There can only be one "state champion," but this year, in a year like no other, there likely will be none — and I'm becoming okay with it.
The OSAA announced this past week that like with Season 2, Season 3 will be without official state playoffs or tournaments, and the "culminating week" of competition will be left up to the individual schools.
Season 2 is ending this week, with participating schools choosing their "culminating week" opponent, many based on comparable record or standing.
Similarly, this spring, baseball and softball teams are allowed up to four additional games in the week of May 17-23, tennis will be allowed three more multi-match playing dates, track and field gets two more meets, and golf will be receiving four additional nine-hole rounds.
I think many — including myself — hoped for something better, being as though they had the past six weeks to figure something more rewarding out for the remaining sports hoping for championships to play for. However that wasn't to be.
When the announcement was made this past week, I felt like it was the easy way out, a failure on the part of administrators tasked to do everything possible to provide a meaningful high school sports experience this spring.
Kids who play sports want state titles — be it team championships in one of the many sports high schools provide, or individual ones that wrestlers, swimmers, golfers and tennis players, and track athletes work towards, often for years in the making. But with just more than three months to try and shoehorn in a school year's worth of competition, the deck was stacked against the games, the kids and, yes, the administrators this state dealt a losing hand.
This was never going to be what most wanted it to be. When government officials made the decision late last summer to pull the plug on fall and ultimately winter sports, they put the OSAA and school athletic directors' backs to the wall. And while nearly three-quarters of this country's states found ways to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic while having kids learning in person and playing school sports, up until this spring, Oregon sat idle despite the roadmap that those three-quarters of states laid before it.
So, what we presently can't do is not the fault of those tasked to do it, but rather that of those who told them not to — many months ago.
Now what? Season 2 is nearly behind us, Season 3's fate has been chosen, and Season 4 (basketball, swimming, wrestling) is still up in the air. It's simple, really — we make the most of it, and that's what I believe everyone involved has come to grips with.
These kids are, finally, playing and that might just be enough. The coaches I've talked to who's teams might be in a position to play for something bigger, seem satisfied. Sure, there's a part of them — like anyone with a competitive bone in their body — that'd like to be tested against the very best. They want that for their kids, the school that supports them, and even a bit for themselves. But in the wake of the games that they, for at least a while, didn't think would happen, they're grateful for what was and fine with what won't be.
In a typical year, you get but one winner. It's a "someone has to win, someone has to lose" situation, and trust me, it's tough on those losers. But now, six weeks from now, and likely at the end of what will be one very long school year, half the teams in this state will win their last game. That may not be ideal, but it could be a lot worse — and that sounds OK to me.
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