The past week’s foul weather triggered multiple conversations pertinent to outdoor activities and athletic endeavors.
Amazingly, some of them weren’t even profanity-laced.
Most of us were more than mildly miffed that Mother Nature chose to play the bucket-over-the-door trick on all attempts to exercise, do yard work, or watch neighborhood kids play games from Tuesday through Friday.
But into every season of life and sports, a little rain must fall, and so we dealt with it. Our local high schools and the organization that sanctions their on-field activities, the Maine Principals’ Association, responded with reasonable caution and moderation.
The MPA’s major weather-related decision was to shuffle the state field hockey playoff schedule, giving schools four extra days to complete their quarterfinal games and tightening up the remaining rounds accordingly.
Football, a sport some of us were brought up believing should be played in the middle of downpours, blizzards, earthquakes and plagues of locusts, also took a hit. Even after the rain had mostly done its bidding and moved out Friday morning, four local schools scheduled to host games that night pushed those activities back to Saturday evening.
These choices triggered a lively statewide conversation, because, well, our state and our country are obsessed with having conversations about things we can’t control.
On the field hockey front, as first reported by our friends and media partners at the Bangor Daily News, MPA officials are examining the possibility of allowing Sunday as a make-up date, at least for future playoffs that might be impacted by weather.
Regarding football, as first reported on, ahem, social media, host schools that postpone football games due to egregious field conditions are engaging in everything from gamesmanship to the destruction of the American soul.
I’ve written about both issues more times than I count, and admittedly I’ve flipflopped. Not softened. Not become a bleeding heart. Just realized that seeing the merits of the gray area doesn’t make me a wimp or a blasphemer.
No question my natural inclinations are that Sunday should be reserved for God and family, and that football was meant to be played on its scheduled day in whatever conditions may unfold.
But the issues are more complicated than that. What happens when we’re dealing with a tight time window, as was the case when this year’s snowbound basketball tournament needed to be completed within the confines of February vacation? Or when it rains every day for an entire week, as we’ve seen more than once during baseball/softball/track/lacrosse/graduation season?
Here’s the simple solution, or dare I say compromise, even though I loathe the word: Open up Sunday as a possible rescheduling date for the final week of the regular season or playoffs, only. Ensure that no game will start earlier than 3 p.m., presumably allowing families to attend church, have brunch, pick apples, or spend a few hours doing whatever it is they enjoy doing together. And leave it up to local control. If Christian schools (or anyone else, for that matter) prefer to wait until Monday, so shall it be.
Easy as a Sunday drive. This doesn’t have to be one of those protracted, angry decisions we seem to enjoy. Create the mechanism for communities that want to use it in an emergency.
The rain issue isn’t one that needs to be voted upon. Local interests already have prevailed. Schools that choose not to play in the muck and mire have their reasons for doing so. Contrary to the popular belief of those who live to flex their keyboard muscles, they are legitimate and good reasons.
Mt. Blue has a beautiful athletic facility that is only two years old. Lewiston football shares its field with a soccer team that harbors serious state title aspirations. Leavitt knew it would be hosting playoff games (now potentially three of them) beyond this weekend’s showdown against Spruce Mountain.
Shying away from sloshing through puddles isn’t about coddling our children, ye wearers of ill-fitting varsity jackets unwilling to let go of the past. It’s about preserving multi-use fields in a time when athletic budgets already are stretched farther than the front of Vince Wilfork’s jersey. It’s about giving both teams the best conditions in which to play the biggest games. And it’s about giving the vast majority of spectators, who are not ducks and masochists, the opportunity to watch the game in preferable comfort.
Three thousand fans and two great football teams in Turner showed us all that waiting until Saturday night wasn’t the end of the world.
Late Sunday afternoon would have been fine, too.
We can’t control the weather, but we can control how we react to it. “Like reasonable adults” seems a good place to start.
Kalle Oakes is a staff writer. His email is [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @Oaksie72.