The last high school sports event that took place in the Finger Lakes was March 11, when the Geneva boys basketball team routed Avon 84-56 to advance to the New York state tournament for the first time.
After the game, I did what I always did: I packed up my bag, got my phone recorder, and walked across the court to speak with head coach Matt Deisering about his team’s dominant performance. I didn’t even ask him about his thoughts concerning COVID-19. The question certainly crossed my mind, but at that point, everyone — including myself — didn’t even think sports had a shot at being postponed, nevertheless canceled.
That’s how quickly it all happened. Looking back, it feels as if the pandemic began and spread over the world between the start and finish of that contest.
I’ll never forget that game.
My girlfriend came to many of the different sports games I covered; to her credit, she not only enjoyed the action, but she has a knack for sniffing out which schools have the best $1 bags of popcorn. Bloomfield did not disappoint.
We went through two bags that night at Bloomfield, and my journal still has the odd buttery fingerprint on the pages. When I look at those pages now, it’s like time stood still, because after that game everything shut down immediately.
It’s been a long road since then for everybody, especially for the first responders and essential health workers who have done heroic work.
For a sports lunatic like myself, it was a tough time to power through. The countless loafs of bread and hot sauce I made were never enough to fill the hole that sports left.
National sports have made their return, and that’s great, but nothing beats watching a sporting event in person. As of Monday, I have roughly 27 days left until I get to get to experience that fleeting feeling once again.
Boys and girls soccer, boys and girls cross country, girls tennis, and girls swimming were green-lighted to play this fall by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. They all fall into the “lower-risk” or “medium-risk” categories.
When I heard the news, I had to be a professional and keep my cool in the office. Inside, I was leaping to the sky and pausing in mid-air, like the “Rocky” movies end. Sports are back, and I can’t wait to watch a soccer game as the leaves begin to turn their beautiful fall shades.
The elephant in the hypothetical room is that it looks like there will be no football, or even volleyball. Because of the nature of football as a sport, it makes sense to have it labeled as high-risk. It’s a high-risk sport even without a pandemic happening. However, soccer isn’t exactly a no-contact sport, either.
Volleyball is a bit of a head-scratcher. I guess the ball making contact with multiple players on each team every single point would make for some exchanges of sweat, but if you’ve ever played volleyball, it hurts. Many players will wear long sleeves to prevent the inside of their arms from resembling Swedish Fish after a few digs, so that could certainly help stop the spread of bodily fluids.
It seems the biggest point of contention for the government is that volleyball has a moment at the end of every point where each teams huddle together quickly, regardless of winning or losing the point. The gathering seems to be the biggest issue from an initial glance. It would be a tremendously difficult habit to break, but for the love of the game, I think teams could learn not to do it.
Undoubtedly, it will be a different feeling this fall for Finger Lakes sports. Football might not happen, and volleyball seems to be on the chopping block as well — and my girlfriend won’t be at any games with me this year as she began her postgraduate work at Villanova University, a sad, but proud moment for myself. Go Kate!
So, no football, no volleyball, golf is up in the air, probably no $1 popcorn bags or any concessions, the schedules are an afterthought right now, and many more hurdles will have to be cleared before Sept. 21.
Even so, I can’t wait.