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Sept. 20, 2020 — Did a professional sports team burst its bubble?

This afternoon, it was announced that the WNBA semifinal series game between the Seattle Storm and the Minnesota Lynx was postponed because of inconclusive COVID-19 tests on the part of more than one Seattle player.

While the NBA and NHL seasons have been in quarantine bubbles on either side of the US-Canada border, the entire WNBA season and playoffs have been taking place in Bradenton, Fla., at the home of IMG Academy.

And all this while the fall semester at the private sports-centric super-prep have been taking place.

The WNBA bubble has been as strict as in other leagues. Once the site of competition was established, players were required self-quarantine for seven days and have three negative COVID-19 tests even before traveling to Florida. Once there, the players quarantined for four days, and have been subject to continuous testing since.

The 140 or so players in the “Wubble” — the nickname for the WNBA’s Coronavirus bubble — had recorded only four non-negative tests since the season began.

That is, until today.

Given the stakes involved in pro sports during a global pandemic, the instant question has to be, “How did this happen?”

After all, as far as we can tell, this virus isn’t one which germinates spontaneously within people. It has to be transmitted.

In a pro sports bubble, therefore, there had to be a reason for these tests to come back anything but negative. Unless, of course, it’s a false-positive result, which has happened twice in the Wubble this season.

As per usual during this pandemic, the story is developing minute by minute. It will be interesting to see how this settles out.

Sept. 19, 2020 — When it suits them

Today at the noon hour, collegiate football will be taking over the airwaves unabated. And in about a month, there will be a return by the 14 universities of the Big Ten, per the schedule released recently.

But the other sports within the Big Ten? Apparently not. Ohio State yesterday released a statement saying that its non-revenue fall sports, field hockey inclusive, will be playing a spring schedule to align with the rest of NCAA Division I in order to play for one of the 12 available slots in the NCAA Tournament.

I’m expecting the balance of Big Ten schools to do the same, which is befuddling.

You see, the current Division I football season has already had a number game cancellations and dozens of student-athletes coming down with the novel Coronavirus.

And into this minefield steps the unpaid student-athletes of Big Ten football programs of great prestige.

But there’s something about prestige in sports. Today, the prestige is perpetuated by teams who didn’t actually make those great, conquering achievements. Instead, because of a certain accident of geographical location, they are in a position to carry on a tradition.

And yet, these football universities sit on their thrones and try to dictate morality, according to them. About how you can play, even during a pandemic. Or you shouldn’t show weakness, even as science says your players could be irreparably damaged through contracting this virus. And taxpayers and alumni are expected to accept this order.

But here’s the thing. If all female participation this fall in intercollegiate athletics for the Big Ten has been moved to the spring (along, of course, with a relatively equal number of participants in men’s sports), how is it that all-male gridiron football being allowed to compete in the midst of a worldwide pandemic?

It’s befuddling.

Sept. 18, 2020 — The patchwork quilt that is the Empire State

This fall, it’s anyone’s guess exactly which teams will be contesting the various New York State Public High Schools Athletic Association sectional championships (in lieu of the already-cancelled state tournament).

That’s because a number of individual schools, leagues, sub-leagues, and even entire sections have opted not to play this fall.

In our ongoing attempts to bring you the news as to what’s going on when it comes to “return to play” for field hockey this fall, let’s go over the various regions of the state. Please realize that there will be individual exceptions within each of the sections, ones which could have varying impacts on overall participation within each section.

Here’s what we know so far. The list below focuses solely on field hockey; the NYSPHSAA has already decreed that volleyball, competitive cheer, and football are “high risk” sports and have moved those seasons to the late winter/early spring.

SECTION I (Lower Hudson Valley)
Return Sept. 29

SECTION II (Capital District)
Return Sept. 21 except for the Foothills Conference, which returns March 1, 2021

SECTION III (Central New York)
Return Sept 21 except for the Central Counties League, which returns March 1, 2021; no regional tournament

SECTION IV (Southern Tier)
Return March 1, 2021

SECTION V (Genesee Valley)
Return Sept. 21 except public schools in the city of Rochester

SECTION VI (Western New York)
Return Sept. 21 except public schools in the city of Buffalo

SECTION VII (Champlain Area)
No field hockey

SECTION VIII (Nassau County)
Return March 1, 2021

SECTION IX (Orange, Sullivan, Ulster County)
Return March 1, 2021

SECTION X (St. Lawrence Area)
No field hockey

SECTION XI (Suffolk County)
Return Sept. 21

It’s an interesting patchwork, as half of Long Island (the Suffolk half) will have field hockey as usual. But the moment you move west across the 73rd degree of longitude on a curved line varying between 25 and 28 minutes, your high school (being located in Nassau County) won’t be playing field hockey at all this fall.

