Each night as I walk around Fishtown, my neighborhood, I see people enjoying themselves in an outdoor setting. While such a scene was impossible to imagine when they were still brewing Schmidts on Girard Avenue, and for two decades afterward, during the pandemic, these are almost heartwarming scenes of normalcy.
It’s great to see people working again, businesses doing what they can to make it, and people just enjoying life. Gambling has returned to Rivers Casino and its employees are back to work, even if it’s just a limited capacity. Restaurants will soon be allowed to open with limited capacity for indoor dining. After months of staying inside and containing the spread of COVID-19 here in Philadelphia, we have earned this. After months of seclusion, this is a light at the end of the tunnel.
So, why are we denying the children of this area the chance to play sports for their high schools? I’ve heard the reasons from the Inter-Academic League, the Catholic League, and the Public League. All seem born of irrationality, a lack of creative thinking, laziness, or a combination of the three.
If seniors, the group most vulnerable to COVID-19, can sit and play slot machines inside a casino, healthy high school kids can get together, practice, and play sports outdoors.
The fall season’s cancelation is unnecessary but reflects the overall incompetence and moral failure of those in charge to properly address the challenges posed by the virus. Our kids are sacrificing the best years of their lives to control the spread of the virus, even though we now have a better grasp on how to control it.
These kids consider these activities a vital part of their lives. Parents see and know this, and we hurt to see the kids missing out. I saw the sadness on my daughter’s face when she found out her season was “postponed” until the spring. This is after her last three months of school and summer were snatched from her. This is the harsh reality for these kids, a reality that fails to account for the psychological impact of such an important part of their identities ripped from them by adults who have collectively failed them. Administrators are canceling these activities and citing guidelines that apparently don’t apply to outdoor dining, indoor gambling, and numerous other activities that seem much riskier, given what we know about how COVID-19 spreads.
I understand that administrators are being forced to make tough decisions, but that is exactly why they have jobs and salaries in a time when thousands are losing their jobs. In the last two months, I’ve attended numerous youth sports tournaments in the area that were well-organized, planned, and regulated. To date, none have involved the spread of COVID-19. All featured kids and their families getting back to normal and doing something enriching for the children who lost school time, friend interactions, and months of earlier games and practices.
The leagues of Philadelphia should be following these models. Games and practices can be regulated to keep attendance to participants only. Coaches can wear masks and ensure that protocols are followed. A testing protocol can and should be implemented to make this possible.
We owe it to our kids to make this work. Emailed canned press releases with BS platitudes are not enough. We can’t just throw up our hands. Let’s accept the challenge. The administrators of the Inter-Academic League, the Catholic League, and the Public League must get together and implement strategies so our kids can stop being last on the list of people who are considered during this pandemic.
Our kids have carried the cost of the pandemic in ways that aren’t easily measured by a bean-counter or replaced with unemployment funds. Let’s give them the relief they can’t get from a congressional bill, but can get from concerted effort, creative thinking, and true leadership. Let them play.