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Billy Reed: When my high school granddaughter is playing field hockey, I won’t promise not to worry


This fall my younger granddaughter is playing field hockey at Assumption High School in Louisville. She loves the sport so much that she transferred to Assumption so she could play on one of the state’s best teams.

So far, so good. Her parents, my older daughter and her husband, assure me she is happy and doing well in her new environment. That’s good enough for me because I so much admire them as loving, caring, engaged parents.

But still…

I worry because that’s what dads and granddads do. Field hockey is mostly a non-contact sport, but there are moments when the players come in close contact as they wield their sticks to get possession of the ball.

Yet the deadly coronavirus is a silent presence wherever we go, whatever we do. It’s why I haven’t attended one of her games yet, but I plan to do so soon while taking the precautions advocated by the experts, but not the President of the United States.

Billy Reed is a member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Hall of Fame, the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame, the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame and the Transylvania University Hall of Fame. He has been named Kentucky Sports Writer of the Year eight times and has won the Eclipse Award three times. Reed has written about a multitude of sports events for over four decades and is perhaps one of the most knowledgeable writers on the Kentucky Derby. His book “Last of a BReed” is available on Amazon.

Football is another matter.

The high school and college seasons officially kicked off this weekend. Last night the University of Louisville and Western Kentucky played before a sparse “crowd” at Cardinal Stadium in Louisville. (The University of Kentucky doesn’t begin until Sept. 26, when Coach Mark Stoops’ Wildcats visit Auburn.)

I checked the list of high school scores and noted that Louisville Trinity whacked Cincinnati Moeller, 44-7. I have a lot of friends who either attended Trinity, or have kids or grandkids going there. Football is very big at Trinity so I’ll bet the Shamrocks play before big crowds at home, and never mind social distancing, off or on the field.

Football has more physical contact than any other sport, which is one reason so many fans love it. I don’t know if the players are required to wear masks. But I do know that you can’t play football without some exchange of bodily fluids.

I applauded when two of the nation’s premier college conferences, the Big Ten and the Pacific 12, announced their members would not play football this fall. The message was clear: The health and safety of their players was more important than revenue.

But, unsurprisingly, the Southeastern Conference and the Atlantic Coast Conference, never even thought seriously about canceling the season. Most of their members are located below the Mason-Dixon line, where football is much more than just a game. Literally, it’s a way of life in both the cities and the small rural towns.

It didn’t phase the ACC a bit when Clemson reported that 23 players had tested positive for the coronavirus, begging the question of what it would take to force them to cancel the season.

I don’t know why some people refuse, even now, to take the coronavirus seriously. When President Trump appeared in North Carolina recently, his constituents jeered and insulted people wearing masks. Don’t they understand that we’re dealing with life and death? Don’t they believe that the virus has killed almost 200,000 Americans since March?

All of us have been advised to restrict our activities, at least until a vaccine for the virus is found. That’s why so many are working from home instead of going into their offices. So why should football get a free pass?

One reason, sadly, is that the parents of gifted high school and college players care more about their sons getting college scholarships or going high in the NFL draft. This tells the players that they are nothing more than meal tickets, or commodities, even to their own parents.

I don’t think anybody should be playing football this fall. It’s almost an invitation to disaster. I expect many players will become victims of the killer virus. I hope I’m wrong, but the decision to play has a certain inevitability about it.

I have two grandsons who are far too young to play organized sports. But long before the coronavirus pandemic, their mother said she would not let them play football because of the game’s inherent violence. I couldn’t disagree with her.

I will not attend any football games this fall for the first time since the mid-1950s. However, I will be a fan of the Assumption High field-hockey team. My son-in-law tells me it’s possible to park and watch the game without ever leaving the car.

But even as I cheer my younger granddaughter, I will worry. That’s my job, and I can’t always do it from home.


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One Comment

  1. Bill Herron says:

    Your commentaries are a treasure, Billy!

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