Last year at this time, we were fingers-crossed hopeful that the pandemic would flatten out and maybe run its course in (or maybe even because of) the heat of the summer. A lot of us are again hopeful as we head into June. However, it’s not a matter of “fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.” Most of us weren’t fooled last year; we knew that it was going to be a tough fight, one that would require sacrifices on a near-universal basis. Instead, we were sabotaged by fools and have had to endure a long year of pain and heartache.
Because of the reasonable actions of a majority of Americans, there is much to look forward to, perhaps foremost being the opportunity to recalibrate ourselves so that we no longer take commonplace and everyday occurrences for granted. How cool will it be to have to stand in a line where you’re not socially distanced or wearing a mask? Sorta cool, anyway.
But before we get caught up in looking ahead, let’s take one last look back at how some people (and groups) did during the truly awful past 15 months. The letter grades are determined and given by me, so if you strongly disagree with them…well, sorry.
• Parents of high-school athletes: This past year, most parents get grades in the A to A-plus area, while a few get a D-minus. The high-school basketball season was delayed multiple times, then canceled, then brought back from the dead only to be delayed again. Officials in the Tucson Unified School District decided that one way to cut down on the risk of COVID spreading was to not provide transportation to and from away games. If parents of a Sahuaro player wanted their kid to play in the game at Pueblo that night, the parent(s) would have to drive them across town. And when they got to their destination, there was a chance that the home school was not allowing any fans in the gym.
That’s some dedication there and some A-plus parenting.
At the other end of the spectrum were the parents who flouted the restrictions and/or allowed petty politics to shove aside common sense and decency. When Salpointe’s girls were playing for the state championship in volleyball, the Mesquite High School gym was filled with parents and fans from Phoenix Notre Dame Prep with no social distancing and almost no masks. It was the ultimate display of the toxic Phoenix Uber Alles mentality and it was absolutely shameful.
• High school sports officials and referees: A-Plus Plus. Nobody wants to risk his/her life for 75 bucks. But, after taking extreme measures (including blowing a whistle through a special mask), refs did spectacular things this past year, showing up to make sure that young people would be able to play at least part of a season. They should all be proud.
• The NBA: A-minus. There was some grousing about having to stay in the “bubble” in Orlando (and that one knucklehead snuck out under false pretenses so that he could grab some wings at a strip joint), but for the most part, the playoffs were compelling and just what sports fans needed. And they were accomplished against the backdrop of massive social upheaval in the country. Well done.
• Major League Baseball: C-minus. They came close to bringing about their own demise by arguing over nickels and dimes before starting their severely truncated regular season. They finally pulled it off, but on the last day of the World Series, a member of the Dodgers broke COVID protocol and then “So what?!”-ed it like a jerk.
• High school coaches: A. You would not believe the amount of paperwork that had to be completed so that a game could be played. Every kid had to have a temperature check and answer a questionnaire and the coaches had to catalog everything and exchange paperwork with the opposing coach. It was maddening…and heartwarming.
• The NFL: A-minus. What can you say? It’s the NFL. They have special dispensation from above. Everything worked out perfectly, except for the Pittsburgh Steelers, who, due to COVID violations by the Baltimore Ravens, had to play three games in 12 days.
• The NCAA: C-plus. Lots of good things, lots of bad stuff. Apparently football games will be played in the South on the day of Armageddon. While the SEC underreacted to the pandemic, the Ivy League overreacted by canceling the entire year of sports. My beloved Cornell could very easily have fielded their nationally ranked hockey and lacrosse teams.
• The Olympics: A. Smart move, postponing the Games for a year. Now, for an A-plus, the IOC can tell China that it will lose the 2022 Winter Games if it doesn’t stop torturing people because of religion.
Now, let’s go!