Freud: The saga of high school football continues without many answers
VAIL — Like sands through the hourglass, these are the days of CHSAA high school football.
To catch you all up:
March 12: CHSAA shuts down spring sports one day into the spring season because of COVID-19. Baseball, track and field, lacrosse, and girls soccer await a restart.
April 21: CHSAA calls off the spring season.
Aug. 4: CHSAA announces a reshuffling of the order of sports for the 2020-21 school year. Football, boys soccer and volleyball are scheduled to start their season March 4.
Sept. 8: The state’s media outlets get hold of proposed return-to-fall plan with a start date of Oct. 1. Gov. Jared Polis says he’s open to football returning.
Sept. 9: The CHSAA board of directors announces a unanimous vote against fall football. Opening Night returns to March 4.
Friday: CHSAA Commissioner Rhonda Blanford-Green and Polis meet to discuss exemptions in variances — i.e. the number of people who can meet in public together — presumably with the thought that football may restart in the fall.
Last weekend: According to both The Denver Post and Coloradopreps.com, CHSAA member schools are sent surveys about their opinions on fall football.
Wednesday: We’re all sitting here trying to figure out what’s happening.
Is this any way to run things?
No. It’s one of the few things in this polarized world — and football is a political issue — upon which opposing sides can agree. This has been cruel to players, coaches and the families involved and downright annoying to reporters.
Whether the answer is one they like — go start up football now — or not, local coaches and their players deserve an answer. Practically speaking, they need an answer. If the season is going to start with the proposed openers Oct. 1-3, they have to have official practices. CHSAA requires nine official practices before players are eligible to play. That means Monday, unless the entire schedule gets pushed back.
Why is CHSAA reconsidering?
It took a lot of flack for shutting down the state basketball tournaments after Round 1/calling off spring sports on March 12. While it didn’t affect many local basketball teams, imagine seeing your season shut down when you’re in the state semifinals? That created a lot of angry parents/taxpayers who fund CHSAA.
Given what we knew about COVID-19, in March and April, it made sense to shutter spring sports. That did not soothe the pain of losing entire soccer, track, lacrosse and baseball seasons, especially for seniors. That’s more angry parents/taxpayers.
The situation on the ground changed. The coronavirus was having a field day before Aug. 4, the date of CHSAA’s decision. Cases were rising in Colorado and most of the Southeast seemed to be an incubator for the virus.
Naturally, after making the decision, things cooled off. Nationally, according to the New York Times, cases are falling and deaths leveling. Locally, speaking of the Western Slope across which our teams would play, COVID-19 numbers are delightfully, boringly low.
Politics have gotten involved. Even if you’re talking whether it’s a ham or turkey sandwich for lunch these days, that somehow turns into some great left-right, blue-red debate. Yes, one common conspiracy is that Democratic governors want to shut down football (high school, college and pro) to make President Donald Trump look bad in an election year.
The good news is that the politics involved with high school football are much more mundane.
The hot potato
That’s the political issue, not red-blue or whether football is good or bad. It’s all about the liability.
What if a kid gets sick? Can you sue the school/stadium or operator/governing body for medical expenses and/or damages? What happens if a student-athlete unknowingly brings COVID-19 home to grandma? Who’s liable?
What if CHSAA rules no fall football? This denies student-athletes opportunities to play and land extravagant Division I scholarships. Yes, that can be a lawsuit, too. Players in Colorado Springs are thinking just that, according to The Gazette.
The political struggle is not philosophical. It’s Cover Your Arse 101. Both CHSAA and Polis want football. Both want the credit for bringing it back, but none of the liability if there are any problems.
Polis won Round 1 in the public relations battle by saying, “We want to work with (CHSAA). If their board moves forward and wants to propose a fall season for CHSAA football, we would be thrilled to work with them to make that happen for the districts that are ready to go,” according to The Denver Post.
Huzzah, the governor is behind football, all said. What the governor left out was that the variance for gatherings of 25 people on a field was still in place.
Even though we’re not good at math, 12.5-person football rosters don’t work in so many ways. (In addition to the half-person thing, what about the coaches?)
With that restriction in place, CHSAA voted to nix fall football last week because you need more than 25 people on a field and the sidelines to play football. (Wow, I just defended CHSAA.) While CHSAA took the heat for it, Polis did not emerge unscathed, ergo his meeting with Blanford-Green on Friday.
So now we’re waiting as Polis and Blanford-Green work on the details as the member schools — more than 300 of them — also put in their two cents.
What about soccer and volleyball?
If it’s safe enough to play football, then surely it’s safe enough to move soccer and volleyball back to the fall?
That’s not the point and stop calling me, “Shirley.”
Of course, people who ask the above question are correct, but this is weird to say. “Soccer and volleyball don’t matter.” We, as Eagle County, have to remember that we’re in the Colorado sports minority, as is most of the Western Slope.
Football drives the sports engine in this state. At Front Range schools and out on the vast eastern plains, the world rotates around football and Friday night. In most places, soccer is a sport played by weird people in shorts, while cross country is tolerated as just being pointless. Volleyball is the undercard to the Friday night football game.
While we love football here, of course, soccer and cross country are the boss fall sports and one of Vail’s local four volleyball teams usually makes a run at state annually. But Eagle County sports are just along for the ride here with the statewide football movement.
Thus, while we loved Battle Mountain soccer coach David Cope tweeting, “Can you broaden (the football) discussion to other sports? Getting a tad myopic…” that’s the answer. (Seriously, how awesome is a coach who tweets the word, “myopic?”)
We’ll play football this fall if CHSAA and Polis can figure out a plan that blames the other party in case something goes wrong. While that doesn’t seem logical by any stretch, this is politics, which doesn’t require logic.
CHSAA and Polis are both under the metaphorical gun and political progress happens when it’s in everyone’s self-interest.
Were I a betting man, I’d go with an announcement next week with the first game pushed back to Oct. 8-10.
Stay tuned. This is a riveting soap.