The argument against fans at the big game
Why there are no fans at the Battle Mountain-Eagle Valley game
In theory, Battle Mountain will be playing Eagle Valley on Friday in a football contest at 6 p.m. in Edwards.
We’re pretty sure that during the time we typed the above sentence that the entire plan was scrapped and rescheduled. Battle Mountain is now playing Cheery Creek on Friday. (Kidding.)
Speaking of Cherry Creek, after Battle Mountain beat 4A Liberty two weeks ago, I called Pat Phelan, the longtime Huskies coach in football, wrestling and track and field, to ask him if he remembered Battle Mountain ever beating a 4A school — it hadn’t happened — because Phelan is the guy you call when you need to know the last time something happened at Battle Mountain athletically.
“Well, there was that one year we played up and beat Cherry Creek, 32-6,” Phelan said to me.
OK, he was joking. I completely fell for it.
It’s one of many weird things in a very weird football season. I’ve never had a season where I’ve been on the phone with athletic directors — be it Battle Mountain’s Gentry Nixon, Eagle Valley’s Tom LaFramboise or Vail Christian’s Tim Pierson — as well as football coaches on a daily basis. (I have learned that June Schuppler, 1, knows how to say “Hi” and “Dad.” Jim Schuppler’s a happy father on that count alone.)
The 3A Western Slope champion in football is Evergreen, a storied and historic member of the conference. (This is Notre Dame winning the Atlantic Coast Conference the one year it’s in it, and that could happen this year when the Irish likely play Clemson later this season.)
This has been a downright weird year, and that brings us to the 800-pound gorilla in the room: Fans in the stands on Friday.
In the kaleidoscope of issues surrounding the game, we have two over-arching issues. The first is that Eagle Valley is in digital learning because of the coronavirus, and should not — by strict interpretation of the rules — be allowed to play in this game.
The second big matter is that Eagle County went to the orange stage of coronavirus awareness on Tuesday. That means, according to the Eagle County health order, seated sporting events are allowed a capacity of 75 people, as opposed to 175 under the yellow level.
This is why you can’t have fans at Friday’s game. Do the math. Battle Mountain has 32 players on its roster. Eagle Valley has 42 for a total of 74.
The coaches need to be there (let’s say eight per team for 16) and you need refs, the chain gang, media, school administrators and we’re already over 75 for Friday night’s game.
Now, I have a firm appreciation of how involved parents are in their kid’s high school sports. Let’s face it: I have a job because of it. That job was noticeably absent for three months this summer when sports cratered. (Too much golf for Freud.)
It’s in my interest for this game to happen and many others to follow. I’ve fielded calls Wednesday that Battle Mountain should let in the parents. This is the players’ last game. This is the last time the parents will watch and share this experience with their kids. I get it. I’d like to see it happen.
But parents lose me when they say, “Hey, they (be it the school, Nixon, the health department) have allowed some exceptions to happen to let the Eagle Valley-Battle Mountain go on, why not one more exception, let the parents in?”
Having watched NFL, NCAA and high school games get scrubbed on a daily basis due to COVID, the one more exception — parents in the stands — could be the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back.
Yes, exceptions have been made — like allowing Eagle Valley to play despite being in digital learning; like the fact that there will be more than 75 people at Battle Mountain for an outdoor sporting event.
Why push it?
The heart of this event is kids playing a football game. It’s Eagle Valley at Battle Mountain. The kids have worked to get their seasons to this point. It’s about them, not their parents. Yes, they’d like to look up in the stands after a play and give a look at Mom and Dad.
That, unfortunately, won’t happen. If that’s the worst thing that happens to a kid or the parents during COVID-19, he or she should consider themselves fortunate.
In the meantime, we’ll keep Cherry Creek on stand-by.