Thursday, January 21, 2021

Column: Ready for the fall... or spring

| July 22, 2020 4:43 PM

The college and high school fall sports seasons are just weeks away, in theory, for Montanans.

We know, for example, that many of the fall high school sports begin practice on Aug. 14 and that the Montana Grizzlies report to football camp on Aug. 2.

I wish I felt more confident about all this while these COVID-19 cases continue to rise, the socially-distanced Kansas City Royals can’t seem to flatten the curve and the Toronto Blue Jays can’t find a home yard.

Montana hasn’t exactly skated through phases 1 and 2 of its reopening, and there are plenty of clues telling us the worst isn’t past us.

It’s odd to me that the Colonial Athletic Association – a conference at the same Football Championship Subdivision as the Big Sky Conference – has bowed out of the gridiron this fall and the Southland Conference, with six teams in hot-spot heavy Texas, has not.

It occurs to me during these divided times, when wearing a mask has become political, one way to lose an election is gum up your coronavirus response so completely that football is impossible to play.

Meanwhile the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association moved its football season to the spring, thinning its fall sports activities some. “We know these sports are in peril, too,” WIAA executive board president Greg Whitmore told the Seattle Times. He was talking about volleyball, cross country and soccer.

Back in Texas the high school football season for the two largest classifications has been delayed… one month. Just the kind of imaginative work-around you would expect in the Lone Star State, where the four lower classifications will stay on schedule as if there is no danger of community spread.

All things being relative Montana has had a pretty positive summer, and we can all cross our fingers and toes and hope for Friday Night Lights and College Game Days.

Yet it would be best to prepare for the worst-case scenarios: Football would make for a heck of a spring. Basketball in the summer? Hoopers already play a packed schedule from June 1-July 31.

We should be thinking about it – if only because our national identity seems to be, “We’re counting on a vaccine in early 2021.” Fingers and toes.

The normalcy we took for granted seems like such a luxury now, right? You didn’t need to sit six feet apart at a baseball game or worry about traveling to another state, or wonder if Cal Poly was going to be able to leave the Golden State for Montana on Sept. 26.

Quite a bit went wrong to put us here – a compound fracture of a pandemic approach. Yet the positives are out there.

The Butte High and Butte Central football teams raised a Shrine Game’s worth of money after the Montana all-star game was canceled. Legion baseball, with a few hiccups, has played on. The Valley is overloaded with sharp athletes headed to big schools with big dreams.

They deserve better than to have those dreams delayed or canceled. Here’s hoping.