Groundhog Day came for Oregon high school sports, and the verdict was nine more days of waiting.
No, football isn’t dead, but it’s very much on life-support. The OSAA executive board today made it incredibly clear they’re waiting for the clock to officially hit triple zeros before calling the game over. This is admirable and necessary.
New guidance will be coming in the next few days from the OHA and the governor’s office concerning athletics in general, though contact sports will be the focus of most. The possibility still exists for some sort of contact football season, but the guidance released will have to explicitly allow that. The OSAA has done all it can and continues to pull every last string.
That alone should be the headline of the last twenty-four hours. That the OSAA has done and is doing all it can to bring athletics back to life for high school students in the state of Oregon to as far an extent as possible. The OSAA, generally a faceless, emotionless entity, has taken on a much more personal and heightened profile since the pandemic hit. As such, the headlines that actually mean something get drowned out by the noise surrounding them.
The logistics of season 2 weren’t what I was most struck by on Monday. The information presented, the steps taken, and the conclusion of the meeting weren’t shocking at all. A non-answer being the verdict was a growing possibility in recent days. It’s been the misplaced outrage and general lack of comprehension by a probable majority of high school sports patrons that has truly floored me.
First, take the hate at Peter Weber out the door. If you honestly believe Weber, or anyone on the Exec board for that matter, is genuinely fighting against the interests of Oregon high school athletes, your anger is misplaced.
There’s been an explosion in attacks at figureheads within the OSAA as political soldiers rather than athlete advocates. There is no reason whatsoever that Peter Weber, Jack Henderson, John Beck, Jeff Clark, or anyone within the OSAA should be seen as public enemies because of the current situation. If you want to verbally crucify someone because of the status of Oregon high school sports at this point, look elsewhere. To shoot the messenger is to shoot those who’ve not harmed you.
Second, 7-on-7 is not going to replace full-contact football in terms of what it represents and produces; nobody without financial interest involved has ever said it’s going to be able to completely fill the void. However, to use that as a reason to push for a “say we’re going or say we’re canceling, don’t keep us in limbo” approach is at best short-sighted and at worst incredibly damaging.
At best, the all-or-nothing stance some outside the OSAA prefer would lead to an immediate cancelation of football. Congratulations, you’ve achieved something that could’ve been mitigated or avoided. Nice job. There was no scenario today in which the OSAA was going to be able to definitively say, in the words of some, “We’re going”.
At worst, this approach could delay any progress on guidance concerning contact sports, delay any progress in the transition back to athletics, and delay any constructive activity that could happen from now until the end of Season 2 and throw future seasons into question.
To give up on jockeying for position in guidelines now, is to forfeit bargaining power for basketball restrictions, wrestling in general, relaxed volleyball guidelines, etc. is not only shortsighted; it could do serious long term damage for those wanting to compete in April, May, or June.
This approach could inadvertently cut off the toe to save the foot, only then to have to cut off the entire leg. It’s fortunate— frankly essential—this line of thinking doesn’t permeate into the power-holders within the OSAA exec board. Pursuing options, whatever they may be, for leverage and for contingencies, is essential to the game currently being played. The smear campaign being waged online, though understandable in its origin, is unfounded and truly dangerous.
I wrote a piece a few months ago when the West Coast Coaches Alliance started to gain traction in which I argued Oregonians deserved a shot at doing sports right for the moment. I argued that the trial and error of other states presented the opportunity for Oregon to not take the early bruises of others and instead apply a well-functioning, highly informed model for high school athletics from the start, whenever that came. I still believe this to be the case.
But for this to come about, calmer heads must prevail. Patience, though it is understably running thin for a considerable amount of people, must be maintained. Calling Peter Weber a political agent, the OSAA a functioning arm of your political adversaries, or those most actively advocating for athletes’ ability to compete “quitters” or flat out “evil”, is a one-way ticket to no competition at all; forget 7-on-7 or an abbreviated volleyball season.
I support the OSAA’s efforts, and you should too.
-Robby Scharf, MidMajorMedia