Everyone needs to take a deep breath.
Maybe two or three.
The level of animosity and hostility I’m seeing over the Michigan High School Athletic Association’s decision to move football to the spring is outrageous.
Twitter exploded Friday afternoon when the MHSAA announced the switch, and you would have thought the MHSAA replaced tackle football with flag football.
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I understand many coaches were disappointed because they have been working with these kids for weeks now, and they were only a couple of days away from putting on the pads.
I can appreciate that, but the group most incensed were parents.
Parents. Why did I know there was going to be blowback from parents?
Some demanded to see the data proving football would put kids are risk. Well, since no high school kids have played football since the pandemic began, there is no data to share.
Others said kids have been playing baseball all summer with no evidence of spreading the virus. That may be true, but the last time I checked there were not 11 baseball players colliding with 11 other baseball players on every play.
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But let’s pretend for a moment that you parents could get the MHSAA to change its mind and let their sons play football in two weeks.
Guess what? You wouldn’t be there to see it.
Well, I guess you could rent a cherry picker and park it near one of the end zones, but your wouldn’t be able to see much.
Listen, Michigan High School Athletic Association executive director Mark Uyl and his staff examined this issue from every angle imaginable before making their decision, while also dealing with the restrictions put in place by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
“If we would have been able to find a way to get games in this fall,” Uyl said, “it would have been with virtually nobody there — no cheerleaders, no bands and no parents.”
No parents? How in the world would the coach know what play to call without parents in the stands helping him?
There is a reason the mere mention of Friday night lights makes people light up. To me, these Fright nights are the most special part of the year and it is much more than just the players on the field that make it a spectacle.
“The thing is with high school football there are so many parts of the community that are connected to a Friday night or to a Saturday afternoon,” Uyl said. “While it may look incredibly different and unique next spring, what it does do is give us the chance to have everybody in that school that’s been part of Friday nights to be able to do that next spring.”
By moving football from the fall to the spring we will probably lose some of our very best players, who want to enroll in college in January to get a jump on their college careers.
Come next spring they will be missed, but only by the people at the school they left. It isn’t like we won’t be able to have an all-state team without them.
Their spots on the all-state team will be taken by others and we will move on.
But now the hard part comes for the MHSAA. Now it has to figure a way to sandwich football season in between basketball and spring sports like baseball and lacrosse.
Forget about a nine-game regular season, but you can look forward to an automatic spot in the state playoffs.
“Certainly, there’s going to have to be a little bit of overlap for this to work, especially for those dual sports athletes,” Uyl said. “We’re going to take the weekend and kind of let the football dust settle. We’ve been working on what-ifs the whole time. Come Monday morning, I’ll go to that folder that had a lot of those plans and we’ll try and find something that will work.”
The thing to remember is the state has two peninsulas and what works in Allen Park might not work in Kingsford.
But the MHSAA is committed to finding a happy medium that will work for both.
“Weather will certainly be a challenge,” Uyl said. “But the football coaches association has been wonderful partners through this entire process and they’re committed to working with us hand-in-hand in finding a great plan for next spring without short-changing those other sports and those other teams as well.”
The day that still haunts Uyl was March 12 when the pandemic began to boil over and he had to suspend the winter sports tournaments and put the spring sports on hold.
There was nothing more he wanted than to finish those winter tournaments and follow through with the spring sports seasons for those graduating seniors.
It never happened, and Uyl still can’t get that out of his head.
“Last spring was devastating because that was telling winter and spring kids that it was over,” Uyl said. “Today was disappointing, certainly because I look at one of those senior football players every day right in the eye at my own house.
“One thing we have now is some months ahead of us and we’re going do everything we can to put together the absolute best and most unique experience for football kids.”
Although I was looking forward to seeing Chippewa Valley play Novi Detroit Catholic Central in Week 1 and Muskegon play Detroit Cass Tech in Week 2, I admit I find it appealing that for the first time in 51 years I will be able to attend a state playoff game in shorts.
Everything will be fine. Just relax and breathe.
Mick McCabe is a former longtime columnist for the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @mickmccabe1. Save $10 on his new book, “Mick McCabe’s Golden Yearbook: 50 Great Years of Michigan’s Best High School Players, Teams & Memories,” by ordering right now at McCabe.PictorialBook.com