Matt Wellens column: Wearing a mask wouldn't be the craziest thing you've ever done for sports

The sooner we defeat COVID-19, the sooner sports will return. So even if the thought of wearing a face covering in public repulses you, try thinking of it like another sports superstition.

News Tribune and The Rink Live college hockey reporter Matt Wellens wears a homemade cloth Green Bay Packers mask while out in Duluth recently. The CDC recommends people wear face coverings, whether they have symptoms of COVID-19 or not, to help slow the spread of the coronavirus. (Matt Wellens /

As sports fans, we’ve all done a lot of crazy things over the years to help support our favorite team.

And rarely has there been even a speck of scientific evidence to back it up.

We’ve sat in the exact same spot on the couch every Sunday with our beverage in our left hand and the remote control in the right. We’ve refused to change our underwear during the Stanley Cup Playoffs. And cripes almighty, we swear it wasn’t us who said, ‘you-know-what’ in the bottom of the eighth inning, just before the single to left field.

Still, a large portion of the population remains reluctant to wear any sort of face covering while out in public during a COVID-19 pandemic that has resulted in 1 a.m. Korean baseball being the lone source of live sports the last two months.

In fact, some of you have been outright hostile to the idea of wearing a cloth scarf or mask over your face while picking up milk, grabbing takeout or buying grass seed — even after back-to-back Sundays of FOX airing classic Packers games from the 1990s.


Personally, as someone who first and foremost enjoys watching sports, I’ve been OK with the lack of live events on television. As a child of the 1990s who grew up in northeast Wisconsin, I’m surviving on the nostalgia of the Mike Holmgren-era Packers and Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls.

But sports is more than just entertainment for me. Like thousands of others in the country, sports is how I support my family. For that reason, it’s frustrating to know there are people out there who will stand shirtless in the stands in the freezing cold, but not put on a face mask for 30 minutes in order to help slow the spread of a disease that has killed over 75,000 people in the United States, including 800-plus in Minnesota and Wisconsin .

Face coverings by far won’t solve this crisis alone, but they are important because according to recent studies cited by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , a significant portion of individuals infected with COVID-19 do not show symptoms, or are slow to show symptoms. And symptoms are not required to transmit the disease.

By wearing a mask, you’re not only protecting yourself, but you’re also protecting others . And hopefully putting an end to us watching people play video games on television as a substitute for live sports.

Go ahead and act like my toddler at bedtime. Wrongfully yell and scream all you want about the requirement of masks by private businesses infringing on your civil liberties, that we’re all overreacting. But know that pucks will not be dropped, passes will not be thrown and balls will not be hit until professional and college leagues know their actions won’t result in mass transmission of a virus that continues to kill thousands of people every day .

So please, if you must go out, wear a face covering — like one of your favorite team — when you visit the hardware and grocery stores, even if it sounds as crazy to you as the idea of rally caps or monkeys.

Or before we all know it, fall will be here and there will be no college football, no NFL, no Bulldog hockey getting ready to drop the puck.

And all that will remain on FOX will be recent Vikings NFC championship classics, featuring Gary Anderson’s missed 38-yard field goal in 1999, 41-donut in 2001, and — my favorite — Brett Favre’s late interception against the New Orleans Saints in 2010.

Co-host of the Bulldog Insider Podcast and college hockey reporter for the Duluth News Tribune and The Rink Live covering the Minnesota Duluth men's and women's hockey programs.
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