All it took was three days.
When The Indianapolis Star’s Kyle Neddenriep reported Thursday that Fishers High School had shut down football practice for the week after a player tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday, it did not surprise Blitz in the least.
In fact, Blitz’s exact thought was, “This is only the beginning.”
While the Indiana High School Athletic Association has laid out clear guidelines for fall sports practice – including masks required when not involved in physical activity and the importance of social distancing and small group work – the reality, at least for football, is plain to see.
A contact sport that involves a group of people in a small space breathing on each other is a perfect environment for COVID-19 to spread.
We have already seen it at the college and pro levels, with programs like Ohio State and Clemson being hit hard in recent weeks. The NFL will be under a microscope when it opens training camp later this month, although there have already been some positive cases reported among players and personnel.
What happens when a player tests positive? In the case of Fishers, a group of 15-20 players that came in contact with the positive case are to be quarantined for two weeks. That could include an entire position, if we assume that those affected at Fishers were working on the same skill – such as receivers or defensive backs.
It is admirable that the IHSAA and football programs around the state are so gung-ho about the return of Friday Night Lights. With apologies to Bounce and basketball, the sport is the pinnacle of the high school sports season. Nothing beats Friday nights at places like Churubusco, East Noble and Bishop Dwenger.
No one, NO ONE wants high school football to go off without a hitch more than Blitz.
But the reality is that COVID-19 is still very much alive, and it continues to spread through the citizenry of this country, even with social distancing and mask protocols in place. On Friday, the Indiana State Department of Health announced 748 new cases in the state, the first time since early May that there were that many new cases in a single day.
It is impossible to social distance while playing football. It is impossible to wear a mask under your helmet. Effectively, a football field and locker room (if they are used) are Petri dishes for germs, including coronavirus.
Blitz believes that the season will start as normal on Aug. 21. We will all be excited for high school football’s return. But that is when things could get problematic.
EXAMPLE: Team A plays Team B in Week 1. Team A then has Player A test positive for the virus on the following Monday. Team A must then be quarantined due to the proximity of players on the sideline and in locker room. If Player A saw action in the game, Team B will then have to quarantine all players who came into contact with Player A.
But that’s not all. Team A then must discuss with the schools how much contact Player A had with fellow students during the school day, and quarantine those kids.
On and on and on it goes.
See how difficult this is? It is a domino effect of quarantining and health protocols that quickly derails the norm, both on the football field and in the classroom.
While it is fact that COVID-19 is most dangerous to older demographics, people of all ages have died from the virus, including seemingly perfectly healthy teenagers, with underlying conditions only discovered post-mortem.
And that may be the most difficult hurdle of them all.
Even Blitz was a wee teenager back in the day, and boy did he feel invincible. The issues of the world were a mere pinprick in a mind full of thoughts of school, fun and girls. That thought process that you are invulnerable makes high school students in general and football players in particular potentially dangerous carriers of the virus. While it may not affect them, it can be very dangerous to their elders – parents, grandparents, coaches and teachers.
Look, we all want a return to normalcy. We want kids to go back to school like regular, we want to go places without wearing a mask, we want weekends full of high school, college and pro football. But COVID-19 is not going away anytime soon, and its impact is far from over.
Blitz is hopeful that he is wrong, hopeful that the high school football season can be 15 weeks of thrilling excitement, amazing atmospheres and cherished memories.
But reality, OUR reality, makes that outlook appear right now to be a remote possibility.
These opinions represent those of Blitz and Outside the Huddle. No opinions expressed on Outside the Huddle represent those of any of our advertisers. Follow Blitz on Twitter at Blitz_OTH