose nastiness we only now are beginning to comprehend, it is also a considerable surprise. Mostly it is that rarest of responses to the virus — a proactive one. Because of that, we should greet it as the sane act of sane people whether football fans like it or not.
There has been a remarkably high level of bad behavior among players, coaches, owners and league and conference officials throughout the pandemic. College football is a rolling shambles, making up, ignoring and reassembling protocols as it goes along, to the point that teams are now routinely opting out of games even after going to the stadium on game day... and that's when they're not replacing canceled games with games made up on two days' notice. It has been a terribly incomplete and unsatisfying year unless you are Vanderbilt kicker Sarah Fuller or Buffalo running back Jared Patterson.
The 49ers have had their own brushes with COVID, but seemingly nothing to render them homeless. This, though, isn't about what the 49ers did or didn't do, but what the county is seeing, doing and not doing around it. This is a sterner acknowledgement that football does not operate outside the laws of medicine and virology but very much within it. When the spikes ravage the greater community, sports' ability to wall off the outside world is far more limited than it wants to claim for itself. Despite the claims that America needs football as an outlet, America only wants football a lot, and its relative unwillingness to do even the minimum has resulted in the situation we have today.
So the Denver Broncos don't have a quarterback because their quarterbacks won't wear masks. So the Baltimore Ravens have had their big game against Pittsburgh rescheduled twice because a strength and conditioning coach didn't wear a mask of a required monitor. The league is unraveling while refusing to admit that there is a pile of yarn at its feet. Most bizarrely and hilariously, the 49ers may finish the year in a city the league officially abandoned 11 months ago.
And the lesson seems clear. The basic science applied to human existence is better than the technology designed to modify or defy it. It certainly is the way to bet, and it is absolutely the way to survive and thrive.