If you are a Wisconsin football fan, your past week has been an emotional roller coaster. Friday night, the Badgers crushed Illinois in their season opener, while their highly touted freshman quarterback, Graham Mertz, completed a mind-boggling 20 of his 21 passing attempts. From the heights of delirium came a series of crushing blows: Mertz, his top backup, and head coach all tested positive for COVID-19 and then the team canceled its next game, throwing the season into doubt.
Does it matter to the presidential election? Both candidates seem to think it does. When the Big Ten initially canceled its fall season, Joe Biden ran ads displaying empty stadiums as a symbol of the administration’s failure to contain the pandemic:
The league eventually decided that once it obtained rapid-result point-of-care testing, it could resume play. After bitterly complaining in public about Biden’s ads, Trump absurdly claimed credit for the reversal.
Lots of Americans like football. Wisconsin is a football state. News about football breaks through to people who don’t follow political news. And Donald Trump is closing out the election complaining that “COVID, COVID, COVID” is a media hoax just like Russia, Russia, Russia.
Wisconsin is suffering one of the most severe coronavirus outbreaks anywhere in the country, and Trump is signaling very publicly that he doesn’t plan to do anything about it until a vaccine arrives. And Wisconsin happens to be an extremely important swing state.
So, yes, canceling the football game the weekend before the election probably matters.