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The Elbert Files: Wrong again


Westbound traffic on Grand Avenue was increasing as I neared 28th Street a little after 4 p.m. on a Wednesday. As I crossed the street, a tall, thin man approached, walking quickly with a straw hat shading his eyes.

Before I could offer a greeting, my friend K.C. said, “Well, you were wrong again.”

“I’m wrong about a lot of stuff,” I replied. “I thought that Iowans, sensible folks that we are, would line up and get shots as soon as we had a vaccine for COVID-19. But it turns out that months later we’re little more than half vaccinated.”

“Even worse,” K.C., replied, “our governor is giving up. She’s shutting down much of the infrastructure that was created to battle the pandemic. She thinks everything is back to normal.” 

“She did what we used to recommend for the war in Vietnam,” I said reflectively. “She declared victory and pulled out.” 


“Boy, is she in for a surprise,” said K.C. “That might work when you’re someplace you don’t belong, but not when the enemy is a deadly virus that’s created a worldwide pandemic.” 

“The thing that really annoys me,” I continued, “is the excuses people come up with.

“Some say they don’t trust the science.”

“Like they even know what the science is,” K.C. said. “Most couldn’t pass a high school biology test, but they’re happy to sit in judgment of people who spend their entire careers studying this stuff.”

“Another excuse I hear is ‘I don’t like needles.’ I heard that yesterday from a 40-year-old man,” I said. “I’m guessing he’s never been in the Army.” 

“Or maybe he has,” K.C. said. 

“Then,” I said, “there’s the macho guys who say they’re tough enough and can handle the virus if they get it.”

“Tell that to Mr. Macho’s parents when he gives it to them and they die,” K.C. said. “That’s already happened plenty of times.”

“Here’s the excuse that really bugs me,” I said. “People who say, ‘I’ll get around to it.’

“When? When you’re at the hospital and they’re getting ready to put you or your wife or your kid on a ventilator?

“By the way,” I said, changing the subject, “what did you mean when you said I was wrong again?”

“You know that column you wrote about the name, image, likeness controversy in college sports?”

“Don’t remind me,” I said, looking down. 

“You said that neither the NCAA nor Congress would do anything before July 1, and that it would create confusion among schools about whether athletes could endorse products or be paid for their likenesses or for signing autographs,” K.C. said.

“Well, I was half right,” I replied. Congress did nothing.”

“That was a safe call,” K.C. said.

“But the NCAA did,” I admitted. “They threw up their hands and said, ‘Go for it.’

“They made it open season for guys like Jordan Bohannan, the six-year Iowa basketball player, who immediately set up a card table next to a fireworks stand in Windsor Heights and started peddling his name, likeness and image. 

“Of course, the NCAA didn’t provide any rules or even guidelines. The only thing they said is that colleges can’t offer money as a recruiting incentive and that boosters should not be involved in payments to players. 

“Athletes have to earn money by finding sponsors for their social media posts or wearing apparel or autographs or whatever,” I said.

“You were right about one thing,” K.C. said with a wink.

“It is going to be a mess. The NCAA will have one set of rules, states another, and colleges yet another. At some point, Congress will need to step in. But that won’t happen soon.” 

As he walked away, K.C. added, “In the meantime, I can’t wait to see what happens when the U of I brand police figure out how much money Bohannan is making and decide they want a cut.”

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