Why are we playing football in a pandemic?

This “Far Side” strip by Gary Larson just about sums things up these days.

by Mike Pavlichko

I’ve been sitting back, watching everything transpire over the last few months as I crossed my fingers, hoping we’d get this website off the ground, mostly holding my tongue, but occasionally jumping into the fray, but mostly waiting for this very opportunity.

Sure, I’ve made comments here and there on Twitter. Sometimes in favor of playing sports, sometimes not. Always trying to think of the other side of the argument. Because there are a lot of sides to this.

It brings to mind an old “Far Side” cartoon. (My personal favorite is the one where the cows only act like cows when people are around, otherwise, they stand up and talk just like us. And the Midvale School for the Gifted kid, too.)

It’s the one where the Devil is holding a pitchfork at a man’s back down in Hell, saying “C’mon, c’mon – it’s either one or the other.” He’s deciding which door to open. One says “Damned if you do.” The other says “damned if you don’t.”

This is one of the lessons I’ve learned about every single decision that’s been made since, oh, about mid-May.

That’s about where we are right now.

It’s everywhere in society in the midst of this awful pandemic. It’s become political, which has made it even worse.

With a very narrow focus on high school sports, the NJSIAA and it’s brand-new Executive Director – the excellent and well-respected Colleen Maguire – must be feeling like the Devil has they pitchfork at their back. Except one door says “Play” and the other says “Don’t Play.”

Play and you run the risk of high school kids getting COVID-19, getting seriously ill, bringing it home to grandpa, someone dying, and on and on.

Don’t play, and you’ve robbed every kid of a year of organized sports. You rob them of the structure and camaraderie they sorely need after months of staying home, and as remote learning becomes the new normal, at least for now.

I get both sides of the argument, which brings us to the other lesson I’ve learned while enjoying outdoor dining only in New Jersey:

You’re not going to change anyone’s opinion. No matter how well-organized, sane, or obviously correct your opinion is.

Just take a look on social media, and you’ll see what I mean.

Better yet, don’t. Just take my word for it. Besides, you’ve probably seen it already.

A handful of school districts in New Jersey have made the decision not to allow their students to play sports this fall. That’s a real shame for the kids, but you know what? That’s okay. As long as they have a good reason for doing so, and there’s science to back them up, if that’s their path, so be it. I’m not going to change the mind of Dr. Frank Ranelli, the Superintendent of Schools in Piscataway, whose Chiefs – one of the most prominent public school programs in the state – won’t take the field this year.

The vast majority of schools – allowed to by the NJSIAA and with the blessing of the Governor – are going to play this fall. More accurately, they will try to play this fall. And you know what? That’s okay, too.

The last I checked, playing sports in high school was voluntary. When I saw the amount of running involved, I backed right on out of baseball tryouts at the Spotswood High School gym. No one said, “boo.”

Sometimes you have to make decisions in life. Sometimes people make them for you. But I’ve always felt better when I made them on my own. That’s what we’re teaching these kids in football, and other sports. It’s the reason they need – in my opinion; you may not agree, and that’s still okay – sports right now. They need something in their life that makes things feel a little normal.

And then they have to decide.

Do I go to that party? Do I not see grandma for a while? Do I wear that mask?

I had a decision made for me this summer. Then I made my own decision.

It’s why you just finished reading this piece.


  1. Great read Mike! Friday Nights will be a little different this fall but I plan to enjoy them.

  2. nicely put,everyone has an opinion,I agree safety comes first,my opinion is to play,not in spite of the possibility of athletes getting covid,but to give the young adults an outlet,besides staying home and possibly worse

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