By Adam Roberts – 11/26/2020
Since we’ve re-tooled the ESPN La Crosse website, there has been little room for my opinion columns I used to write semi-regularly here. I do think the rebrand looks very nice and as you can tell by the articles we DO have, I certainly haven’t been lacking for writing work here at the station.
Still, I do miss getting the chance to write opinion pieces every now and then, and on this Thanksgiving Thursday, today seems like as good a day as any to share what buzzing in my noggin once again.
What can be said about 2020 that hasn’t been said and repeated a million times at this point? From a near conflict with Iran to start the year off, to the election, and EVERYTHING in between, the start to the ’20s has been an ordeal to say the least. This insanity certainly has not skipped over the sports world; I remember the overarching feeling of shock the night the NBA season was suspended due to Rudy Gobert’s positive COVID test. The sheer thought of an American pro sport regular season being suspended over what many at the time (and unfortunately too many still) thought was nothing more than the flu seemed so inconceivable at the time. Nine-plus months later we’ve seen how a bubble season looks in basketball, the terms “social distancing” “quarantine” and “contact tracing” will likely be the front runners for Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Year, and somehow we navigated the COVID minefield to have as close to a complete high school football season as possible.
With regards to that last point, it certainly was no easy task getting the season started and then finished. Multiple times we had games planned on Monday and then had to change course at least once, if not multiple times, during the week. And while it certainly was stressful at times, I can’t even begin to imagine the stress felt by school administrators, athletic directors, and coaches, who upon making the tough choice to cancel or postpone a game would often would be on the receiving end of scathing remarks from those in the community who wanted football by any means necessary. In a way, I really do understand the frustration of those community members. After all, essentially no one alive today has any recollection of the last major life-changing pandemic in this country back in 1918, and despite the H1N1 pandemic of 2009 killing an estimated 12,000 Americans, life largely wasn’t effected, certainly not to the extent we are seeing now. So, having sporting events, concerts, holiday gatherings, and general travel be paused or severely limited was guaranteed to draw a number of different reactions.
But at the end of the day, what I am thankful for today as a sports broadcaster in the Coulee Region are the school administrators who made the tough decisions not because it was popular, but because it was necessary. I’m thankful for the coaches who not only navigated the constant uncertainty with grace, but used this unusual year as a teaching experience for their young men and women as coaches do with many other things. I’m thankful for the parents of athletes who were already wearing so many hats in the age of virtual education and still supported their young athletes. And I’m thankful for the cross country, football, golf, soccer, and volleyball athletes who followed the guidelines, persevered through adversity, and will continue to do so heading into the winter sports season, whatever seasons we get.
Enjoy your turkey day everyone, make sure to do so safely, and don’t forget: there’s no shame in loosening the belt a little bit today for that extra piece of pie.