BSU Crowd01.JPG

Boise State defensive tackle Scott Matlock (99) gestures toward the crowd in celebration during the game against UTEP on Friday at Albertsons Stadium in Boise.

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PROVO, Utah — I was planning to write about Khalil Shakir, who rocked our college football senses once again Friday night.

Boise State’s latest and greatest wide receiver blew us away with one-handed catches. ESPN highlights. Huge stats. Wide smiles under that helmet. And a humble personality that constantly praises teammates and coaches.

Dude is the real deal.

Dude is headed to the NFL.

But, as I find myself debating Shakir’s place in Boise State history, the debate seems insignificant as I pull into Provo for the Utah-BYU game.

Instead of pure adrenalin on another glorious college football Saturday night, I have guilty feelings. They’re unique, they’re bizarre, and I hate them.

The question that keeps pounding my head: Should we even be attending college football games right now?

That’s my guilty feeling, a question not shared by everyone. I get it — we all don’t have to be the same.

Albertsons Stadium was electric Friday night, a much-needed and beautiful thing for Bronco Nation and the Boise community.

LaVell Edwards Stadium will be the same — with a Holy War twist and almost twice as many fans. Again, a much-needed and beautiful thing.

Combined, that’s 100,000 crazies packed into two mouth-breathing stadiums as college football continues its return to perfectly normal behavior.

While so much of our local community suffers.

Hence, these guilty feelings, which started as I walked into Albertsons Stadium on Friday. Do I really need to be here? Do any of us need to be here as a pandemic worsens?

High above the blue turf inside Albertsons Stadium, you can see St. Luke’s Boise Medical Center. Symbolic for spiking COVID numbers. Dwindling beds. Younger people getting sick. Dead people all over this country.

That’s why Boise State responded with a mask mandate, but we all know that was a joke, and hardly funny. You can’t force 35,000 people to wear a mask, and very few were Friday night.

Security did very little policing, probably by design. Don’t fight a losing battle. Don’t lose a public relations war you can’t win.

University president Marlene Tromp and athletic director Jeramiah Dickey are walking a tightrope and fighting off financial issues. They know what happened Friday and they know there’s a lot of work to be done to keep football games safe.

Now, after a home opener without masks, you have to wonder if there will be consequences. It’ll be interesting to see if local health and government officials have anything to say this week. Will the current plan stick for Oklahoma State next Saturday night — the biggest game of the season?

The Treefort Music Fest, with thousands of people in town for hundreds of shows, is later this month with a vaccination-only entry policy. Other local events, with smaller masses of humans, have recently shut down.

Like it or not, whether you agree with it or not, it’s something that must be addressed, something that responsible leaders must talk about.

I can’t imagine Boise State football or Treefort shutting down, but these days, anything is possible, including limited capacities and stupid guilty feelings.

I shouldn’t have guilty feelings over a perfectly wonderful college football weekend.

You shouldn’t have guilty feelings when watching Boise State play football, and most of you probably don’t. And that’s OK. These are my feelings. Not yours.

Three things we can all agree on these days …

We’re tired of this stupid virus.

We’re tired of being told what to do.

We’re tired of masks.

It showed Friday night — and some individuals and families bailed on the game because they didn’t feel comfortable. That should never happen, because if a locker room is a sanctuary for athletes, then stadiums should be sanctuaries for fans.

Society works better when we hang in groups, with like-minded peers, like music lovers and college football fans. Society is better when we’re not alone.

But society is broken.

Division is everywhere and blanketed in emotions.

Truth be told, despite my guilty feelings, I’m still walking into LaVell Edwards Stadium where 60,000+ fans won’t be worried about masks or my feelings. I’m diving into the Holy War masses, and taking my one mask that probably won’t make a difference.

I’m a hypocrite.

With guilty feelings.

I await all the “stick-to-sports’’ love from you people who refuse to wear a mask, who refuse a simple notion that a community can work together and make a difference.

For those of you who feel that way, I’ll write about Shakir next time.

Hint: He’s really good.

No guilty feelings needed.

Mike Prater is the Idaho Press sports columnist and co-hosts Idaho Sports Talk on KTIK 93.1 FM every Monday-Friday from 3-6 p.m. and Bronco Game Night after every Boise State football game on KTIK and KBOI 670 AM. He can be found on Twitter @MikeFPrater and can be reached at mikefprater@gmail.com.

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