Could vaccination be the ticket to watch LSU football in person? | Marcase

John Marcase
Special to The Town Talk

Coaches, players, administrators and especially fans are anxious for life to return to normal.

Normal means no more games in front of thousands of empty seats, unless you happen to be the Miami Marlins.

The LSU football team is hoping for a bounce back season after following up 2019’s national championship with 2020’s dismal and dysfunctional season that culminated in a 5-5 record.

The New Orleans Saints begin life after Drew Brees, anxious to prove they are more than just their former quarterback, who will most certainly be enshrined in Canton, Ohio, in his first year of eligibility in 2026.

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There is little doubt that players from both teams would love to take the field in a few weeks in front of capacity crowds. Saints and LSU officials have stated repeatedly their goal and intention is to welcome back one and all. The problem is COVID-19 continues to be an unwelcome guest that just will not leave.

The Olympics in Tokyo were a depressing view thanks to the lack of fans.

Major League Baseball has taken place this season with few restrictions limiting capacity. The Los Angeles Dodgers are once again leading the league in attendance at 29,195, but that is nearly 20,000 shy of what they averaged two seasons ago. St. Louis averaged more than 42,000 in 2019 but are just above 23,000 this season.

The bottom line is people are still afraid of contracting COVID. It will be interesting to see if more fans turn out for baseball’s postseason that begins in seven weeks.

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Dodgers fans have proven they will turn out to boo the Astros. More than 52,000 showed up for Los Angeles’ two-game home series with Houston two weeks ago as Dodger fans remain convinced the Astros cheated them out of the 2017 World Series.

When LSU opens its home football schedule Sept. 11 against McNeese, the goal is to have a full capacity crowd of just more 100,000. Athletics director Scott Woodard has not wavered from that decision.

The Saints are the same, but they may not have the final say. New Orleans was aiming to have a full Superdome to cheer on the Saints, but last week New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell implemented new COVID restrictions that will impact who can attend games. To watch the Saints play in the newly renovated Superdome, fans must prove they have been vaccinated or show a negative COVID test taken in the previous 72 hours.

Tulane football, which hosts Oklahoma to kick off its season Sept. 4, has the same restrictions in place, as do restaurants in the city.

LSU currently has no restrictions in place to watch the Tigers, but the school does have new rules for its students, who begin class Monday. Students must submit proof of a COVID-19 vaccination or a negative COVID test when they arrive on campus. Students will have to wear masks to class, and unvaccinated students will be required to take monthly COVID tests.

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So, if LSU is making its students comply with those standards, why won’t it impose such restrictions on anyone who visits campus, including those who watch the Tigers play football this fall?

To its credit, the LSU football team is 97% vaccinated, while its football staff is 100% vaccinated.

Officials in Southern states have been trying to find ways to encourage vaccinations and increase the percentage of the population that has been protected against COVID. Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas and Louisiana are four of the five states with the lowest percentage of fully vaccinated people.

Should Alabama and LSU school officials only allow vaccinated people into their football games this fall, that may be a solution to dramatically increase vaccinations.

John Marcase is a former assistant managing editor and sports editor of The Town Talk. He writes a weekly column.