There is a pretty sizeable collection of ballcaps high atop a shelf in my bedroom closet. A bunch of Royals and K-State caps, and a broad assortment of others picked up over the years. The same one has been perched atop my head since the pandemic reared its ugly counterpart in mid-March.

It’s a black cap with the words, “Hotel California” in the same electric blue descriptive script used on the 1977 album of the same name. Forty-three years of visual graphic consistency. Picked it up at an Eagles concert last fall in Vegas and selected it as my quarantine lid for what by now, is an obvious reason.

You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.

Maybe it’s just me, but lately I waffle between a distinct impression that logic and common sense has checked out, and that consistency as we used to know it, has left, never to return.

Two college town-related events shot our trend line back up and led me to this waffling. Aggieville and K-State football.

Public videos from Aggieville bars aggregated and posted on social media last weekend showed young people — lots of them — doing what comes naturally. Partying. It also turns out the football players were not wearing masks and social distancing while getting together with friends after practice to enjoy milkshakes and read Field and Stream.

It has been 43 years, but I remember being that age. I was bulletproof and would have audibly scoffed at pandemic health dangers. The notion that I could spread it to others may have entered by mind, but it would have been easily dismissed by worldly pleasures.

Am I missing something? Wasn’t this predictable? Didn’t we have enough information to know if we relaxed restrictions, exactly this would happen? When I ask that question rhetorically to friends and relatives, I get back variations of a shrug or the beginnings of reasonable thought and plausible explanation.

The response that seems to make the most sense is this one, paraphrased: We cannot stay holed up in our homes forever. Fast on its heels, comes a justification from a business/academics/sports/government (insert way of life here) perspective: We have to get back to the way it was.

Concur on the first point, though I still pitch the once-in-a-lifetime reinvention opportunity for big systems. The federal bailouts approved during the early panic mode will not last forever. How long will the political will exist to print money and shovel it back to the states? When does stopgap become permanent?

My hair stylist went back into quarantine mode after the latest spike here in Riley County. My last haircut was in February, and I trust the locks surrounding my ever-enlarging forehead to no one else. One more reason to don the Hotel California cap. Stopgap, pending permanence.

Are other college towns seeing similar spikes in their Aggievilles? A cursory Google search reveals, ‘why, yes!’ The K-State athletic department brass speculates other D-1 football programs may also be experiencing spikes, but we’re more transparent than them, so we show up in the national news as a hotspot.

Carry these thoughts through to their logical conclusion. Assuming they are true, it means hundreds of college students and football players are sick. They got that way doing what comes naturally.

In what I like to believe is an enlightened community, are we okay with that?

Where from here? One argument is let’s get it right the first time. Horse, meet barn door. Another argument is let’s learn from our mistakes. That strikes me as akin to the thinking that if we do not test as much, the numbers won’t be as high.

If I do not take my temperature, I’ll never know I have a fever.

Until I start hallucinating.

None of which adds to my peace of mind for Wildcat football in the fall. No firm plans yet on what it will look like at Bill Snyder Family Stadium, for a very good reason. They do not know. Too many variables. Not enough factual data. Iowa State wants to limit seating to half its stadium capacity. If we do something similar, instead of hollering “Big 12 refs suck” and spewing airborne nastiness from 6 inches away, the next closest fan will do it from eighteen inches away?

No thanks. I will stay home.

Such a lovely place.

Matson was born in Manhattan, raised in Rooks County and Wichita. He’s been back home in Manhattan since 1998. His column appears in The Mercury twice each month. Follow his blog at mikematson.com.

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