Tom Petty was right. The waiting is the hardest part.

By Thursday, we should know if there will be high school sports in Maine this fall. It appears the leadership at the Maine Principals’ Association is doing everything in its power to get some form of high school sports played in Maine this fall.

The MPA is trying to get clarity from the Department of Education regarding how community sports guidelines should be used in crafting high school sports guidelines.

“I have reached out to the commissioner’s office to say, ‘Are you really trying to open this up for the same as the community health guidelines or are you allowing us to use that as a starting point to develop guidelines that would fit for both school and community based?’”MPA Executive Director-Interscholastic Division Mike Burnham said recently, when announcing the timeline for the decision. “That’s where we’re at.”

The MPA is doing its best, but it cannot proceed without clear support from the leaders in state government. Those at the DOE and in other departments that could offer definitive help are doing a superb job of playing dodge ball.

Maine Health and Human Services commissioner Jeanne Lambrew recently gave a classically vague comment on the status of high school sports in Maine this fall.

“We share many Mainers’ passion for promoting physical activity safely, and we are hopeful the Maine Principals’ Association looks hard at the guidance and makes smart decisions,” Lambrew said.

Lambrew didn’t say yes. Lambrew didn’t say no. It was a perfect no-look pass of the buck.

It seems most everyone wants some form of high school sports in Maine this fall. Nobody wants to make the decision, though. That’s radioactive. What if the decision to play is made and it goes bad, with cornoavirus outbreaks on teams from Kittery to Fort Kent?  Nobody wants that on their record.

So the MPA, with all eyes unfairly on it, waits. Student athletes and coaches and parents wait. Athletic directors and superintendents and school boards wait. The longer we wait, the less likely a season becomes.

Well, not everybody waits. Friday, Camden Hills High School in Rockport made its call. In the fall of 2020, the Windjammers are out. Any sports played at Camden Hills this fall will be in-house.

Camden Hills will not be the last school to throw up its hands and say no when faced with this question.

This is a mess of our own doing. As a nation, we’re too selfish to make the minor sacrifices needed to avoid this very problem. Even in Maine, where we have done an admirable job in the fight versus Covid-19, we didn’t do enough. Maybe it’s hubris. Maybe it’s selfishness. Take your pick.

States much worse off than Maine are going forward with fall sports plans. But is that one of the reasons those states are worse off? Is it another bad decision to add to the long list of bad decisions? We’re going to find out.

Hopefully, the idea of flip-flopping a few sports seasons, playing traditional spring sports more conducive to social distancing in the fall, for example, gets another look. It’s not ideal, but what is these days? Nothing should be off the table.

That includes this goofy idea. This week, the MPA should announce it is canceling the postseason in each sport. No playoffs. No championship meets. Championships and playoffs require more travel, and putting students on buses for long road trips, with no locker room facilities available when you get there, appears to be a sticking point in the fall sports debate.

So take it out of the equation. If each school feels like it can form teams and find regionally appropriate opponents, go for it. Follow the safety protocols to the letter and have fun. Be prepared to have to pull the plug at a moment’s notice.

There is no statewide solution to the play or don’t play question. You may as well look for a unicorn. You’re not going to find either.

Once that decision is made, everybody involved in high school sports needs to start planning for the winter season, which could get ugly. Discussions on playing indoor winter sports in gyms free of crowds should begin soon. Winter illnesses are going to be scary. Cold, flu, or Covid?

Something to think about while we wait.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM


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