Athletic trainer Chris Sementelli cools off players from the West squad during the annual Lobster Bowl last year in Saco. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Portland Press Herald file photo

There was going to be a football game Saturday.

A few thousand people would have gathered at Thornton Academy’s Hill Stadium in Saco for the Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl, the annual all-star football game featuring recently graduated high school seniors, playing and cheering to raise money for Shriners hospitals for children.

The Lobster Bowl is always an EVENT. The football game itself is just a piece of a larger day celebrating the wonderful work done by Shriners hospitals. The game draws Shriners and spectators from around the country and Canada.

Which is exactly why the game was another casualty of this inhumane 2020.

Covid-19 doesn’t care about our summer traditions and plans. This new virus festers, making some deathly ill while simply hanging out in others who exhibit no symptoms. The Lobster Bowl’s organizers had to take that into consideration when they considered putting athletes and coaches in dorms for a week of training camp. In late May, they made the only decision they could, and cancelled the game. Lobster Bowl XXXI will be in 2021, not 2020.

Covid-19 does not care one bit about the work of the Shriners hospitals. Luckily, plenty of people do.

Joe Hersom, the Lobster Bowl president, said athletes typically raise more than $100,000. This year, they raised $75,000. In a year in which business are just trying to make it and the difference between open and out of business is a bad day, $75,000 says as much about the generosity of the people of Maine as it does the student athletes who raised it.

Of the 136 athletes selected to participate in the Lobster Bowl, 113 took part in the fundraising portion of the experience, even after the game was called off in May. Players and cheerleaders are asked to raise $500 as a condition of participation. Many raised well beyond that.

Leading the cheerleaders was Lawrence graduate Samantha Fuller, who raised $2,445. For the East team, Oxford Hills’ Cody Van Decker raised $2,695. Leading all athletes was West player Jacob Breton of Massabesic, who raised $4,280. They and every athlete who raised money should be commended. Hundreds of patients in Shriners hospitals thank you.

The Lobster Bowl is usually a signal, a pivot that fall is coming. Even in years when it’s 100 degrees or more on the field, like last season when the Lobster Bowl was played on one of the hottest days of the summer and the artificial turf at Hill Stadium was a blast furnace, the game is a signal. Fall is coming. We’re playing football.

It’s very much a question if we’ll be playing anything this fall. Most colleges in Maine, and around the Northeast, have canceled or postponed the fall sports season in the hopes that someday, eventually we’ll decide as a nation to get a handle on the Covid-19 crisis and ease back into normalcy. Here in Maine, discussions on the fate of high school sports this fall are ongoing. Couldn’t we all use a big scoop of mundane?

Strong legs run so that weak legs may walk. That’s the motto for Shrine football games across the country. This year, the strong legs were unable to run, through no fault of their own. They did their part to help the weak legs walk, though. Even when there’s no Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl, the good work of the game continues. When we look for positives in this year that’s a steady drip of bad news, let’s look at that.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

 

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