Politics & Other Mistakes: There’s a flag on the play

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In these troubled times, can you guess the top concern of the average Maine parent of a high-school student?

Finding money to pay for food and shelter?


Avoiding Covid-19?

Uh uh.

Racial inequality?

Not in lily-white Maine.

The shortage of beer cans for craft brewers?

Worrisome, but still not No. 1.

The biggest issue confronting mom and pop is whether junior gets to play sports this fall. Newspapers, TV, radio, and social media are brimming with stories and deranged rants concerning the pros and cons of allowing kids to play football, soccer, or volleyball.

I confess I haven’t paid much attention to those activities since I was well below the legal drinking age, other than to occasionally wonder why both South Portland and Orono call their teams the Red Riots or to appreciate that Penobscot Valley High School in Howland dubs its athletes the Howlers. I’m also aware that Skowhegan Area High School resisted efforts to dispose of its Indians nickname until long after every other place in the state had come to its senses.

That debate over respecting Native Americans now seems courteous, compared to the arguments about whether teenagers should be allowed to spew tiny bits of saliva all over each other for the glory of their beloved educational institutions. If the Portland-Deering game on Thanksgiving Day gets canceled, can the collapse of western civilization be far behind?

Might be worth it if it takes down the Kardashians.

Nevertheless, student-athletes continue to advocate for full-body contact in the service of acquiring experiences that will be useful later in life. (Assuming there is a later in life.)

“Sports teach you great life lessons, whether you’re winning or losing,” a Brewer High School soccer player told the Bangor Daily News. “We just want to get out and play.”

“It’s very frustrating because we’re all waiting,” said a Biddeford High field-hockey player quoted in the Maine Sunday Telegram. “We’re all so excited, wanting to play. But ‘Nope, you have to wait again. Nope, keep waiting.’”

This young person has a valid point. The bureaucrats who were supposed to make decisions about whether it’s sensible to play have been every bit as shaky as the starting offensive line for the Little Sisters of the Poor.

First, the state departments of Health and Human Services, Education, and (for some odd reason) Economic and Community Development each issued guidelines for safely engaging in athletic activities. It would have been nice if these guidelines had been sort of consistent, but they weren’t.

Next, the Maine Principals Association decided that in light of some (but not all) of those guidelines, high-school students could play any sport they liked this fall. Just be kinda careful.

Before anyone could fire up the Friday night lights, Gov. Janet Mills intervened to say that in spite of previous statements about the MPA making the final decision, the MPA would only be doing so if that decision was consistent with all the guidelines, including the ones that were contradictory.

Upon reconsideration, Mills’ lackeys decided to do some revising. They got together with the MPA, school superintendents, school boards, PTOs, NGOs, OSHA, and a local fantasy football league to decide if the joy of playing fall sports is worth the inconvenience of becoming seriously ill.

Predictably, their decision was illogical. Sorta yes, sorta no. Soccer and field hockey are OK. Football and volleyball aren’t, at least until spring.

Meanwhile, child-psychology experts were weighing in, claiming that pandemic prevention causes mental stress in youthful minds. “Kids don’t do well when they’re isolated and withdrawn from the people and activities that are important to them,” one researcher told the BDN. “Those are pretty big protective factors for kids.”

Bigger, apparently, than masks and social distancing.

The correct call here should have been “Time out.” Those parental wackos demanding the immediate return of high-school sports could then have devoted their energies to helping their neighbors who are hungry, cold, or sick.

Or they could just play Madden 2020.

I’m punting. You can run back my reasoning by emailing [email protected].

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