We hear a lot of talk about college and pro football and what we can expect with COVID-19 still around this fall but things seem to be more up in the air as far as high school football goes. I've heard some really nasty rumors such as only one player touching the ball on each play, which may signal the return of single wing football. Footballs will be sprayed before each play with disinfectant and brought to the sideline when the play is over, sprayed again and put back in the game. Officials will wear gloves and masks, (required.) I don't know how social distancing will be enforced because it will be hard to have 11 guys in a huddle before each play, standing six feet apart.
All of this could have been avoided if everyone had properly socially distanced and wore masks when this all started in March. As Tennessee Athletic Director Phillip Fulmer said this week, "If you really, really want sports, football and all those things, then wear your mask and keep social distancing." Fulmer's comments were made on Nashville radio station 104.5.
To be totally honest, unless some real progress is made within the next month or so, college stadiums will be half full at most. And things will be even tougher on high school programs. To paraphrase legendary East Tennessee football official Dale Condra, the season is scheduled to begin on Aug. 21. If a game is played that night and one player comes down with COVID-19, then everyone involved will be in quarantine for two weeks. All players, coaches and officials and quite possibly parents and siblings will be forced to sit out 14 days. It's like a domino affect. With two weeks worth of games, involving four teams having to be rescheduled, that will create a lot of problems and that is just one player coming down with the coronavirus.
In Tennessee, the TSSAA lost more than $2 million when the state basketball tournaments and the Spring Fling were cancelled this spring. If football is lost this fall, the loss will be $4 million and that could spell the end of that organization. I know there are people who refuse to wear masks and they refuse to stay at home. They ridicule those of us who get out very little, and wear masks, basically to protect them from being infected. With numbers of cases increasing all over the country, and with the death rates also continuing to climb there is no end in sight.
Look, I love football as much as anyone and I know things must open back up to protect our economy. But, please wear the masks and avoid coming into close contact with people. It's as simple as that. This is still very serious and if you want to watch football as much as I do, be disciplined and wear your mask. As Coach Fulmer says, "If you want school and everything we look at as normal to be back close to normal, we've got to fight the fight and be disciplined about this. I think some people have assumed that the worst is over, or, 'Hey I'm not going to get it ' and it's not over. "
Not by a long shot.
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Randy Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org