One thing that I have always enjoyed about my job as a sports writer is that it allows me, and those who read my stories, a chance to escape from all the troubles of the world around us — if only for a few hours at a time.
If I’m honest, what I write about is mostly entertainment. What happens on the football field on a Friday night doesn’t really change anything in the outside world one way or the other. It’s nice to be able to detach from reality.
But now, reality has crossed into the high school sports world yet again. COVID-19, which wiped out nearly all of the spring sports season, except for a select few games, is far more prevalent now than it was back in March. In a decision that didn’t surprise me, the winter sports season has now been postponed for at least two weeks, and possibly (likely?) longer.
Just because I wasn’t shocked by the decision, particularly in the face of ever-increasing case counts, doesn’t make it any less disappointing. I was rather looking forward to watching basketball games tip off just before Thanksgiving, and wrestling dual meets shortly after. The swim season had just barely gotten under way, and I was enjoying tracking the young swimmers’ improvements over the past few weeks.
Now, that all has been taken from us — hopefully just temporarily. With Thanksgiving coming just three days after Utah Gov. Gary Herbert’s public health mandates are supposed to expire, the earliest events can begin is likely around Dec. 14, with teams still needing to hold tryouts and preseason practices.
Among the events that were supposed to happen before then were Grantsville’s girls and boys basketball games against Tooele and Stansbury, as well as a Grantsville boys basketball game against Wendover and a rematch of last year’s Class 3A fifth-place game between the Grantsville and Richfield girls. Stansbury’s annual AK-47 Duals wrestling tournament is supposed to be Dec. 11-12, and that might be in question. Grantsville’s Cowboy Duals (Dec. 5) certainly are, as is Tooele’s home dual against the Cowboys.
In short, this hurts as a sports fan. But not as much as it hurts the student-athletes themselves. I am keeping my fingers crossed that they get to have some kind of a season this year, if for no other reason than the fact that high school extracurricular activities, whether they be sports, drill team, cheerleading, band, drama or debate, have such a positive impact in the lives of their participants.
Sure, very few people end up like Tooele’s Madi Baker, the softball star whose signing with Salt Lake Community College is profiled elsewhere in this sports section, but even those who don’t go on to play sports beyond high school benefit immensely. For some, sports provide them with a social circle and a sense of belonging. For others, they teach valuable life lessons that will serve them well long after they take off their basketball shoes for the last time. Participation in an extracurricular activity can provide that little extra jolt of motivation that some student-athletes need to get them over the finish line toward graduation.
If a second sports season gets canceled in the span of roughly eight months, it means far more than just gymnasiums staying dark. Let’s keep that in mind as we hold out hope for sports’ swift — and, most importantly, safe — return.
Darren Vaughan is a veteran sports writer from Moab, Utah. As someone who benefited from his high school sports experience, he hopes others won’t miss out on that opportunity. Email him at email@example.com.