By Tony Hooker
The trees are in their autumn beauty,
The woodland paths are dry,
Under the October twilight the water
Mirrors a still sky;
Over 100 years ago, the great William Butler Yeats penned these words as the opening stanza of his poem “The Wild Swans at Coole”.
I must confess to falling under the same general funk that must have possessed Mr. Yeats then, as summer passed into fall this past week. According to Wikipedia, fall has long been associated with melancholy, as summer’s bounty fades and one begins to face the prospect of the barren winter that is fast approaching.
Ordinarily, the sense that there are more summers in my past at this point in my life than there are in my future is offset by the festivity of the season. For most of my adult life, fall has meant the excitement of football games and the pageantry of homecoming parades. The pungent bitterness of a bonfire’s smoke countered perfectly by the sweet tartness of freshly made apple cider or the apple pie moonshine that makes its way to many of our adult tailgate gatherings.
All of that has been taken away. Either by a nasty virus, or by an even nastier political situation, depending upon your point of view. No touchdowns or jarring hits. No marching bands or terrific pork chop sandwiches at the VG concession stand.
I’ve had my time and I’ve had my share of all the above, and I can reluctantly cede them this season, though I certainly don’t want to, but….
As always, it’s the youth who suffer inordinately. After having their winter and spring sports slate wiped clean, they’re now faced (golf and cross country notwithstanding) with the prospect of no sports, e-learning and so many more unfair and unprecedented things in their high school lives.
And here’s the thing. According to an article by Maddie Robertson in the September 8, 2020 issue of Football Scoop, over 1000 high school games have been played, and there have been zero reports of community COVID spread. Head for a state border in any direction tonight, and if you get there in time, you’ll see the familiar overhead lights shining in small towns and bigger cities. Head west across the Mississippi from Quincy by 7 p.m., and you’ll be able to watch a shootout between the 3-0 Hannibal Pirates, who average 43 points per game, versus the Mexico Bulldogs, who bring a 2-1 record into the clash while averaging 36 ppg. If you like scoring, this one might be for you, as the Bulldogs give up 27 a game and the Pirates 20.
Head North a few hours, and you’ll be able to watch as Wisconsin kicks off their high school season tonight. One interesting game is the Blackhawk/Warren, IL co-op travelling to Potosi to battle the Potosi-Cassville team. That’s right. According to Maxpreps.com, an Illinois team has formed a co-op with a Wisconsin high school that lies across the border, ten miles from their home.
If you travel to the east from Watseka 15 miles, you’ll be in Kentland, IN where you can catch the 0-3 South Newton Rebels as they try to earn their first win of the season against the 2-3 Covington Trojans.
Finally, if you jump on interstate 57 and head south to I 24 and bear southwest, you’ll arrive in Paducah in time to see the 2-1 Tilghman Blue Tornado play host to the 1-1 Trigg County Wildcats in their first district contest of the season.
Of course, these games will be completed before you read these words, but it boggles my mind that you can see high school football everywhere in our region except in the land of Lincoln. 1000 games. No outbreaks. And now, our governor is intimating that science is preventing him from moving toward a fall football season, and could potentially prevent us from playing this spring. Why is our science in direct opposition to the science in the states surrounding us? 1000 games. No outbreaks. Seemingly no sense in continuing to punish the kids and the coaches and the families and the fans. Or this old sports writer. It’s time to let them play.