My Point

To Play Or Not To Play? That Is The (Tricky) Question

Greenwich quarterback James Rinello looks for an open receiver during a game last season. (Gretchen McMahon)

One lesson reinforced over the past few weeks: don’t try and take anyone’s football away. College and professional football writers are getting pilloried on social media just for reporting the possibility of canceled seasons. They have been accused of wishing what they report. It is a kill-the-messenger culture.

Twitter erupted this morning when I was able to confirm from several sources that at the CIAC’s football committee meeting this morning, postponing or canceling the season was being discussed. The impetus for change — the board had already set up the parameters for a fall season — was coming from school superintendents, especially after UConn canceled its season last week.

Hearst Connecticut’s Sean Patrick Bowley then reported that the football committee, almost unanimously, recommended pushing the season to the spring of 2021.

So where does that leave us? The CIAC Board of Control has final say and will meet on Wednesday. It would be highly unusual for it to go against the committee’s recommendation. Other fall sport committees are meeting in the interim.

What a spring football season would look like is still to be determined. There have been rumors of three two-month seasons starting in January, since football and lacrosse would have to be separated because of the number of athletes that play both and field space.

Left unanswered: would the CIAC still allow other fall sports to be played even if football is postponed? Football is the most high-risk because of the contact and roster sizes. Field hockey coaches have already reached out saying that their summer seasons have proved the sport can be played safely.

What would the optics be if some sports are played and football is not? And should they even matter? Is it wiser to try a few lower-risk sports out to see if a season can be played safely? Our would those athletes essentially be guinea pigs?

And then there will be the biggest argument from parents: if it is OK for kids to go back to school, why can’t they also play sports. A point can be made that it is safer to be outdoors, but the bigger point is that education is of paramount importance.

Connecticut is currently one of 13 states in the “slow disease growth” category in the country’s COVID warning system. That is the second-best of the four levels. Only Maine and Vermont are considered “on track to contain COVID.”

So what is the right answer for how the CIAC should proceed? I really don’t know. And you know what? There is not a correct answer.

It still stuns me that people operate as if there is not a public health emergency going on. And I want football as much as anybody — I promise — but the sport is not an inalienable right being taken away.

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I will be comfortable with whatever direction the CIAC takes, because each route comes with a pro and con. I would prefer to err on the side of caution and keep this state safe. Kids may be at a lower risk for the disease but they can be asymptomatic carriers.

Interestingly both The Washington Post and New York Times ran editorials last week, using analysis both from epidemiologists and health policy experts, calling for the country, state by state, to shut down for six to eight weeks and then we would be able to go back to normal by October 1. I personally would sign up for such an opportunity right now before it was rescinded.

And for perspective, the longer this goes on, the more at risk my business becomes. It is difficult to make money covering high school sports without high school sports.

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If the state decides to ease back into athletics, allowing to see how the lower-risk sports operate this fall, predicated on shutting down right away at the first signs of outbreak, I would also be alright with that.

And if the CIAC Board of Control for some reason were to go against the recommendation of the football committee, the schedule that was set up, easing from conditioning, to practices, to games over 38 days, is a practical plan.

For high school sports, as with all other aspects of our lives, we are trying to navigate a 10-mile road with obstacles every 500 yards. This pandemic came without a game plan.

So whatever is eventually decided, lets give the decision makers a bit of a break. They are trying to make informed choices without any precedent as a guide. Ultimately, they care most about the safety of the athletes — and coaches and support staffs.

Please let’s agree that determinations that put human lives first are the right call.