The high school spring sports season is always a dicey proposition around these parts.
Sometimes, we manage to dodge Utah’s crazy weather patterns and all the games get played as scheduled. It’s rare, but it happens.
Other times, we’re merely trying to avoid hypothermia as a frigid wind blasts us in the face at a baseball or softball game, or trying to stay dry at a rain-soaked soccer game, or trying to watch a track meet through snow flurries. Even the arrival of spring, which awaits us next weekend, doesn’t keep us from having to cope with these predictably unpredictable conditions. Memories of being crammed into the press box at the softball complex in Spanish Fork during a torrential downpour at the state tournament a couple years back come to mind.
However, I would gladly take some bad weather throwing a wrench into my best-laid plans for a spring of high school sports over what happened to all of us last year around this time.
That’s when everything ground to a halt. For three months, until the American Legion baseball season began, there were no games to be had anywhere. Not on the fields of Tooele County, or anywhere else in Utah. After Rudy Gobert’s positive COVID-19 test made national news, you couldn’t watch professional sports, either — a fact made worse when you consider that a lot of people were stuck at home for months.
Yes, it was a brutal time to be a sports fan.
It had to be even worse if you’re a high school student-athlete.
Let’s face it — our kids got robbed last year. Grantsville and Tooele were likely to win softball state titles yet again. Grantsville and Stansbury looked like they were contenders in baseball. Stansbury looked like it could make some noise in soccer. And none of them got the chance to prove it.
It has been interesting talking to coaches over the past couple weeks as I’ve been compiling the season preview stories. Sure, they all have high hopes — everyone does at the start of a new season. Dreams of region and state titles dance in their heads. The start of a season is like Christmas morning to athletes, coaches and fans alike.
But that optimism has been overtaken by something else this year: everyone’s thankful just to be playing games again. There’s a sentiment that victory won’t just be measured on the scoreboard in 2021, or by who hoists that big trophy and adds another banner to their gymnasium.
Victory will be measured by having the games played at all. When the clock at a soccer match hits triple-zero, who scored more goals just won’t seem to matter as much. Sure, finding out who’s going to come up with the game-winning hit or game-saving catch is why we love sports so much, but we should cherish the mere opportunity to have those moments this spring.
I’m looking forward to being back out on a golf course as the weather warms up. I can’t wait to watch the state tennis tournament at Liberty Park — or, in the case of rain, at the Salt Lake Tennis Club or the University of Utah.
I’m even looking forward to helping the Utah High School Activities Association staff brainstorm new rain-related songs to play over the PA system during the inevitable afternoon thunderstorm that will upend the state softball tournament.
After the year we’ve just experienced, a little weather-related inconvenience doesn’t seem like such a problem anymore.
Darren Vaughan is a veteran sports writer from Moab, Utah. He’s looking forward to spending his spring with a notebook in one hand and an umbrella in the other. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.