Just like much of Steelers Nation, Jerome Bettis was planning on heading to Canton, Ohio next month for the Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony. He was excited and fired up to have his former coach, Bill Cowher, and teammate, Troy Polamalu, as well as Donnie Shell, enshrined as members of the Class of 2020.
But as we all know, those plans have changed after the ceremony was postponed until 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Hall of Fame game between the Steelers and Cowboys won't take place until next preseason as well.
Bettis, who spoke during a call for the American Century Championship that will take place in Lake Tahoe next weekend, said while he feels bad for this year's Hall of Fame class, he also understands why the decision was made.
"There are quite a few guys I am close to that are going into the Hall," said Bettis. "With the change and the postponement to next year, I feel sorry for those guys that don't get the moment that they have been waiting for. They have to wait another year. They have already been waiting five. And they have to wait another year. To be recognized and have their moment when they are being received in the Hall of Fame, with the teammates and class and all of the pageantry that goes along with it, they aren't going to be able to have that moment this year and have to share it with the next class next year.
"That is the time we are living in right now and we have to make that adjustment. The pandemic isn't going anywhere as we have seen. The numbers are telling us we are going to be in this for the long-haul. We have to expect that things are going to be postponed, there are going to be changes in schedules, and I think that is the one part we all understand it's for everybody's interest that it is postponed. At the end of the day it's about everybody's safety and be conscious about what is happening right now. If we all are safe, we give ourselves the best chance to get through it."
Bettis does, though, understand that sports are a key aspect in getting through a time that has been tough for the United States. While he understands the postponement of the Hall of Fame activities that include events far beyond the Hall of Fame game itself, he is happy to see sports are returning to day-to-day life.
"Not having sports, we are seeing how important sports are to the fabric of our country," said Bettis. "Not only the actual games, but the conversations about the games, the individual ones, we aren't seeing that. Now that it is starting to happen, some golf, UFC, NASCAR. Although it is not the core sports of the United States, it's still sports and it's starting to happen. We are starting to see the important part it plays in our daily lives. Although it's only a game, it is a great change of pace.
"This Covid-19 is real, it's scary, everyone is home in terms of getting information. Sports takes you out of that realm and gives you something to look forward to."
While Bettis hasn't had a lot of sports to focus on, he has been paying attention to the social justice issues in our country and is hoping the move to become a better nation is something everyone else is focused on too as we head into the July 4th weekend.
"The question is, can our country grow," said Bettis. "Can we become a better country on this Fourth of July? The issues are in front of us. I think we can work toward a better country. I think that is going to happen. We are starting to see some of the residual effects."