One thing journalists never want to be is wrong.
A misspelled name, an incorrect statistic or a messed-up quote ding the credibility of any writer.
With what I’m about to say, though, I hope I am 100% wrong:
I don’t think we’re going to see sports this fall at the high school or collegiate level.
I don’t like it, but that’s how I see it.
In just the last three days, the Ivy League announced it has canceled its entire fall schedule, while the Big Ten and the Pac-12 have both scrapped their nonconference schedules. Meanwhile on a small-school level, the Northwest Athletic Conference announced Thursday it is moving all sports except for golf and cross-country to 2021 at the earliest.
Confirmed cases of COVID-19 are on the rise not just in Oregon but across the country. Part of it is due to spread of the virus increasing, but part of it is due to more testing — the positive rate nationwide Thursday dropped to 8.9% according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It was around 10% just two weeks ago and 12-13% a month or so ago.
This is a good thing because it means we are testing more and more people — roughly 500,000 a day now — and finding those cases that are confirmed.
With the high numbers, though, comes more fear and concern. The Big Ten cited medical advice being behind the reason it canceled the nonconference games.
Doing so may pay off. Dropping those additional games means there is more time to set up for conference play. Rather than starting in September, the season would more likely begin in October. That extra month could be important to implement testing plans and quarantine plans and to figure out how to play games in a pandemic.
Or it could mean — as I am afraid it does — the beginning of the end for the fall.
If the NCAA already is seeing cancellations, it could be just a matter of time before the NAIA follows suit. Keep in mind, too, that for the NAIA fall season to happen, half of the schools in each sanctioned sport must have the OK to move ahead — and there are only 35 days until the Aug. 15 deadline, which also would be the first day of fall practice.
And even if that is reached, there is no guarantee the colleges in Oregon — which include Eastern Oregon University — would get the go-ahead as health officials look at the number of cases in the state.
Gov. Kate Brown, when she was announcing her reopening plan, gave an indicator that the state would find a way to get the Ducks and Beavers playing. There didn’t seem to be the same nod given to the high school teams at the time.
The takeaway from that: If colleges don’t end up getting an OK, you can be assured high schools won’t.
I do just briefly want to address the discussion of the seriousness of the virus. Some find it horrifying. Some aren’t scared and say bring it on. To this point, the virus had not killed anyone in Oregon younger than 30, and five people younger than 50 have died, so the argument could be: “Let all the athletes play because they’ll be fine — we just can’t let older folks get sick.” The counter to that would be: “They’ll probably be fine, but they could spread it to someone more susceptible, so it’s better to be safe than sorry.”
Both points have merit. But that can be argued further on the Opinion page or among your friends and family members.
The reality is, I don’t see a way — unless the coronavirus numbers drop to the levels they were at in May — that we’ll see football, volleyball, soccer or cross-country this fall. The state isn’t going to give a thumbs up.
I’m even doubtful that the NBA, MLB and NHL restarts will actually happen or be played out entirely, or if we’ll see an NFL game this fall.
The only way we likely get any local athletics to tide us over is if they are sports that can be done with social distancing. Cross-country is the only fall sport where one could hope to achieve that, and even then it’s not a guarantee.
The Oregon School Activities Association last week said it was tossing around an idea of flipping the fall and spring sports slates. Doing so would mean baseball, softball, track, tennis and golf — all sports with a much greater possibility of social distancing — could be played starting in September.
The association should ramp up those discussions when it meets later this month to plan for the fall. It might be the only way games are played — and it would still have to first get an OK from the state.
Otherwise, the sports drought that started in mid-March will continue until — gulp — maybe 2021.
Please, in this instance, let me be wrong.