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Looking Back To Where This All Started (continued)

"We Realized How Great It Was That We Got The Chance To Play Together"

Posted: Monday, December 21, 2020 - 2:21 PM

The previous John's Journal entry took us back to mid-March, when we were all learning about something called Covid-19 and the state basketball tournaments were one day away from being canceled. Below is the entry that followed a few days later on March 16, with reaction from around the state on what transpired. 

As we all know, MSHSL winter activities are currently on pause until Jan. 4 under an order from Governor Tim Walz. If the pause isn't extended past that date, we will be back in action a few days into the new year. Let's hope 2021 is everything we want it to be.

Amid The Disappointment: Memories, Smiles And Appreciation

So here we are. Minnesota schools are closing, sports and activities are shutting down and our girls and boys state basketball tournaments crowned no champions in 2020. Everything has fallen victim to the spread of Covid-19.

As I write this, officials in Italy have announced 368 deaths in just a single day with a total death toll (so far) of 1,809 and total reported cases of 24,747.

Events happened in a hurry. In the midst of last week's girls state basketball tournament, it was announced that limited spectators would be allowed for games Friday and Saturday. Basketball consolation-bracket games were canceled, as was the state adapted floor hockey tournament. As the seriousness of the situation became more apparent, the decision was made to cancel the remainder of the girls state tournament, as well as Friday’s boys section tournament games and the boys state tournament.

In conversing with several people at the time, I expressed the sentiment that it was better to be too cautious rather than not cautious enough. And today I saw an anonymous quote that sums it up very well: "In the end, it will be impossible to know if we overreacted or did too much, but it will be QUITE apparent if we underreacted or did too little.”

We all feel terrible about this, especially for the high school seniors who saw their basketball seasons end so abruptly. One coach referred to the decision as “tragic” and a headline said players were “gutted.” Honestly, we all recognize real tragedy. That would be the case if a player or coach or parent or grandparent attended an event, someone unaware that they were carrying the virus spread it, and serious illness or death resulted. That would be tragic. And that’s what everyone is trying to avoid.

As disappointing as this is, it has been heartening to see how so many teams and schools have responded. The Farmington High School girls basketball team, which was in line to meet Hopkins in the Class 4A championship game Saturday, Tweeted a team photo with this message: “Just because we couldn’t play basketball tonight doesn’t mean we would waste an opportunity to spend time with each other!”

In Perham, where the boys basketball team was undefeated heading into their section championship game, the players gathered in someone’s home and had a great time. They ran through their warmup routine, sang the national anthem, put together a two-on-two tournament bracket and played it out in the garage to hollers and hoots.

The Pierz boys basketball team, whose season ended before the section title game (and their possible first trip to state), got together in a home for video games, pizza and photos.

The Becker girls basketball team was set to play DeLaSalle in the Class 3A championship game before the plug was pulled. The Bulldogs’ Courtney Nuest realized what was important when she told the Minneapolis Star Tribune, “Right away, we were super bummed out, but when the team circled together and we talked with each other, we realized how great it was that we got the chance to play together and all of the great memories we made.”

When the postseason banquet for the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted wrestling team was called off because of recommendations for no large gatherings, they did the next best thing and made plans to hold the banquet via Facebook Live so everyone could watch together.

Rick Grammond, who operates the popular You Are There Sports website and streaming service in Pierz, is posting a different podcast from previous seasons each night. KDWA Radio in Hastings has begun rebroadcasting high school games from the last couple of seasons.

St. Charles High School activities director and baseball coach Scott McCready Tweeted: “We have always been grateful for the opportunity to play. We have always talked about controlling what we can control (Effort-Energy-Attitude). That will get us through this trying time and whenever it presents itself again, we will appreciate the opportunity to play.”

Kate Leavell of Minneapolis is a former college coach who works as a consultant and speaker. She posted this important message on Twitter: “Athletes, who are young and healthy and would likely get a mild version of virus, have been asked to sacrifice to help slow the spread to save the lives of the compromised population. That’s what teammates do. They make sacrifices to make sure the bigger team thrives.”

And a story in the Rochester Post Bulletin quoted Austin High School boys basketball coach Kris Fadness. The Packers were scheduled to play Albert Lea in a section championship game before everything ended.

“Obviously you want to play the games, but I understand the rationale for not playing,” Kris said. “We just don't know (how serious the virus is). The bottom line is one human life is more important than any basketball game.”

--MSHSL media specialist John Millea has been the leading voice of Minnesota high school activities for decades. Follow him on Twitter @MSHSLjohn and listen to "Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts. Contact John at [email protected]

“Athletes, who are young and healthy and would likely get a mild version of virus, have been asked to sacrifice to help slow the spread to save the lives of the compromised population. That’s what teammates do. They make sacrifices to make sure the bigger team thrives.”

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