Jeremy Mug

Sitting next to my local media counterparts at the Clarke-Oconee High School Football Media Day felt normal.

Their masks and their unorthodox offseasons offered a bit of a chuckle. COVID-19 allowed us all to find content, simply shelter in place and look at the person in the mirror.

This week, football practices began. By next week every fall sport will be in full preparation for the coming fall sports season.

It feels normal. I hopped out of my car hyperventilatilating to get a closer look at the white helmet-wearing North Oconee High School Titans on Tuesday.

I got almost to the field and I felt odd. I felt underdressed. A lightning bolt shot from my chest down my spine and into my toes. I’d left my mask in the car.

If this was last summer and it was a hat instead of a mask, I’d have scampered ahead. Not now. That’s not the world we live in today. It’s mentally draining. You’re always wondering and hoping. Last Friday, I was nearly in tears as Opening Day 2020 for Major League Baseball finally happened.

By Monday, I was tight-chested, trying to straddle my moral fence. Playing and covering sports in a pandemic has us all straddle a fence. The Miami Marlins have sent 17 players and coaches home in the last six days after they were diagnosed with COVID-19. Morgan County High School reportedly had to shut down their practices due to multiple positive COVID-19 tests over the weekend.

If the pattern stays constant, they’ll hopefully recover. What if they don’t? As human beings we have to consider both outcomes. We have to be honest with ourselves.

I want baseball and every other sport. We know sports are important. We love them. In many ways it’s what we need at the moment. We need something to hope for.

It’s important for high school students to experience a sports season. You only get one chance at doing it. You’re only a high school senior once. I remember my senior year of high school more than anything outside of my wedding day and college graduation.

What are we willing to give to let off the appearance of normalcy? Sports will happen. They won’t look like the sports we love.

There will be teams playing with a wide receiver at quarterback due to positive tests at the college level and high school level. I hope not, but we know better by now.

There probably won’t be fans. That means, that hot dog smell and pep from the bands we love won’t be there. I’ll interview athletes at a distance. There won’t be my typical tap on the shoulder. We’ll have make adjustments. We all will do it. How much we will adjust morally is the question I have moving forward. Sports during a pandemic has exposed us.

High school kids feeling that their only way to college is through playing sports is an indictment on where we are as a country. We keep saying senior year is the time of our lives. It doesn’t have to be. We could prepare for the future, so that the time of our lives is every day after high school.

Sports are supposed to be something fun in times of strife and prosperity. Now, they seem like business.

I wish that wasn’t true. We know better.

Jeremy Johnson is the sports editor for The Oconee Enterprise. Opinions expressed are those of the writer.

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