As we sit here having wrapped up a Fall sports season like none other, one thing strikes me.
We were right to play.
Despite all the fears, the naysayers, the panic-driven thought process, we were right to play.
I can’t repeat that enough.
We were right to play.
The seasons that just finished – including a state championship by Clarion volleyball and state runner-up finishes in football by Cathedral Prep and Wilmington – weren’t without starts and stops and challenges.
Yes, games got canceled because of COVID-19. Teams had to forfeit, even in the playoffs.
Yes, players were put into quarantine – sometimes because they were unfortunate enough to catch COVID-19 but more often than not because they were deemed a close contact, something that sort of kind of changed in the middle of the season depending on who you look at (the CDC changed its guidelines, schools said they were following the CDC at the direction of the PA Department of Health, the PA Department of Health guidelines buried deep in Monday’s release of new restrictions made it at least seem like the DOH wasn’t following the CDC guidelines so your guess is as good as mine).
But, overall, the problems didn’t outweigh the benefits.
These kids needed these outlets for their own mental health. Their parents needed these outlets for their own mental health. The coaches needed it for their mental health. And, yes, us sports media types also needed it for our mental health.
Yes, mental health is a real thing. As real as the virus is – and the virus is very real so please don’t sit here and lecture me on not believing in the virus because there is nothing further from the truth.
These kids made sacrifices. Sacrifices I am not sure adults would make – or are making.
They wore masks in practice, on the bench, on the sidelines.
They went to remote schooling when their friends were still in in-person school.
They had to wait and watch while adults who really weren’t any more of an expert than they were on the subject of COVID-19 – yes superintendents, school board members, principals, and teachers, parents, media members I am talking to you – than you or I or anyone without a medical degree (and frankly even that doesn’t make most of them “experts” on a new virus either in a lot of cases) tried to guess on what was best to do. That’s all it was. A guess. Sometimes they guessed right. Sometimes they guessed wrong. But at all times they were just guessing, and these kids were at the whims of those guesses.
But in the end, the pure joy on these kids’ faces, the pure excitement in their actions tells me we made the right decision to play.
There is very little evidence, if any, of massive, widespread of COVID-19 because of high school sports. That doesn’t mean there was none. It is a virus after all, but wide enough to shutdown athletics completely? It just doesn’t exist, at least anywhere easy to find.
And that was reason enough to play in the Fall, and we should all be glad that these kids got that opportunity. We have no idea how many of these kids we saved by allowing them to play sports. We have no idea how many of them may have stopped caring about school without sports. We have no idea how many of them may have gone down the wrong path without sports. We have no idea how many of them would have had their lives changed forever without sports. We just don’t know. And that is why we played games. We played games for them.
And, I, for one, am thankful we did.