Life is not fair.
It’s a lesson everyone learns at a young age and gets repeated to us throughout our lives.
However, there are varying degrees of unfairness. I can’t help but think many student-athletes — particular those in the Class of 2020 — are feeling they are enduring one of the most unfair situations of their young lives.
To be honest, the decision by the Ohio High School Athletic Association Thursday to cancel all its remaining winter tournaments was not unexpected.
With the Centers for Disease Control pleading to not have any groups larger than 10 people in one place during the coronavirus pandemic, major sporting events always pierce that threshold.
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Consider this for some perspective: On Feb. 19, Bergamo, Italy-based soccer club Atalanta played its first-ever game in the UEFA Champions League knockout stage Atalanta’s 4-1 win of Spanish side Valencia was called the biggest win in club history.
However, for the last month, Bergamo has been an epicenter of Italy’s coronavirus outbreak. Local doctors have gone on record saying the Atalanta-Valencia game was an accelerant for the outbreak.
Communicable diseases turn large gatherings like sporting events into petri dishes.
Some on social media questioned what took the OHSAA so long.
On the same day the OHSAA winter tournaments were suspended, the NCAA outright canceled all of its winter tournaments. By the time OHSAA made its cancellations official, the 2020 Olympics had been postponed.
In my opinion, the reason why it took so long is simple: The kids.
Up to the day the tournaments were called, OHSAA Executive Director Jerry Snodgrass was using words like “creative” to try to find a way to get the tournaments played.
Snodgrass often said, as a former coach, he knew the impact and importance these games had on young athletes’ lives.
Ultimately, Snodgrass had to bow to the inevitable.
With the schools out and all of Ohio under a stay-at-home order until early April — an order which is likely to be extended as the pandemic continues to ramp up — there was no way to make it work logistically or give the athletes time to prepare after being stuck at home for weeks.
To be clear, when dealing with a global pandemic, the fate of high school athletics fades to insignificance.
The daily updates on coronavirus infections and deaths are frightening. The economic damage — 3.3 million Americans applied for unemployment insurance last week — also seems staggering.
When faced with such a mind-boggling potential for loss of life and livelihoods, all student-athletes should know the cancellations are the right moves on a logical level.
That said, on an emotional level, this has to feel like a gut punch.
Tiny Waterloo High School was one win away from its first even state final four in boys basketball when tournament was suspended. The girls basketball state final was called off just minutes before tip-off.
In the local area, the biggest loss was the state wrestling tournament.
For the unglamorous sport of wrestling, the state tournament is the proverbial “it.” This is the focus of the entire season and the OHSAA’s state tournament is regarded as one of the nation’s best.
Little more than 24 hours before it was set to start, it was suspended.
The were so many big local stories set to come out of that tournament.
Could Aurora break through and win the Division II state title?
Could Nordonia’s Sal Perrine bring home his family’s second state title?
Would all those first-time qualifiers wilt under the bright lights or bring home All-Ohio honors?
We’ll never know — and that’s why it hurts.
I’m especially unhappy for the senior state qualifiers that I covered who saw their last — and in some cases only — chance at state glory evaporate.
I’ll remember these seniors for a long time: Aurora’s Ethan Anderson and David Cumberledge, Crestwood’s Brett Szuhay, Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy’s Matt Williams, James A. Garfield’s Connor Hrubik and Noah Hoffman, Stow-Munroe Falls’ Daniel Patten, Tallmadge’s Jesse Kanatzar, Walsh Jesuit’s Adam Salek and Woodridge’s Miles Ashbaugh.
Hope remains that the OHSSA spring season will be played, albeit in a truncated season.
That said, it feels like there would have to be some miraculous developments in the fight against coronavirus for that to happen.
Despite what every athlete or fan feels from time to time, sports are not a matter of life and death; Fighting a global pandemic is.
So the question of to play or not to play — it’s not even a question.
Athletes, their families, fans, officials — and even us media types — are all susceptible to coronavirus. Better to stay home and hunker down than risk people’s lives.
As you hunker down for the next few weeks, however, spare a thought for the kids who sacrificed hard to get to states, but didn’t get the chance to shine there.
The fact the OHSAA made the right decision doesn’t make it any less painful.