Few of us were around in 1918 to experience the two-front operation the United States was engaged in.
It was the final year of the “war to end all wars” or what we refer to today as the First World War being fought in the trenches of France. America’s entry into the war swung the balance of power towards the Allies and allowed them to win the war.
At home, we were fighting a different battle, against the Spanish Flu, which claimed 675,000 Americans in 1918 and 1919.
When you hear discussion about “flattening the curve” and “being St. Louis and not Philadelphia”, our public officials are referring to the data from the Spanish Flu that we learned from and are applying today to fight coronavirus.
Despite the nation being pre-occupied with those two world-changing events, the Ohio High School Athletic Association still managed to hold a state track and field meet in 1918 and again in 1919 as we were demobilizing from the Great War and finishing our final year of fighting the Spanish Flu.
Nearly a century later, the United States and with the rest of the world are fighting a new pandemic, COVID-19.
Our public officials have taken a number of reasonable steps to try and flatten the curve and limit transmission of the coronavirus, which included a three-week expanded spring break closing all schools in Ohio until April 6.
The OHSAA postponed its remaining winter sports tournaments at the same time and suspended spring sports practices until April 6. It also instituted a no-contact period for all OHSAA sports.
As Governor DeWine hinted when he said “obviously” to a question at his press conference on Wednesday about the possibility of having to extend the break for students, this crisis will likely not be contained by April 6.
That will likely require extending both the extended spring break and the suspension of spring sports.
So what’s the purpose of this column? To ask the OHSAA to be patient with spring sports and don’t pull the plug too soon.
Currently, the spring sports season is slated to end with the state baseball tournament in Akron from June 11-13. If we extend the end of the spring sports season to June 18-20, it would buy us some additional time to potentially have a shortened spring sports season. All spring sports state championships could be completed on that weekend.
As OHSAA Executive Director Jerry Snodgrass stated in his press conference on Thursday, the association is considering several proposals to try and save spring sports and have received a number of other proposals from concerned fans or participants on its social media feeds.
It’s clear that the length of the spring sports season will have to change under the circumstances, but the important thing is to try and have a spring sports season for those student-athletes who have put the work in during the offseason to prepare to compete, especially for those seniors who will be representing their schools and communities for the final time.
Spring sports season usually takes between 10-to-11 weeks to complete, but that could be condensed to as few as 5-to-6 weeks with a very limited regular-season and then going directly into the postseason.
Baseball, softball and boys tennis could play one round of league play before entering the tournament, and track and field could have three to four warm-up duals or tri-meets leading up to a league meet and then start its three-week postseason.
Another more “out-of-the box” proposal would be to have the regular-season be sectional play in baseball and softball. Baseball and softball teams would play against every team in its sectional, with the top two to four teams depending on that division’s alignment, advancing to the district tournament.
If by early May its safe to have sports, early events could be staged with limited spectators, such as family and necessary personnel to limit the amount of people at an event. Crowds are usually small for regular-season events due to the time they begin and most people just getting off of work and coming home for the evening.
It may be necessary for the OHSAA to cancel spring sports if we can’t get control of the coronavirus and that would be the right decision to protect players, coaches, officials and fans from getting the deadly virus.
The OHSAA should try and hold off on a decision until the final week of April. Let’s exhaust all possibilities before we pull the plug.