There may be no high school football this fall in Illinois or Maryland, but more than 30 states are putting teams on the gridiron before October, although several states have pushed back the actual first week of Friday night lights. The question is: Will it last?
In one of those states, Ohio, it was apparently a close game as the Bears from North Royalton High School traveled to Medina to play the Hornets at Highland High School. Final score: North Royalton 41, Highland 40.
Neither team figures high in the national rankings, but the game was among the closest matches last night in Week 2 of high school football in the Buckeye State.
Indeed, high schools in more than half the states are playing football during the pandemic, according to the high school athletic associations and local newspapers in those states. That doesn’t mean everyone’s in favor of it, though, including medical specialists for the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), which has listed football as one of the “high risk” sports for transmitting COVID-19.
Mark Rose is the head football coach at Russell County High School in the southeastern part of Alabama. He’s good, too, having a pedigree that saw him playing for the legendary coach Pat Dye at Auburn. He’s been a high school head coach for 23 years.
“I mean it’s flat out child exploitation,” NPR quoted him as saying about Alabama high schools fielding football teams this fall. “Of course kids want to play. But we are charged to protect them. [With] the NCAA, any school that can’t test in football or any high-risk contact sport once per week, is shut down completely; we have no testing policy. Our testing policy is wait ’til somebody gets real sick and then go tell the parents to test them.”
His feeling that “of course kids want to play” is confirmed in a student news report out of southern Indiana, where football teams are also on the field this fall.
“During times of national crisis, America needs sports, and they are there for us,” opines Lizzie Allen in The Optimist, the student newspaper at Bloomington High School (football season preview). “We need them to provide an escape, to provide unity, to provide hope. That’s just as true today as it has been during past times of crisis.”
Unfortunately, any need we have for an escape or even any social activity, including learning, which is a very social activity, does not negate the fact that our lives today are being dictated by a virus that, so far, we cannot defeat, either by treatment or by vaccine. We may not have much data about how the virus is transmitted during a football game, but we have plenty of data that, when analyzed, shows tackle football to be a very high-risk activity that will provide ample opportunity for the virus to spread from one household to another and from one community to another.
Mr Rose had to forfeit a game, NPR reported, because one of his athletes tested positive for COVID-19 and had put about two dozen others at risk. The season was shut down, and it might be in other schools and states as well, I suppose, depending on the policies in those states for continuation of play during the pandemic.