After months of wondering if this weekend would ever actually arrive, it is really and truly here: High school and college football season in Kentucky is upon us, signaling the beginning of the fall sports season in earnest.
This, of course, will be a season unlike any that came before, and hopefully unlike any we’ll see again. Some of the traditions and much of the communal atmosphere of game day will be disrupted, or at least muted, by social-distancing requirements amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Beyond that, hovering over the season is the specter of the unknown – specifically whether virus-related circumstances locally or statewide will allow the truncated season to unfold in full, or whether leaders will blow the whistle when the schedule is only partially complete.
There might very well be such bridges to cross in the coming weeks, but this weekend – with a full slate of area prep games Friday, as well as Western Kentucky’s season opener at Louisville on Saturday – should be about seizing the moment and making the most of occasions that not so long ago seemed doubtful.
As we wrote in a previous editorial, we believe the correct decision was made in allowing the fall prep sports season to proceed. With health precautions established and being followed, and with successful precedents being set by professional sports leagues in recent months, we currently see no compelling reason to deprive young athletes – in all fall sports, not just football – of the opportunity to pursue their passions. Again, if virus-related developments force reconsideration, we will welcome a sober discussion about the best path forward. But until that time comes, we are happy to see activity resume on our region’s athletic fields and courts.
Obviously, those who wish to experience a full fall season must do their part – namely by following all mask-wearing, attendance and social-distancing guidelines that have been put in place for specific sporting events. While avoiding coronavirus outbreaks among players and teams is a major point of focus, so too is avoiding outbreaks among spectators.
Reduced crowd sizes are a given on all competitive levels these days, but that alone is not enough: Attendees simply must do everything they can to limit the spread of the virus by adhering without complaint to safety restrictions at all venues. Make no mistake – outbreaks traced to attendees of fall sporting events potentially will torpedo the season just as quickly as outbreaks among participants.
We are hopeful, though, that all involved with the fall sports season care enough about the athletes to make a commitment to safety and prudence. Certainly, the games will look, sound and feel different this fall, as they probably will into the winter and spring seasons as well. But remember this: Different is better than nothing, so let’s embrace what we have and do our best to protect it.
Best of luck, and prayers for safety, to all of the players, coaches and their families this season.