I'm a writer by trade, but sports writing is where my heart is firmly planted. Yet, while I not-so-patiently sit idle waiting for the genuine object of my affection to return, I'm left to ask the following: What's safe? And when will it be "safe enough" to play the games we've played and experienced for countless years?
Now is likely not the time, for the science suggests otherwise, but I'm also not going to act as if or suggest that I have the answers. In fact, I don't think anyone definitively does, because these are mostly unchartered waters we're swimming in. But I also think it's important to at least acknowledge that there will be a time and place to return to normal.
The NBA is playing, albeit amidst an infrastructure incapable of being replicated at the high school or even college level. Major League Baseball is moving forward, despite bumps in the road, and the NFL is moving full-speed ahead towards what will likely be a tumultuous season start to finish. And college football? That is a horse of a color dependent entirely on geography.
The Pac-12 and Big 10 aren't playing. The SEC, ACC and Big XII are — at least for now. And people continue to argue about baselines yet-to-be-determined.
And high school? Done until at least Jan. 1 of next year. They can practice within the guidelines set forth by the state, but games ain't happenin'.
Roughly a month ago, Oregon declared that in most counties in the state, children would not be able to attend school in-person until a handful of metrics meet their minimum standard. The state's most populated counties — like Washington County — will need to have 10 or fewer cases per 100,000 people over seven days, and a test positivity rate of 5% or less over seven days. In addition, the state must have a test positivity rate of 5% or less over seven days, three weeks in a row.
For reference, as of Aug. 9, the six weeks prior, Washington County had a case rate per 100,000 of 43, 58, 47, 54, 43 and 42 — not close. So, while we appear light years away from a high school game in this state, my fear is not that we won't eventually be able to safely play, but rather that we won't recognize it when we can.
With every passing day, fear seems to be building opposed to alleviating. Talk isn't about advancing treatments and positive steps towards a vaccine, but rather case counts and fatalities, along with potential complications in the wake of an infection. Additionally, little talk of what we can do going forward, opposed to what we potentially can't.
I'm not going to get into the political aspect of this, because while little isn't politicized in 2020, the bulk of the conversation around that is more conspiracy theory than fact. But what I will do is plead for people, especially the people in charge, to seek facts and be the leaders they were elected to be.
There's a growing narrative that "things will never be the same again." Sports will be different, the viewing experience will change, and that as a result of COVID-19, what we knew in regards to school, sports, and life in general will be a faint memory.
Hogwash. And you and everyone else are the proof to the contrary.
There have been a handful of pandemics in this country over the last century, and life as we all knew it existed in their wake. Including the "Spanish flu" of 1918, which killed between 50 and 100 million people worldwide, infecting half a billion. School was taught, in person. Restaurants and bars thrived, and sports at all levels were played — often in front of tens to hundreds of thousands of people.
That will happen again. It needs to, for that is life opposed to this watered-down, masked, socially distanced version that we've had thrust upon us over the past six months. But we have to look for it, seek it out and fight for it. Because if we don't, the safe existence we're all looking for, not a virus, will end up killing us — slowly, but surely.
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