My Point

Blame The Pandemic

If St. Joseph is to get a chance to defend its state title, it may not happen until spring.

Couple an emotional reaction to a polarizing topic and you get…the past week dealing with Connecticut high school sports. It has been five days of yo-yoing responses, and that more than anything has been the most unfortunate outcome as we continue to try and chart the right course while in the throes of a global pandemic.

As high school athletes awoke on Monday morning, they could see a light at the end of the tunnel, with conditioning practices approaching. Then word came out early that afternoon: the CIAC football committee, by a 9-1 vote, had recommended moving the sport from the fall to spring.

Social media erupted like it hasn’t in some time with regard to high school sports in the state. Advocates of opening the football season on Sept. 24 were the most passionate.

The mood was dour for over 48 hours, before the CIAC Board of Control, in a surprise move, recommended going forth with the plan, unveiled on July 30, for an abbreviated and regionalized fall season in all sports. If winning a state title is the ultimate goal, this felt like the second biggest victory possible.

Of course that changed again yesterday when the Department of Health came out with a recommendation that football and girls volleyball should be postponed to the spring or canceled, and the start of all other sports delayed.

It is unclear whether the Board of Control acted too quickly or the Department of Health’s response was delayed. It matters only in that the state sports community deserves resolution on the plan and not to have hope offered one day and taken away the next.

Today came a yellow light: the Board of Control met again and decided to pause the start of football by a week and invite the DPH to discuss its recommendation.

Whatever the CIAC ultimately decides may be moot. Today the city of Bridgeport said it will not allow its schools to play football or volleyball this spring. The city of New Haven put the brakes on football.

Several sources have told me they expect many school districts to not allow their students to participate in sports this fall.

Bridgeport Central is a member of the FCIAC and Warren Harding and Bassick are part of a region in several sports other than football with league schools this fall.

Everyone has been weighing in with reasons why we should and shouldn’t be playing sports: our health metrics are good, summer leagues have been played without any apparent adverse health incidents, we need to wait for a vaccine before we do anything.

And while almost all the outcry on social media has come from the football community, this is no less an issue for athletes, parents, coaches and support staff in every fall sport.

The only lingering question may be whether soccer, field hockey, cross country and girls swimming will be moved to spring or attempted later in the fall.

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No doubt the fingers will be pointing in all directions, because if fall sports are taken away someone must surely be at fault. If you want to assign blame, put it on the pandemic, for that is where it belongs. It has caused everyone, not just high school athletes, to make sacrifices.

I want live sports to write about here and more of a social life. And I have had it very easy. There are millions more that want their jobs back. Almost everyone has suffered in some way. We want normalcy, and without it there must be someone to hold accountable.

But we have done an embarrassingly horrendous job dealing with a health crisis in this country. And I am preaching largely to the wrong crowd because Connecticut has been among the best states. That is because we have been among the most cautious and adhered to basics like wearing masks and social distancing.

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A decision to dip toes in the shallow end of the sports pool would be consistent with all we have done the past five months. For those that say play ball because of the health metrics, is there assurance we are not putting a heavy risk at a COVID-19 outbreak?

As for the argument we will be better or worse off in six months than we are now, what is the basis for that contention? Even the health experts are uncertain.

The fact is we are dealing with an issue that has no recent precedent. There are no guidelines to follow other than to be guarded, wear a mask, stand six feet apart.

After giving this more careful consideration, I would recommend letting schools meet for two weeks before introducing any extracurricular activities. Make sure it is first safe inside the classroom.

We all want our everyday lives back, and the loss of them has caused frustration. We are searching for safe foundations to promote a return to the routines we were forced to give up in mid March. From my own experiences I have learned that you cannot blame anyone for trying to be too vigilant, only for not being vigilant enough.

So as we look to assign fault, lets place it where it really belongs.

Blame the pandemic.