“It’s only a game.”

That’s what some people are saying when it comes to playing football in the era of COVID-19.

On the surface, football is only a game, no doubt. At least, it started that way a century and a half ago. Just 22 dudes decked in modest — if not flimsy — protection knocking the snot out of one another for little to no money.

Slowly but surely, football’s popularity grew into the behemoth it is today. Now, that sport is intrinsically woven into the emotional and financial fabric of our country. That is why canceling football games should be done as only a last resort.

I understand why some folks are incredulous as to why colleges and high schools are even considering playing football during this pandemic, though. It’s a scary proposition. This virus is most certainly no joke. In fact, a few of the larger college conferences have already determined they will play conference-only contests and it’s fair to assume those moves are a harbinger for a total can elation of the season shortly.

Short of a 10-ply full-body condom, how in the world can an interior lineman expect to not get an opponent’s potentially tainted blood, sweat and tears thrust upon him when on the gridiron? They can’t. There’s an undeniable risk to playing football.

Of course, there’s always an undeniable risk to playing football. It’s a rough sport. We have just learned to accept the usual risks because the rewards can be so high.

Football teaches invaluable life-lessons about winning and losing; about being a good teammate; about dedication. Maybe most importantly though, football is a key cog in America’s — and especially Alabama’s — economic wheel.

Try telling the mayors of Tuscaloosa and Auburn football “is only a game.” They will be quick to respond with hard statistics that point to football’s financial impact on their communities. Without football, where do college towns and seasonal businesses make up the enormous amount of money lost?

Try telling high school seniors who may have blossomed during this summer that their senior years of football that the sport “only a game.” They will be quick to point out the 2020 football season could be a diving board to a college scholarship. Without football, how does a late bloomer get seen if he doesn’t have previous years’ game tape because he hadn’t played before?

Try telling members of the marching band or cheerleading squads their efforts to parlay skills into a scholarship football is “only a game.” These activities can be just as fruitful as playing quarterback to some kids. They are also key elements to a teenager’s social development and those extracurricular practices provide a safe place for all of them to go — and grow.

Football is a game, but it much more than that. That is even more evident in SEC country. The conference’s motto of, “It just means more” isn’t just a catch phrase; it’s a statement of fact.

However, unprecedented times require unprecedented measures. Canceling any — or all — of the football season could be the safest route to avoiding catastrophic loss of life due to COVID-19 and if that is the case, we must understand is the correct thing to do. Let’s certainly hope such a move would lead to the virus’ ultimate and quick demise because just one fall season without football will be an incredible price to pay.

Luke Robinson is a regular columnist, contributor to BMetro, AHSAA Radio Network broadcaster and Sportz Blitz team member.

Luke Robinson is a regular columnist, contributor to BMetro, AHSAA Radio Network Broadcaster and Sportzblitz Team Member.