It’s a shifting situation, to be sure, and we’ll do our best to keep track of it.

Sept. 17, 2020 — And it’s not just the Big Ten

In spite of continued and rampant spreading of the novel Coronavirus amongst the U.S. and world populations, you’re starting to see a number of sports competitions pull back from previous stances on postponement.

Lost in yesterday’s hoopla over the scheduled return of Big Ten football is the decision of the governor of Colorado to approve a proposal by the Colorado High School Activities Association to allow field hockey and other fall outdoor sports to play a condensed fall season ending in October.

And I do mean “condensed.” It’s Sept. 18 right now, and the proposed Season A for Colorado public schools mandates the end of the season to be Oct. 17 — less than a month from now.

Though I’ve gone ahead and changed the “Return To Play” dashboard entry on this blog for the CHSAA, I really have my doubts as to whether any of Colorado’s high-school teams can gear up for a season to start and finish in such a short period of time, especially given the fact that many state tournament field hockey games have to be played with an orange ball due to snow.

Sept. 16, 2020 — Not looking before leaping

Over the last four or five days, there have been a number of scheduled college football games postponed or outright cancelled in NCAA Division I.

These weren’t just because of concerns regarding Covid-19, but actual cases of students on campus getting and spreading the virus unchecked.

Into this atmosphere has stepped the 14 members of the Big Ten Conference, which today has announced that they will take to the football field again as early as October.

This decision was made with only football in mind. There was apparently no regard for the other several dozen fall sports teams — men’s soccer, field hockey, cross country, and the like — that these 14 universities sponsor other than their tackle football teams.

Now, I’m not about to compare this backtracking with the four major sex scandals linked to the athletic departments of four of the Big Ten schools over the last 20 years. But it is interesting to note that the four men at the heart of these scandals — Jerry Sandusky, Larry Nasar, Robert Anderson, and Richard Strauss — may have ruined the lives of some 500 student-athletes at their respective universities.

The Big Ten Conference is putting at risk 14 football teams with 85 scholarship players each — a total of 1,190 students. These are football players without long-term health insurance, being paid nothing for their labors, and being entertainers for well-heeled donors in luxury boxes in taxpayer-financed (if not taxpayer-maintained) stadiums.

If that doesn’t outrage you, nothing will.

Sept. 15, 2020 — Social justice activism, writ large … and small

Last weekend, a group of girls and young women marched through the streets of Philadelphia, from the grounds of the Strawberry Mansion to the iconic Art Museum front steps.

But this group of people weren’t your usual marchers. They were all members of the Eyekonz organization, which seeks to not only bring the games of field hockey and lacrosse to young people of color in the city, but also helps out in terms of social activism.

Read the story on the march here.

Sept. 14, 2020 — A National Field Hockey Day oddity

Today is National Field Hockey Day, and there are only a very few domestic field hockey teams whose regular seasons will allow them to play a match today. Oddly enough, we’re going to point you to an interesting side that also isn’t playing a game today.

This team is in Ohio, which has plunged headlong into its regular season with games taking place as late as the fourth week of August.

Worthington Thomas Worthington (Ohio), the OHSAA champions in 2018, are 6-0 on the season and have spun six straight clean sheets to start the 2020 fall campaign. Last Friday, the Cardinals got a goal from Cate Isaacson in a 1-0 win over Columbus Bishop Watterson (Ohio). Isaacson, last October, was the player who scored the overtime goal that sent Thomas Worthington to the state semifinal round.

Given the fact that Watterson was the team that handed defending state titlist Gahanna Columbus Academy (Ohio) its first loss of the season last week, this puts TW in the proverbial catbird seat headed into Wednesday’s match against Dublin Scioto (Ohio).

