“Have you lost your mind, because I’ll help you find it!”
It’s a great quote from the character Stanley Hudson in an iconic show, “The Office.” And it’s exactly what someone needs to ask of the good folks at the Maine Principals’ Association after their stunning decision on Thursday to green light high school football in our state.
Look, I am a sports guy. I love high school sports. I have played and broadcast hundreds of high school games in my life. And I’m happy for the kids who might get to play soccer, field hockey, cross country, golf and volleyball this fall.
But I still can’t believe there are adults in positions of authority who endorse playing high school (and high risk per the CDC) football games beginning next month.
Let me just recap where we are at:
We are living in a civil state of emergency declared by the governor.
Many school districts are only allowing students back in the building two days a week.
A significant percentage of parents are keeping their kids home, utilizing remote learning.
My kids have their temperatures taken when they go to school. They wear masks. They sit 6 feet apart. They are no longer allowed to use the water fountains.
Teachers rotate classes, not the students. They eat lunch in the classroom or outside, six feet apart, if it’s sunny. There are fans circulating fresh air constantly in their classroom.
And how about this one? If they want to wear clothes to participate in gym they have to wear them to school because they can’t change in the locker room. Yet full teams are going to be allowed to do so?
Other New England states have passed on the season or are moving with extreme caution. Massachusetts and Rhode Island have moved football to the spring. New Hampshire is still considering playing but it has been suggested athletes there could remote learn until the end of season to avoid bringing the virus to classmates.
Vermont says no to 11-on-11 but it will try a limited schedule of 7-on-7 football.
Connecticut will play perhaps just a six-game season and won’t let any games occur until Oct. 1.
And yet somehow here in the Pine Tree State we think it’s a good idea to put kids on a bus, have them change together in small locker rooms, pile up on the practice field and hit opponents on the gridiron.
Here are some of the MPA’s suggested guidelines to help keep football safe:
— Expanding sidelines to 10-yard line so players can distance
— Providing more time during timeouts so players get their own bottle of water
— Keeping mouthguards in as much as possible
— Washing/Sanitizing hands after touching with mouthguards
— Rotating 3-4 balls to be sanitized during the game
— Keeping helmet on while on the sideline
Nursing homes in our state have been on lockdown since March. Nobody in or out. Staff are tested regularly and basically wear hazmat suits. Yet there still have been outbreaks. So I’m sure keeping a helmet on will keep everyone protected on the sidelines.
There’s no small college football in Maine this fall. The UMaine Black Bears will not be playing.
Bars remain closed in our state. If you come to my restaurant you have to wear a mask. Half our tables are closed. Men can’t stand side by side at urinals.
But “play ball!”
It’s not a given football or any fall sports, will be played in Maine. School boards, superintendents, government agencies, and perhaps even Gov. Janet Mills, still have time to help the folks at the MPA recover their minds, which have clearly been lost.
Jeff Solari is the founder of the Maine Sports Chowdah, Maine’s only free, weekly sports email newsletter. He has been in sports media since he was 17 and is not shy with his opinions or perspective on the world of sports. The longtime sports broadcaster is a graduate of Mount Desert Island High School and the University of Southern Maine. Previous gigs included WLBZ-TV and WCSH-TV, host of “The Shootaround” talk radio show on WZON and stints with “Downtown” and “The Drive.” Solari has won more than 15 Maine Association of Broadcasters and AP broadcaster awards.