Looking forward to the high school baseball and softball quarterfinals? Keep looking.

The nightmare inflicted upon athletic directors, coaches, players and spectators this spring is more ghoulish than any motion picture premiering on 6-6-06.

Rain made a mockery of the scholastic sports season. I’ve lost track of how many schools played “home” games 30 minutes away from school to satisfy Maine Principals’ Association deadlines and SAT/prom/graduation commitments.

Last week, Richmond and Valley spent a combined six hours on the road to play an 11th-hour, 59th-minute softball game at Lisbon, just so the Cavaliers wouldn’t have to forfeit a game and subject themselves to possible one-year MPA banishment from the sport.

And now we’ve arrived at the playoffs, which already are more compromised than an Enron accountant’s principles.

Since no school in our region has been innovative (read: rich) enough to build a bubble, Thursday’s full slate of contests was a wash. The sound you just heard, other than the roof leaking, was your school’s AD wailing after plucking his or her final hair from its follicle.

Today looks better. That is, if you consider anything less than a plague of frogs and locusts playable. (Picture Bill Murray’s character in “Caddyshack” musing, “I’d keep playing. I don’t think the heavy stuff’s gonna come down for quite a while.”)

Regional semifinals are/were slated for Saturday. If you take the National Weather Service at its word, it’s a safe assumption players will spend that day staring out the kitchen window, pining to get in their next game before the Fourth of July.

If you care to look that far ahead, regional championship doubleheaders are scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday in Standish, Augusta, Bangor and Brewer.

Which leads us to Sunday.

No, scratch that. Sunday is off-limits for MPA-sanctioned competition. After briefly weighing the merits of allocating Sunday as a last-ditch rain date for ridiculous scenarios such as The Great Spring Nor’easter of 2006, the principals voted overwhelmingly a few years back not to mess with the Sabbath.

They meant well. I’m sure somebody suspected giving schools a scheduling inch would persuade them to grab eight miles. But seriously, in a public education system that has expunged even the suggestion of a higher power from its curricula, is it a mite contradictory to pledge allegiance to one of the Ten Commandments?

Please put down your pen for a second and let me clarify that I’m a believer. But I’m also secure enough in my belief to know that God doesn’t strike people dead for enjoying a few hours of recreation on His day.

Even if your objection to the occasional Sunday afternoon game isn’t spiritual and is all about safeguarding family time, really: Is there any family activity that couldn’t be wrapped by 3 or 4 o’clock, in time for a twilight baseball game? Prime time at the beach is 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Church is done at noon. Dinner at your ever-loving in-laws is served and swallowed before 2.

I’m not talking about every weekend or even every sports season. When Monday is available and feasible, play Monday. But I cannot comprehend how a late afternoon Sunday start is worse than a softball doubleheader in two different, non-neighboring towns on a school night, or six baseball games in seven days. This is not merely a convenience issue. Its a safety and an academic issue.

Administrators are good at making rules, so I’ll bet the MPA could draw this one up to minimize its impact. Every request for a Sunday make-up would have to go through the sanctioning body’s office in Augusta. Perhaps there could be a stipulation that only the last two Sundays in a sports season could be used, implying that ADs should exhaust every other available day during the season before leaning on the last resort.

Otherwise, this will keep happening. Within the last decade, we’ve seen state finals delayed an entire week. Last year, Oxford Hills and Edward Little played the Eastern Class A baseball title game on a Monday while Westbrook twiddled its thumbs and waited to meet the winner on Tuesday.

Barring a break in the rain, this season’s rearranged itinerary could be: quarterfinals Monday; semifinals Tuesday; regional finals Wednesday and Thursday; state finals Saturday. Notice we haven’t even talked about how graduation and other conflicts will wreak havoc with starting times. Or the chance of more rain.

That kind of calendar isn’t fair to anybody. It isn’t conducive to safety or studying. And I can’t imagine that God or anyone’s Mom, the two chief champions of Sunday as we know it, would approve.

Never on Sunday? It’s time to reconsider that philosophy.

Kalle Oakes is a staff writer. His e-mail is [email protected]


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