But the big test will occur next week, with Thomas Worthington traveling to Columbus Academy next Thursday. It’s there where markers will be laid down for possible future meetings in the state bracket..

Sept. 13, 2020 — A guarded freedom

Last Friday evening, I attended a live musical event for the first time in six months. It was a septet, featuring some of my friends as well as some accomplished side musicians including a prominent jazz historian and arranger.

The location was a park in a developed office community. The back end of the park is terraced like an amphitheater, even though there wasn’t any permanent seating. The grass was a healthy green from the previous day’s rain, and the sky was blue with some orange-shaded clouds on the horizon.

The music was not just excellent, it was healing. I got up and did some socially-distanced dancing in an area behind the band, but I had to take it easy given the effects of not only chemotherapy, but also not having partner-danced since mid-March.

Since that terrible week which saw people on lockdown, sports cancelled, and the emptying of clubs and restaurants, I’ve been tuning in regularly to performances streamed to my computer from Los Angeles to Long Island. Over the course of weeks, however, the performances have been, well, repetitive. Even though the musicians do a great job at what they’re doing, hearing the same song from the same artist every week does get tiring.

That’s why Friday’s experience was so refreshing. It was live, with the lead singer, sax player, and keyboardist haggling over arrangements and tempo. And the music was glorious.

About a dozen friends of mine from the jazz dance world came out for the concert. I solo-jazzed (mask on, of course) for a few songs, knowing I had to take it easy.

Upon driving home, I tuned my radio to an independent HD Radio station and drove past the neon-lit ferris wheel which has become a local landmark since it opened a few years back.

I felt alive.

Sept. 12, 2020 — And it’s not just Princeton

Yesterday, we mentioned that a possible reason for the “Princeton 19” for withdrawing from school (and, by extension, the women’s lacrosse team) is that a COVID-19 outbreak could happen at any time.

And given some news coming out of central Virginia, that “any time” is now.

It was announced this morning that next Saturday’s football game between Virginia and Virginia Tech would be postponed because of an outbreak amongst the student population at Tech.

Virginia Tech’s website indicates that, in the last week, the number of new positive cases of Coronavirus has jumped up at least 50 percent over and above the number of total cases since student testing started Aug. 3.

That is an unflattering curve when it comes to new cases, and it should be of concern to everyone currently on a college campus.

UPDATE: Apparently, the same has happened for games between Memphis and Houston, Louisiana Tech and Baylor, and Brigham Young-West Point.

Sept. 11, 2020 — Opting in, opting out

Yesterday, as you saw with the bulletin below, a major story was the Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association’s reversal on playing fall sports in 2020.

The DIAA’s wish to go forward this fall is in contrast with a number of state governing bodies of sport, individual sections, leagues, and even school districts withdrawing from fall competition in the wake of the worldwide Coronavirus pandemic.

But a story that ran across our desk in the last couple of days speaks to what could be a very interesting factor in the response of teams to the pandemic: individuals from teams opting out of playing.

The Princeton University’s women’s lacrosse team’s roster is being cut by more in half because of 19 players deciding to take a year off. This means no class, no fall-ball, and no varsity play in the spring of 2021.

Amongst the members of the “Princeton 19” are Tewaaraton Trophy watchlister Kyra Sears, and Ivy League top goalie Sam Fish.

Given the academic rigors of Princeton, where a substantial “junior paper” and a senior thesis are required, you can’t blame these student-athletes from a purely academic standpoint. Though research resources are better than ever thanks to technology and a discount on certain research journals by a major electronic library announced this week, the tasks necessary to compile and obtain feedback for these papers from advisors are so much different when they aren’t done in person.

But you also can’t blame the “Princeton 19” for choosing a “gap” year for other reasons. Just being in close quarters on a college campus during this pandemic has already proven to be problematic, with Covid outbreaks on dozens of college campuses, including amongst groups of student-athletes.

In addition, neither we nor the players now the degree to which the Coronavirus will recede over the course of the winter into next spring. Some are assuming that this virus will wane like the SARS virus in 2003, others are banking on highly-effective vaccines being widely available to the public as early as this fall.

In other words, it’s not known whether there’s going to be a spring sports season. And I don’t blame any of these players, or any others who opt out of playing during this era.