They say in sports, as in life, timing is everything.
Well, the timing isn’t great for indoor high school and college sports to be getting underway. COVID cases are rising in New Hampshire and elsewhere around the nation and the globe. The proximity to others who may be infected, but not yet showing symptoms, poses a risk, as does the travel involved in competitive sports.
This fall, schools and colleges have been cautious about participating in sports. Seasons have been shorter, with less travel.
For area high schools, there was more interdivisional play, based on proximity. And even teams that fared well, in some cases, weren’t able to compete in state tournaments because the travel and heightened vulnerability did not fit with the schools’ coronavirus protocols. That’s disappointing for the players, especially seniors who missed out on a last chance at tournament play — as did seniors last spring.
And that’s one of the real disappointments of this pandemic, outside of the health implications: Many people have lost once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to the pandemic and the measures necessary to combat it. Lost seasons, weddings, final farewells, graduations — all of it a tragedy in itself.
For colleges, the fall was a dud, sports-wise. Both Keene State College and Franklin Pierce University were relegated to exhibition and club sports, as the Little East and Northeast 10 conferences canceled league play. So far, the conferences have not scheduled winter competitions.
Keene State College’s men’s basketball is underway, however. At least, in non-conference exhibition play. The Owls agreed to play UNH Wednesday. The Owls sent a team of only 10 players to Durham to compete against the Division I Wildcats. Those traveling to UNH had to have passed a COVID test three times before the game. They were also tested after the contest, according to Keene State’s athletics department.
The college has fared pretty well this semester in terms of the coronavirus, relying heavily on frequent testing. As of Wednesday, 46 cases had been reported from nearly 39,000 tests administered. Everyone at the college is tested weekly.
In addition, NCAA protocols call for testing of anyone attending or participating in athletics within three days of the event, and the college says no one will be allowed to attend contests who hasn’t met that requirement.
Still, we find it somewhat surprising — even given the appeal of returning to some sliver of normalcy and the desire of athletes to compete — that the college would undertake intercollegiate contests at all right now, when numbers are spiking in the state and travel advisories and mask mandates are in effect all over.
Everyone would like to see the games go on. But we hope those in charge will continue to exercise an abundance of caution first and foremost.