Downward trends might help high school football

Published 6:42 am Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Believe it or not, it’s almost time for high school football.

Almost nothing about the season will resemble those past, including the game on the field.

Unless the situation changes, which it very well could, players will have to wear masks while competing and only 100 fans will be allowed to watch.

Breathing during competition was hard enough already while wearing a mouth-piece and it won’t get any easier with a mask added on for discomfort.

The attendance requirement is for stadiums that seat less than 10,000 fans, which is all high school venues in the state. College and pro stadiums were limited to seven percent of capacity this fall.

It’s no surprise that there are plenty of unhappy people as the season approaches. Athletic departments need the revenue from gate receipts to fund all sports and fans want to watch the action. Parents will be able to attend, making up most of the 100 allowed in, while leaving some tickets for visiting fans.

It’s up to Governor Roy Cooper to amend his executive order to allow more people to attend games and to lift the mask restriction. Whether it’s on his radar is another question.

An online petition through is meant to remedy that. As of Monday afternoon, almost 36,000 people from around the state have signed asking the Governor to revisit the attendance policy. That’s the most effective way to make your voice heard at this point.

There is not a petition for the masks, and I don’t see that one changing. I spoke with my friend and former colleague from Raleigh, James Alverson, the other day. He’s the North Carolina High School Athletic Association’s Assistant Commissioner for Media Relations. He pointed out the mask requirement for sports stemmed from the executive order that requires all unrelated people who can’t be more than six feet apart to wear masks. Soccer and lacrosse are outside sports going on now and have to wear them, so football won’t be any different until the Governor changes his mind. Alverson also told me that the NCHSAA is not a lobbying group and won’t approach the Governor to influence him. However, he said they’ve communicated with state officials throughout the pandemic and have offered their thoughts when asked. Hopefully, there will be some discussion soon.

There is hope since prior decisions and mandates were based on data. Cases and hospitalizations were trending upward, so more restrictions followed. Currently the opposite is happening. The metrics are at the lowest point since late November, thanks to increased vaccinations and compliance.

Meanwhile, the players solider on, ready for a long-delayed season to finally kick off.

Northside, Southside and Washington High School will take delivery on Velcro masks that attach to the helmet any day now. While none of the coaches have seem them yet, the mask is supposed to leave enough room for a player to breathe somewhat normally with his mouthpiece in. Hopefully, that will be the case.

Panthers Athletic Director Jared Adams told me last week that the county school system is picking up the tab for 200 masks at $8 each (you do the math) in addition to paying for officials, security and other expenses for home games, so all the gate revenue can go directly into each school’s athletic budget.

I’ll leave you with two things. Some season is better than none, even if it’s not perfect and life is not always fair. It’s a tough lesson to accept, but it’s best learned sooner rather than later. Also, the kids will enjoy their season no matter who is watching.