The Mississippi High School Activities Association made the difficult but correct choice last week to continue with the football season.
There are risks to playing during the coronavirus pandemic. Social distancing is not possible in a sport that has blocking and tackling as its most basic fundamentals, and teams that practice and travel in close quarters could be breeding grounds for new outbreaks, which they might spread back to their homes.
Yet the costs of not playing are also very real. How dispiriting would it be not to have the leaping of cheerleaders, rhythm of bands and clashing of rival schools on the gridiron during a Mississippi fall? The players, particularly seniors, would miss out on a memorable time in their lives, and the schools’ athletic budgets, of which football is the No. 1 driver, would suffer, not to mention the myriad local businesses that benefit from football.
At this point, shutting down is not the appropriate option in any aspect of society. We did it for a month beginning in mid-March, and it will take a decade or more to fully recover, and that was with huge government subsidies. The answer, as MHSAA decided, is to take precautions — the season is being pushed back two weeks and fan restrictions are likely — while pressing forward as best as possible.
Obviously, we will have to take precautions. Fans may have to social distance themselves a little bit. We might have to back the fans away from the fences. (Yes, we love our fans that love to stand by the fence the whole game, but it might not be the best for them to stand right there.)
We may have to temp all of the fans and attendees at each game. The players will have to have their temperatures monitored, and everyone needs to be careful of trying to prevent the spread of coronavirus. And if you are sick, please be mindful of others and stay quarantined until your fever breaks or the two-week quarantine is over if its potentially coronavirus.
We might have to put a cap on the number of fans we can have inside the gates. Perhaps, we may have to look at an overflow option or streaming option to allow more fans to watch without hurting the school’s revenue off the gate.
A return to high school football might be the best cure to help return things to some sense of normalcy.
Football, and life, cannot stop.