MY PITCH

Colleges have the right idea

Posted

As we get one week closer to fall, more and more college athletic conferences have cancelled autumn sports or have postponed them until the spring.

On the one hand, it’s discouraging that we are now four months into the COVID-19 crisis and we still cannot have a standard sports schedule. However, on the other hand, I am not totally against the idea of just shifting the seasons.

Obviously, a perfect world would be having things back to normal by early September, but unfortunately, that is just not a safe option at the college level. In terms of local schools affected, both URI and Johnson and Wales will not have fall sports and those teams will likely compete in the spring. It only seems like a matter of time now before all conferences put things on hold.

It appears that most conferences are pushing for spring play, and in my eyes, that is a necessity. I know that essentially having double the number of sports in the spring will be a headache to schedule and facilitate, especially for those working at the schools, but there is no reason why these fall sports athletes should have to miss a year.

Of course, it all depends on the progress we make from now until then. I would like to think that despite our struggles to control this disease, that by springtime the curve will be flattened and maybe there will even be a vaccine available.

These fall athletes deserve to be able to play their respective sports, even if it means playing them on a different page of the calendar. That is why many of these kids go to college in the first place, to play sports. I’ve said this in the past and I will always feel this way … although education and earning a degree should be each student’s primary motivation, sometimes that is simply not the case. Is it really that bad to see a kid work his or her butt off and get a degree based on their desire to compete on the field? I don’t think so.

So sure, although having to continue to push through this strange time is becoming more tedious by the day, and as sad as it is to see us potentially have to put collegiate sports on hold for another few months, I am at least happy to see the majority of these conferences working toward a plan to play in the spring. The kids deserve it.

It does make me wonder if there will be a ripple effect at the high school level, though.

As of now in Rhode Island, the RIIL has maintained Aug. 17 as the first day of fall practices, and as far as I’ve heard, is still optimistic that it can get it done … it’s not a slam dunk, but I know that seeing some of these summer leagues getting started helps.

Colleges are bigger than high schools and (usually) attract greater numbers of spectators, coming from further distances. If you ask me, colleges are a little bit tougher to monitor than high schools.

I’m rooting for high school sports to start on time and to see a season this fall. It depends on whether or not kids will be heading back to the classroom in time, but assuming they do, I feel like playing sports should be reasonably doable.

I’m not advocating for the RIIL to ignore what colleges are doing, at the end of the day all school-related sports are in this together. However, I just hope that high schools don’t look at colleges postponing the fall and follow suit simply based on the fact that it is being done. Safety should be the top priority, and if the RIIL deems it unsafe to play I won’t argue, but I really hope the league will make its decision based strictly on the local situation and what our high schools are reporting.

For those leagues that are playing, ranging from youth to adult leagues, it has been good to have you back. So far, things seem to be going well. There have not been any new cases within these leagues to this point and I have heard and seen nothing but positivity throughout. People are just excited to feel that sense of normalcy, and even with a few safety tweaks and precautions, we have taken that first step back towards it. Rock on.

On a national level, we are also getting closer to these leagues giving it a go. Major League Baseball returns this week, while NFL training camps will be fully underway next week. Both the NBA and NHL are also inching toward a return.

As much as I would like to say I wrote the previous paragraph with sheer excitement, I can’t. I have actually grown pretty pessimistic when it comes to pro sports.

Unlike high school sports for example, these leagues and teams require far greater numbers of personnel and manpower. There is also cross-country travel, players coming from all over the country and world. So far, each league has faced many positive COVID tests and have had to overcome many hurdles to get to this point.

Although I believe these leagues have done a good job up to this point, and there have been some encouraging numbers in the past few days, I do think it is clear that these sports are doomed for the remainder of these seasons. Boy, do I hope I am wrong, but at this point I just can’t wrap my head around a scenario in which it works.

Sure, fans will not be allowed in attendance and every single member of each team will go through regular testing. But at the end of the day, there are just too many people to look out for and considering these teams will be living and traveling with each every day, it just seems like these outbreaks will happen often and will force these organizations to constantly adjust on the fly.

Whether it be a player or staff member getting gravely ill, or a team having to forfeit due to a massive outbreak, or just too many scheduling conflicts, I struggle to see how these leagues pull it off. Like all other sports, I am rooting for them hard, but I have my doubts when it comes to pro sports.

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