Monday I called high school football coaches. We talked about how exhibition games went over the weekend. What offenses looked sharp? What defenses controlled the line of scrimmage? What needs to be tweaked, fine-tuned, or completely overhauled before the season openers coming up? I went to a couple practices and scoped things out.

That’s not right. That’s not how it happened at all. It’s what should have happened, if the world wasn’t still burning from a fire that started months ago.

Monday, you waited to see if the state would release a response to the Maine Principals’ Association’s guidelines for a fall sports season. You talked to a couple coaches, but the conversation was on how they were trying to ease the anxiety felt by their athletes, who are unfairly caught in this game of chicken played by state officials and the MPA.

Tuesday, I worked on a feature story to kick off the season. It’s a look at what Waterville Senior High School and Mount View High School did to prepare for their first seasons in the 8-man football league. How are the coaches and players adapting? What do they like about this new style of football?

That would have been a good story, but you didn’t write it. Not yet, anyway. Tuesday was the gut punch day.

It started at 2 p.m., when you got the email with the letter. The letter was the response from the Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services to the MPA’s fall sports plan. It was long-winded, but the point was made. There is no way this plan as written is going to get state approval.

You read the letter seven times, each time coming to the same conclusion. Unless the state makes significant changes to its position, there is no way football and volleyball are played this fall. You spend the next five hours writing the story. You get input from four writers and four editors. You see the pain from athletes and coaches spread across social media.

You had a dull headache from mid-afternoon until around 10 p.m. 

Wednesday, I recorded the season premier of our high school football Facebook Live video/podcast, Gridiron Gurus. As usual, my colleague Drew Bonifant was the co-host, and our guests were Cony head coach BL Lippert and Leavitt head coach Mike Hathaway.

We talked about the things we’re looking forward to in the upcoming season. Big games, top players, the expansion of 8-man football in Maine. When we were done, I chatted with Hathaway to get info for my week one game of the week story. It’s a rematch of last year’s Class C state championship game, Maine Central Institute versus Leavitt.

No, no, no. That’s not how it happened at all. The coronavirus doesn’t listen to podcasts, and it certainly doesn’t have deadlines or even plans. It just is.

Wednesday, Governor Janet Mills finally addressed the issue of high school sports in Maine, making her the final Governor in the six New England states to address the issue. Mills’ statement was a word salad that offered support for high school athletics, but stopped short of offering any real guidance.

State agencies and the MPA released a joint statement saying they are committed to working together to resolve the issues facing the fall season. You talked to a few coaches of various sports to get an idea how they feel. You interviewed Dan Ingram, the communications director of the Alabama High School Athletic Association to get a sense of how football is going in his state, a state hit much harder by Covid-19 than Maine.

You read about a preacher in Sanford who thumbs his nose at safety guidelines, and the chaos and spike in Covid-19 cases that has caused from Millinocket to York County, and you know that’s the underlying reason Friday night lights are doubtful in Maine this fall.

That headache came back.

Thursday was busy, as it is every week from early September until the week before Thanksgiving. There was a game of the week story to write, and capsule previews of each game in central Maine. I talked to my editor, Bill Stewart, about Friday’s deadline.

You chased around rumors and shadows of stories. You talked to athletic directors about streaming options they’ve explored to allow fans to watch games they likely will not be allowed to attend. You played out various scenarios for the fall in your head, and none of them inspired confidence.

You began calculating the odds of a winter season in your head. 

Friday, I covered a high school football game. A classic Pine Tree Conference rivalry, Mt. Blue versus Lawrence, at one of the state’s best high school football venues, Keyes Field. It was a rematch of a playoff game from last season.

No, you didn’t. 

 

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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