Fargo

The news hit Wednesday when the consortium of Sanford Health, Essentia Health and Cass County Public Health started accepting walk-ins for the COVID-19 vaccination. It was yet another sign of progress toward the virus that has crippled the country for over a year.

It’s done its damage on athletics, too. And heads have exploded this spring for anybody following Division I FCS football trying to figure out the following: Who is playing and who is not? Who has opted out and who is still in playoff contention? Is the game canceled or postponed?

All it takes is a walk to the mailbox to miss the news of another FCS team dealing with some protocol issue.

North Dakota State is still slated to play at Northern Iowa on Saturday afternoon, although UNI head coach Mark Farley said he doesn’t start paying close attention to who will be in his lineup until testing results come back on Friday. Or, in the case of NDSU against South Dakota two weeks ago, on Saturday morning when that game was canceled.

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At some point, we have to stop living like this.

Parents and fans cannot continue to try and travel to games with kickoff not a certainty. Two weeks ago, NDSU defensive end Logan McCormick said his dad drove eight hours only to get notified on Saturday morning that the Bison and USD game was off.

At some point, whether it’s this fall or 2022, testing will have to stop. As to the specifics of how or when that will happen is not known.

“That’s a great question,” Farley said, “because who’s going to make that decision? When will testing stop? I do believe this, with all the vaccines still out there, I can tell in our vicinity there is a light at the end of this tunnel. When that is, I’m hoping this summer, but there is a light. All this testing does right now is disqualify a lot of people with false positives or positives. I do believe and I sense light at the end of the tunnel. Then I watched NDSU get canceled two weeks in a row and us last week and I still feel like we’re in the middle of it.”

We are still in the middle of it. The virus is surfacing in younger people more than ever. NDSU head coach Matt Entz, who like Farley is in the dark on the testing question, said he thinks testing could continue this fall in some fashion and if that’s the case, the postponements or cancellations will be part of college football.

The university has yet to schedule homecoming and that probably won’t happen until the state of North Dakota OKs full capacity at venues, in this case 18,700 at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome.

At some point, tailgating will have to return to the west lot of the dome. At some point, we have to live again.

I had COVID last fall, had the one-shot vaccination last month and have declared myself a free agent to do what I do. I’m looking at people in the eye and shaking hands again. I no longer worry about touching public door handles. Six feet of social distancing? Don’t care anymore.

I still wear a mask in public because it’s the prudent thing to do, and I like the idea of permanent masks in grocery stores because people drooling over the veggies I’m about to buy isn’t really appealing. Otherwise, my old pandemic life is over.

I lost a friend and a relative to the coronavirus and that will forever suck. At some point, however, we have to get back on the bike.

College football has to get back on the bike.

Missouri Valley Football Conference commissioner Patty Viverito got right to the point when asked about the end of testing and who will make that call.

“No idea when this will end,” she wrote in an email.

It was followed with a frowny-face emoji. Who will make that call? Anthony Fauci? The CDC? The NCAA? Each state’s governor? Society? Nobody really knows.

Nobody travels to out-of-town football games in the FCS like NDSU fans. In a normal season, one corner of the UNI-Dome is packed with Bison fans for the NDSU and UNI game. It made for a great game day atmosphere, about as good as it gets in the FCS.

Now the wonderment is how long it will take for fans to return to the stadiums. Next fall? Two years? Three years?

If testing is still a part of college football, why would anybody buy a season ticket? Why would anybody spend one dime to go to Cedar Falls, Iowa, Brookings, S.D., or Vermillion, S.D. to watch NDSU play football? Who would want to get up at 5 a.m., stock the car with tailgating supplies and head to Grand Forks on a Saturday morning?

At some point, we have to stop living like this.

Vaccinations around here have accelerated to a walk-in basis. Do it. College football will thank you. Society will thank you.