Gov. Greg Abbott mask announcement a direct hit on Texas sports

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Mac Engel
·4 min read
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On this day one year ago we scoffed at the idea that we would have to close, like they did in China, Italy and other places an ocean away.

To say we were wrong doesn’t really quite cut it.

Little did we know at the time, but the amount of coronavirus that had already made the jump to the United States was going to be enough to upend lives and livelihoods the likes few among us had ever seen. By early March, there were some office closures and school shutdowns, but what grabbed society by the collective scruff of the neck was when sports leagues began suspending events.

On Wednesday, March 11, 2020, the Dallas Mavericks beat the Denver Nuggets at American Airlines Center, and in Frisco the U.S. women’s national soccer team defeated Japan in what would wind up being the last sporting events played in our area for the next few months.

Now, nearly 365 days later, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott pulled a political stunt out of his burnt orange wallet and is trying to bring it all back, without a mask.

“I was surprised by it,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said Wednesday evening on a Zoom call with the media before his squad beat the visiting Oklahoma City Thunder, 87-78.

(And here’s a tip: Please make sure to have your cell phones charged to film the next confrontation between the maskers and anti-maskers on your next visit to the grocery store. Send the footage to Mac Engel at ... )

What Abbott announced on Tuesday at a restaurant in Lubbock is just about the best/worst of who we are. We can’t help it.

The clear loser in this scenario in Texas isn’t science, Stan your neighbor, but sports. We don’t know how good we had it.

And I’m not just talking about the New Mexico Bowl in Frisco, or spring football season at Tarleton State.

The coronavirus gave Arlington a World Series. The way the Texas Rangers look, we will need another global pandemic to bring the Fall Classic back to The Hay Barn in Arlington.

Because of COVID, we hosted a Rose Bowl.

The National Finals Rodeo didn’t stay in Vegas and instead came to our town, because of COVID.

Thanks to COVID, the 2020 PGA Tour event, the Charles Schwab Challenge, at the Colonial here in Fort Worth had a field that was almost Augusta-ish.

Did you know we are going to host the entire NIT here in the Metroplex? The entire NCAA women’s basketball tournament will be held in the San Antonio area.

In a year that the Cowboys finished only 6-10, AT&T Stadium was tops in attendance by a country mile. Even Texas A&M had a good football season.

Now, it’s basically over. Or that’s what the governor is trying to do.

Both Texas and Mississippi joined hands to end any all state government mandates regarding COVID protocols. The rest of America, and the world, expressed shock to outrage.

When was the last time someone said, “Well, they’re doing it in Mississippi, so we should do it, too.” The last time Texas and Mississippi locked arms was the mid ‘60s. The 1860s. Bad idea then. Bad idea now.

To our nosey neighbors, and judgmental critics, you don’t get it. We don’t need you,however, we’ll always take your money.

We can’t help it. We are all suckers for a good theme, and cool nicknames, such as “Texas Tough,” “Texas Strong,” or “Don’t Mess With Texas.”

(FYI, the last one has nothing to do with strength; it’s an ad campaign designed to remind you not to litter.)

“I don’t know enough about the reasoning that went into [the mask repeal] to comment any further,” Carlisle said. “I do think people in the state of Texas are very smart, and I think there will be a high level of discretion when it comes to wearing masks in public.”

No, Coach is not on social media.

No state worships at the alter of its own perception the way we do, and celebrates its “independence” just for the sake of doing it.

So maybe our independent streak didn’t stick the landing when it came to that whole snow/ice/electricity/water thing a few weeks ago.

But when it came to COVID, oh, we Texans crushed it. Did a lot of people get sick and die here? Yes, but how many other cities had a months-long run of major sporting events, a never-ending athletic Coachella, if you will.

Now Gov. Greg Abbott wants to end it, and the biggest loser is not science but sports.