NOVAK: I have already seen this movie
Have you ever watched a movie that you ended up not liking, totally forgot about it, and then for some reason, noticed it was on television and decided to give it another chance?
Well, that is how I felt Sunday night when news that the state was going to take a “pause” and roll back to Phase 2 of its reopening plan to help combat the COVID-19 numbers that are spiraling out of control.
I have seen this movie before, and I did not like how it ended.
My mind immediately was transported back to the second week of March when the Michigan High School Athletic Association suspended the winter sports season in its closing stages. The boys swimming and diving finals were scheduled for that weekend, as well as the girls basketball semifinals and finals. Boys basketball was about to play its district championship games when everything came to a halt.
Fast forward to Nov. 15. The girls swimming and diving finals were scheduled to be hosted this weekend, as well as the girls volleyball semifinals and finals. The state football playoffs have three weeks remaining in the 11-man format and just two weeks in the 8-man format.
Once again, under the direction of the governor’s office and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the MHSAA was forced to suspend sports.
A wave of emotion struck me Sunday night as I read that the state was ordering a three-week pause that included shutting down all high school and youth sports. The same emotion overtook me as I read those words over and over. In a way, I did not want to believe it.
I was not shocked by what I was reading. Every morning when I get up, I check my email and then I begin scrolling through social media to see what, if any, games had been canceled for that week due to COVID. Most days I was lucky, in that the games that were lost were in other parts of the state. But the teams I cover were far from immune to the situation.
Edwardsburg football had to shuffle its schedule and even take a forfeit as its opponents struggled with the virus. Cassopolis and Brandywine volleyball had its struggles with COVID-19 as the regular season came to a close. The Rangers had to forfeit their Division 3 District semifinal match against the Bobcats two weeks ago.
I have been telling anyone who would listen to me that I was concerned about how the playoffs would be affected by the virus. I also wondered out loud that if the fall sports season cannot continue, would it have been better not to have played it at all?
I remembered how crushed the players and coaches were last fall when the season came to a crashing halt. Then a decision kept getting dragged out for weeks before it was finally decided that there was no way to finish the winter sports season. Then came the news that spring sports would be canceled as well.
While equally as hurt, at least the spring sports coaches, players and fans had time to prepare themselves for that news because many of us felt it was inevitable. The summer months were a roller coaster with the state trying to figure out how it could safety host contests in the fall. Initially, the state decided not to play football, volleyball and soccer until the spring. But then reversed that decision and went ahead with them.
I have to admit that I had my doubts that we could get through the entire fall sports season. Then I started to believe it was possible. As of today, as I await the plan from the MHSAA on how to complete the fall sports season, I have my doubts. I can see three weeks stretching into a month, six weeks and then into the new year. While many sports fans, players and coaches have done a great job trying to contain the virus so that sports could be played, many more have ignored the guidelines that should have helped get us past this point.
It became a political fight, which it should never be. It is about the science and how best to protect ourselves and others from COVID. Hopefully, we can get past all that and get back on track, so once again, high school sports in Michigan can return, not only for the couple of weeks left in the fall season, but for the winter and spring seasons yet to come.
Scott Novak is sports editor for Leader Publications. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org