Being a sports editor/reporter, I’ve closely followed the decisions of league officials and conference commissioners during this ongoing pandemic.
It’s interesting to see the rulings made as they all try to figure out the safest way to return to the field or court while a contagious virus is still infecting thousands each day. There is no one-size-fits-all approach that guarantees a safe resumption or start to a season. I really like the NBA “bubble” down in Orlando, especially with Monday’s news that of the 346 players tested in the last week none came back positive. That’s impressive, but it would never work for the NFL or MLB. The problem is logistical. NBA teams carry fewer than 20 players where baseball is basically double that and football is more than triple. And that’s before you factor in coaches and support staff. Professional football and baseball bubbles would burst due to the weight.
My attention of course has not solely been at the professional level, but with the college and high school ranks as well. College athletics, in my opinion, are in the toughest position of all. These student-athletes live among student populations numbering in the tens of thousands at the highest level of play. Every football player will be exposed to COVID-19 at some point unless universities stick their entire teams in online classes. With college football being my favorite sport to follow, I’m afraid of what the game will look like this season if it even happens at all. What is CFB without tailgating, home crowds causing opposing offenses to false start and rushing the field after a program’s landmark win?
While I follow the two upper echelons of sports as a fan, it is quite literally my job to follow and report on the decisions pertaining to a return to play for high school athletics. I have purposely tried to keep my own commentary to a minimum and let the coaches be the ones to share their opinions on procedures and measures up to this point. But a huge decision came down from the Georgia High School Association (GHSA) Monday, and I’m having a hard time putting all the pieces together.
The GHSA, which is the governing body for most high school sports in our state, through its Board of Trustees unanimously voted to push the high school football season back two weeks while keeping the calendars for other fall sports (softball, volleyball and cross country) intact. That means the opening Friday night will come Sept. 4 rather than Aug. 21. Let’s forget the fact that both the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and yours truly were told that Monday’s meeting would simply be for discussion purposes and no voting action would be taken. On top of that, no livestream or call-in options were made available to the public. Thank goodness at least one television reporter was there giving updates on the discussions taking place.
But back to the two week thing. I understand that it allows programs who have shutdown, or in Baldwin’s case, not even reported until this week, a little more time to condition and prepare for the season. What about those schools and school systems that have decided to begin the academic year with remote learning? How can a school feel that conditions are too unsafe to bring kids into school buildings, but allow student-athletes to go out onto the field for practice each day and for games on Friday nights? We’re supposed to be keeping our distance from one another and reducing person-to-person contact. Football is, after all, a contact sport.
Now before you start asking what type of sports editor doesn’t want sports to cover, please know that I want very badly to be on the sidelines every Friday from late August through November. The inconsistency in decision-making is what bothers me. There are so many things to take into account when it comes to allowing a season to go on, I’m just afraid they have not all been taken into consideration. Here’s to hoping the high school football season goes on as planned, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there is a stoppage at some point and you shouldn’t be either.