SPORTS

So far, so good

By ALEX SPONSELLER
Posted 10/7/20

So far, so good. This past weekend marked the first competitive high school sporting events since March and for the most part, things felt the same and went well. I was busy covering cross country and tennis on opening day on Saturday. In terms of how

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SPORTS

So far, so good

Posted

This past weekend marked the first competitive high school sporting events since March and for the most part, things felt the same and went well.

I was busy covering cross country and tennis on opening day on Saturday. In terms of how everything played out and was executed, it was an encouraging start to what will hopefully be a fun season of sports.

In terms of cross country, the only real differences were the numbers. This season, events will be scaled back in terms of athletes as well as fans. There were not the same packs of runners, there were not people lined up all along the course to cheer the kids on.

However, the running was the same, the way teams interacted with one another was largely the same, parents were thrilled to be back out there. It was just a really positive scene overall.

Tennis was the same way.

The gameplay was virtually identical to the norm, kids were able to do their thing and enjoy themselves, parents were able to watch as long as they left distance between one another.

With one weekend down, it was just a really promising start. This weekend will be the openers for soccer and field hockey though, which may be a little tougher to pull off.

That is why the Rhode Island Interscholastic League elected to give these two sports an extra week to prepare. Unlike cross country and tennis, these sports require a level of contact and physical play, and will have a few more rule tweaks. We’ll see how it goes, but I am very optimistic moving forward.

This virus is unpredictable, as we all know. There are times and situations where it seems like a miracle that it isn’t being spread, while other times, outbreaks will occur seemingly out of nowhere.

Point being, I am not saying that I feel the threat of a potential outbreak is minimal or out of the question because of a strong start … we have to continue to be vigilant. But when considering how closely players and coaches are being monitored each day, and the rules and restrictions put in place by the league, and the fact that all of these sports will be played outdoors, I feel pretty good moving forward.

When speaking to a few coaches and players last weekend and other practices that I have stopped by, there have been two consistent feelings expressed to me.

One is gratitude. I can’t tell you how many times I had people saying things to the effect of, “We’re just happy to be playing in general.”

Two is uncertainty. Although the vibes have been good and there is an air of confidence locally, there were a few times where I also heard things to the effect of, “We hope to play a full season, but we can’t bank on it just yet.”

I have been happy to hear that, both, even the uncertainty. Why? Because it shows that there is a sense of realism and determination which I feel are going to be key moving forward. Have fun this weekend as we welcome back two more sports and stay safe.

Now, nationally, the NFL has handled this horrendously in my opinion.

First off, I have been saying this since before the season, but the league should have established a bubble system like the NHL and NBA. Look at how things went with Major League Baseball … a handful of teams had significant outbreaks, schedules got messy, and the only reason why the playoffs are happening is because they have made it this far so they might as well.

The main difference between the NFL and the MLB is the schedule. MLB can schedule doubleheaders, play seven days in a row if need be. The NFL can’t, in a sport that is that dangerous and physically taxing, you can’t expect teams to play twice in a week, and that is not even considering the fact that gameplanning in football is by far the most in depth of any of the major sports.

Whether it’s money, marketing, whatever. There is literally no reason why the NFL could not create a bubble. The league had and still has every asset and advantage, and it better do something before it blows up entirely.

The Titans are a mess and the Steelers and Ravens are paying for it. The Patriots and the Chiefs are now in the middle of a headache, the Vikings are just starting to get away from theirs, and we’re only in week 4.

Here’s my prediction for the rest of the way: Most if not all teams will experience outbreaks and have their schedules impacted, and the league will do absolutely nothing to make it better.

Here’s a fun fact that many people are not aware of and that I just discovered myself, but when the NFL reserves an arena for the Super Bowl in February, it reserves it for each Sunday of the month in case disaster strikes and it needs to be pushed off.

Well, we are on the brink of disaster here. The NFL should get ahead of it, push it back a couple weeks, and reserve a week or two at the end of the regular season for makeup games.

The only downside I see is if some teams don’t need to make up games and get more rest than others prior to the postseason. Well, so be it. No matter what, it is going to be impossible for this season to be completed in a way that resembles the norm. So, instead of messing with the schedule each week, making players feel rushed back, the NFL should take advantage of the flexibility it has.

Or, another idea. How about pushing the Super Bowl back two weeks, and in that time find a bubble location and give the league two weeks to get down there and to resume. With the amount of money and power the NFL has, that should be a piece of cake.

I love the NFL like most Americans and want to see it succeed. But so far, it has been messy and the league has done a poor job of handling it. It has options, and it is already time to explore them.

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