If you want to know what our life will be like when sports comes back, look no further than 1928 when the Spanish Flu hit the entire country.
Not only did it kill millions of people, but it ultimately led to fans wearing medical masks in order to protect themselves. We know this because College football expert Tony Barnhart tweeted a photo of fans attending a football game at Georgia Tech in 1918 and all the fans could be seen wearing masks in public just as we are right now.
Barnhart wrote about the 1918 college football season for Sports Illustrated, and many schools were not able to begin their seasons:
“One of the teams that played almost a complete schedule in 1918 was Georgia Tech, coached by the legendary John Heisman,” Barnhart wrote. “The Golden Tornadoes, as they were known then, played a seven-game schedule with six of those games played at home at Grant Field.
“And despite the threat of the flu, fans turned out at Georgia Tech. The photo that accompanies this story is of an undetermined 1918 Georgia Tech home game that was taken by a student, Thomas Carter, who graduated in the 1920s with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. It’s clear that the vast majority of the spectators in the photo were wearing masks in what published reports said was the peak of the flu in October and November.”
Fast forward to 2020 and the college football season is in doubt and if schools remain closed in the fall, it’s hard to see teams having games at their stadium.
“There isn’t a model I can run to fix the problem of not having any football,” UCF athletic director Danny White said to ESPN in April. “I don’t think there’s anybody in my position with a big football fan base that could make decisions to fix that. I don’t know what happens — there’s not a model, there’s not a solution, there’s not an action I can take that’s going to solve that problem.”