Boy did the Governor just open a big can of worms

Published 1:42 pm Friday, July 31, 2020

     This week, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee gave Tennesseans an epic shock paralleled to that of the biblical story of Sarah and Abraham when Sarah
was informed she was going to be a mother at the age of 90-years-old by God.
     That came when the Governor said in a news conference that he was going to sign executive order number 55 to allow contact sports that include football and girls soccer during the midst of surging COVID numbers throughout the state.
     Now, Lee has yet to put ink to paper knowing that if he does that could open pandora’s box for a whopping lawsuit but teams throughout the state have already revved up their practices as they prepare to start having contact in pads as the season, for now, remains intact.
     With his announcement, many area and regional health departments have already made major releases throughout the state that highly disapprove of this order including Metro Nashville and most recently Knox County where football has been put on hold until meetings can be held between the health departments and District Administrators.
     Locally, on Thursday morning several school athletic directors gathered in person and via zoom to discuss how a football season would look here in Northeast Tennessee and compiled a list of recommendations to what would happen should an athlete or coach contract COVID-19 to handling tickets and admission of fans.
     These recommendations will be presented to their Director of Schools for discussion and approval on Monday.
     So the question still remains – will football season still be a reality or will it be put on hold?
     I have been asked that question throughout and my first reply is does the one asking the question want the realistic answer or the optimistic answer.
     So, I will share my viewpoints as of right now and again the beauty of this column is it is just one Sport’s Editor take on what is going on in the world of sports.
    Today would have been my first football media day of the 2020 season at Johnson County High School. I received a call yesterday from my colleague and friend Tim Chambers, the Sports Editor of the Tomahawk in Mountain City, informing me that the media day was canceled due to two football players having tested positive for COVID-19.
    The end result – football at Johnson County has been closed down for quarantine.
    And in my opinion, this scenario will be playing out more often once the teams start participating in contact workouts.
    Teams have done a really good job of following the guidelines presented to work out in conditioning and weight lifting but now the gate is being opened and it’s only a matter of time before we see and hear of more stories just like the one at Johnson County.
    Not only did the Governor’s announcement impact the sports themselves but think of how it impacted the local school system’s ability to implement a safe reopening plan for their students.
    The first argument out of parents’ mouths, and justifiable so, was if football can be played why can’t my child go straight back to school for in-person learning.
    How can you tell a parent their child will be doing at-home learning when sports teams are out there busting each other’s chops in getting ready for the 2020 season.
    Now, all the plans that were being put into place for safe re-entry into the classroom have been compromised all for the sake of allowing fall contact sports to have the green light.
    There are going to be many discussions over the next two to three days of just how to proceed. The TSSAA still says that the regulations that were recently adopted during a called meeting for all sports will still be followed for the entire school year.
    I couldn’t help but think for the last couple of days that I wonder if Governor Lee and the powers that be can even see the forest for the trees so to speak.
    For whatever reason, I was awakened on Thursday morning at 4 am with the following on my mind- much like receiving an impartation from God on a message to be preached or a lesson to be taught.
    Let’s start with the stud athlete on the football team who we will call for this column’s example Big Bad John. Now John is a senior who is not only looking forward to his senior season but is being courted by several colleges and is ready for the season to start and his parents can’t wait.
    Now all summer, Big John has had his eye on asking Roxie Mae the captain of the cheerleading squad to be his girl so while Roxie Mae and Laura, another cheerleader, are talking Big John lets the cat out of the bag and Roxie Mae is on cloud nine.
    The two date leading up to the first game of the season and in that game, Big Bad John has double digits in tackles including a bone-jarring tackle on the oppositions running back and seeing that he has knocked the air out the back a little he offers a hand to help him off the ground.
    What Big John didn’t know was that the running back had COVID-19 but hadn’t shown any signs of being infected and when he came off the ground he coughed on Big John as air returned to his lungs.
    Big John gets a congratulatory kiss from Roxie Mae after the game little to her knowing what had happened on the before-mentioned play.
    Over the weekend the two spend time hanging out with several of their friends and then return to school on Monday where the game and the weekend are rehashed once again with those who couldn’t be there or who just wanted to chit-chat about the events.
    Now, here is the kicker, on Thursday Big John starts feeling bad but doesn’t really share that with his coach and hasn’t show any typical signs of what shows with a COVID-19 infection.
    He practices on Thursday with his team running several contact drills. Roxie Mae also is feeling a little off but once again she doesn’t share with her coach either. Both have contacted the COVID-19 virus but are not aware.
    Within the next week, more symptoms present themselves and both the football team and the cheer team are placed in quarantine with some others now being tested positive.
    The teachers of the students weren’t aware of what happened and due to contact in the instruction of these students, which were several if you remember the party and the game, they get tested and come back positive.
    A total of 12 instructors have been impacted along with their families. There aren’t enough subs in the school district to cover the absence due to other teachers who are out throughout the system.
    Also, some support staff have came into contact and have tested positive. Several family members have also been impacted including grandparents who are raising their grandchildren with some of these having compromised health situations that could lead to death if the COVID-19 becomes sever.
    The Director of Schools has no choice due to what is happening to pull the plug on in-person learning and go to a virtual learning setup. Parents are frantic because they can’t miss work and have no other options especially if they are single-parent homes.
    I think that you may see the gist of the overall story and yes you may throw eggs at the messenger because after all the truth hurts and many don’t like the truth.
    Do I want this scenario to play out – ABSOLUTELY NOT!
    But I am a realist. I would rather see what the true outcome of an event is than to pretend something can’t happen. Remember this – for every action there is a reaction.
    My prayers go out to everyone in the position of making these tough decisions.
    I think that what we are seeing right now is the passing of the buck. It is easier for the Governor to pass the buck to the TSSAA to make the decision about fall sports by saying it’s okay and then that trickles down to the local districts and regions which basically leaves them in the position to make the tough calls without any true support behind them.
    That leaves the burden on the Director of Schools and athletic directors and God-forbid if a student-athlete succumbs to the virus due to having a hidden health problem, the ramifications are left at the local level to deal with as it was their decision to proceed due to public pressure.
    Get the picture – this can of worms just turned to a stinking mess. 

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