CINCINNATI — Losing Big Ten football is just the latest blow for sports fans. But experts say even those who don't watch will feel the impact - especially if high school football is next.
“It's all about, ‘Where'd you go to high school?’” said Dale Merz.
People love to talk about one-another's roots, especially in the Tri-State.
"It's born in you. I'm an Elder graduate," said Merz.
"I'm from Oak Hills, so I have to plug it,” said Jeannie Haft. "My boyfriend's from LaSalle, so he doesn't like Elder. Sorry."
"Unlike these folks, I'm from West Hi," said Debbie Baker.
Northern Kentucky University Professor Joe Cobbs’ research and University of Houston Ph.D. Billy Hawkins’ thoughts suggest that losing college football, its tailgates, fall sports and potentially empty high school bleachers is everybody's business.
"When you don't get a chance to compete, even vicariously through the athletes on the field … I'm not a professional baseball player or soccer player or anything like that, but I still get to experience that competition as a fan when I see those representing our city or university or high school," Cobbs said.
"I think sport is that cathartic emotional experience, unlike other entertainment aspects," Hawkins said.
"It has been said that sport is the great opiate for the masses. I think it deadens our sense to a lot of things that go on, so without it ..."
"I think there have been talks about how the protests have been given a lot of energy because they don't have the distractions of this major form of entertainment."
The coronavirus closed Elder's new spirit store a day before its grand opening. They're back selling Panther nail polish, lollipops and coffee, but thoughts of an empty Pit, the school’s fabled football stadium, almost makes Deanna Doerflein sick.
"Elder football is a tradition," said Doerflein, who manages the spirit store. "We see grandparents come … uncles … aunts. This becomes their family night Friday night experience."
So while players prepare, their boosters – aware of the Big Ten's decision – can't help but wonder what's next.
There are several plans for fans being talked about around Elder football, but like other Ohio high schools, nothing is final until Gov. Mike DeWine weighs in.