Last season, the excitement of Week 1 for high school was special. It was ... like every other opening night.
You bring $35 in cash because you need the new season T-shirt, a good seat and a halftime snack. For one shining moment, every single team has a shot at a state championship. In four short quarters, a lot of the season will be defined on that opening night.
Last night was different. Some games did not have bands, some didn’t take cash, some didn’t sell those shirts.
Fans and media were turned away because of capacity limits. It’s frustrating, but it’s the rules, and it’s a small trade-off to see a game being played.
Thursday night, Kevin Devaney Jr. watched highlights of a game in Tennessee. Kevin brought high school sports to a national cable channel and continues to promote scholastic sports through LocalLive Networks.
But he has nothing local or live. He is in New York. So he tweeted on Friday, “High school football last night in Tennessee. Watched the video a few times. You’d think we are living on a different planet here in New York.”
And there it was unfolding in a short clip.
Cheerleaders lining the back line of the end zone going crazy. And a cutaway to fans on their feet jumping up and down and screaming.
The second and third time was a preview of Friday Night Lights in Texas. You start to notice masks, gloves, and even distancing in the stands, where pockets of families are together.
This isn’t the first mass gathering in a football stadium. There were graduations in the spring. Like a football team, the students came out in rows, one at a time and there was distancing.
Like a football game, when the ceremony ended, the kids all gathered in groups of 11 to 22 on the football fields while the parents stood and applauded, distanced, some in masks.
Kevin’s tweet was about sports. But nothing in America is about sports. The comments turned political and into COVID-19 numbers.
And COVID-19 deaths.
The same comments are going to show up on social media by the time you finish reading this column as parents and fans share the photos and articles we post online from the games.
Should they play? Will it continue?
One person brought up the mental health aspect for kids. Maybe sports and activities are needed to give them hope the world will not be like this forever.
We are a media organization and we will help by streaming games this season. And not just football. If those who can’t get sick, won’t get sick and are protected can enjoy the games without sickness or death, that’s a perfect world.
If we can deliver live games, stories and photos for those who cannot take that risk, that is not a perfect world, but it’s a good work-around.
I just know once we get out of this, I will never take the privilege of being able to cover and attend opening night for granted again.
John Anderson is the regional editor of the Longview News-Journal and Tyler Morning Telegraph. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.