Playing High-Risk High School Sports This Fall Not Worth the Risk

It’s completely understandable that high school athletes whose sports were determined to be too risky to be played this fall are frustrated.

For the past six months, their lives have been upended with mostly deficient remote learning. So many other activities that make life enjoyable have disappeared as well.

There was the hope this summer that with markedly improved daily infection rates, the fall sports season, including football, might be played.

But COVID-19 hasn’t vanished, even if New Yorkers have done an outstanding job at limiting its impact since June after a hellish spring.

On Sunday more than 100 athletes, parents and coaches held a rally in White Plains calling for the state to include all sports in the school fall sports schedule. But for adults to call for football, in particular, to be played while there is still an average of more than 35,000 new COVID-19 cases a day across the United States is shockingly irresponsible.
This isn’t picking on football. High school football is part of the fabric of America in thousands of communities on Friday nights or Saturdays in the fall. Who doesn’t want it to be played?

But you don’t need to know anything about the sport to understand that football during a pandemic where the virus is a highly transmissible airborne disease is in a completely different situation than tennis, cross country or baseball.
Some at the rally on Sunday pointed to many states around the country that have had their high schools playing. They also pointed out that the Big Ten colleges are reconsidering their decision to cancel football. But that’s missing the point.

School districts in this area don’t have the access to frequent on-demand testing for dozens of athletes like the pros or even some Division I colleges. And speaking of colleges, on Monday Texas Tech had five more football players test positive. Since the return to campus this summer that team has had 75 positives. They won their season-opener last Saturday – but it doesn’t make the decision to press forward smart.

Anyone with a heart can’t feel anything but sadness for the current students losing out on so much. But there is spring football. It isn’t great, but neither is a two-month, 60-game MLB season. It’s just the best that can be done under the circumstances.

COVID-19 is the crisis of the century, a bitter pill to swallow. But like previous generations, there are times when sacrifices for the greater good have to be made.

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