It was tempting to skip watching the College World Series entirely this year after Arkansas' premature departure from the field in the Fayetteville super regional.
I've never been to Omaha. Like a lot of baseball fans in Northwest Arkansas, though, my wife and I at least discussed the possibility of going this year because the Razorbacks looked like a team destined to compete well for the national championship. Despite the unbelievably awesome season the Hogs delivered, that one must-win game against North Carolina State proved their downfall.
But great college baseball is hard to ignore. The College World Series has a lot of great baseball. And so we watched and debated to what extent we should pull for the team that beat Arkansas or stick with cheering for the SEC teams who made it to Omaha.
We did a little bit of both.
On Friday, it appeared it might be over before their game started for NC State because of covid-19. Their visit to the College World Series suddenly looked as though it might be ended not by strikeouts or a lack of scoring, but by a spiky little virus. But they cobbled together a roster that included only 13 players, according to ESPN.
If anyone thinks the impact of covid-19 is over, they're fooling themselves.
In Arkansas, an upswing in new infections continue at least through Thursday (I didn't have Friday numbers as I wrote this). The number of hospitalizations remained at 282 statewide, much too high when free, safe and effective vaccines are readily available.
"This has been driven mostly by two factors: lack of vaccinations and the covid variants," Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Thursday. The aggressively contagious Delta variant is doing its damage across the state. So is the failure of many Arkansans to embrace vaccinations.
In several of last week's daily reports, Northwest Arkansas' hospitals noted that just 38 percent of individuals 12 and older in Benton and Washington counties have been fully vaccinated. They reported a 200 percent increase in patients in their covid-19 units since the first of June, although the numbers are a fraction of what they witnessed in last winter's surge in cases.
Still, with the availability of vaccines, why should the numbers be growing at all? Hospital officials noted that the likelihood of becoming hospitalized or even critically ill is extremely low for vaccinated people.
In those daily reports, Dr. Janelle Potts was quoted: "I keep hearing people say they want to 'wait and see.' The time to wait is over. If you are on the fence, the time to get vaccinated is now."
Dr. Jason McKinney, also in those reports, said "When we were seeing a surge last summer our best defenses were masks and social distance. Now we have a much more powerful tool, the vaccine ... if only we can get more people to take it."
It's clear that practically everyone has given up the mask and social distancing in most instances, whether they've had the vaccine or not. Many Arkansans simply are willing to take the risk or don't feel any urgency.
I took the Pfizer vaccine. I'm convinced the vaccines have been proven safe and effective, with no side effects other than a sore arm or maybe a little fatigue in a few cases. Is it a guarantee? No, but it's pretty close and highly likely to ensure a covid-19 case won't become serious.
It seems the strongest factor in favor of getting a vaccination is, or ought to be, protecting people we care about from getting sick, particularly people under 12 who cannot yet qualify to receive a vaccination or others, such as people with compromised immune systems, who remain vulnerable.
Yes, it's a choice. I'm happy with the one I made.