The anvil finally dropped.
A decision that hung over our heads for the last three weeks came crashing down on all of us. On Friday, the MHSAA announced via press release, the cancellation of the remaining 2020 winter and spring sports seasons.
I don’t think it comes as much of a surprise following Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s announcement earlier this week regarding the closing of K-12 students in the state of Michigan. If the current global climate is deemed unfit for academics, then it’s virtually impossible to justify the continuation of youth sports. While they were two separate decisions from two completely different entities, they very much go hand-in-hand with one another. It doesn’t make accepting either decision any easier, and my heart hurts for the 12 teams who are left forever with the burning question of, “What if?”
We talk a lot about how special it is to end your season with a victory. How hard it is to climb the mountaintop. People can speculate how the Final Fours would have shook out and who would have reigned supreme in 2020, and heartbreakingly, we will never know. Now is probably not the time to speculate; we are all hurting in a time like this and crowning a hypothetical champion isn’t going to do anyone any good.
It’s no consolation and won’t make this any easier to accept, but right now, I think it’s important to acknowledge and appreciate those teams who never got to finish.
The players who didn’t know it was their last game. How different would warm-ups have been at Otsego Sportsplex on March 7th, if Marquette knew that its 5-2 victory over TC Central would be its last? What would Brendan Miles and Kyle Gaffney have said to each other before taking the ice, knowing that the Salem game would be their finale? What would Frank Novock’s final message be to his 10 Country Day seniors in the locker room before their game against University Liggett that Saturday? As coaches, we tell our kids all the time to play every game like it's their last because you never truly know when it’ll be. No one could have ever envisioned this.
What about the coaches and the many hours they put in? To win a state title is a lifetime’s worth of work. Sure, Taylor Keyworth will likely be back with Byron Center next season and it was Rocky Johnson’s first year as head coach for Howell, but that exact moment in time with that group of players and staff is gone forever. People will be quick to say that coaches will have another crack at it and that powerhouses like Hartland and Trenton will be in the mix again in the future, but shouldn’t today’s current climate be an indicator that just about nothing is guaranteed anymore? I can’t sit here and say with confidence that coaches like Dan Giachino and Dick Blasy will for sure get another crack at a Final Four in the future. For their sake, and all 12 coaches’ sakes, I sure as Hell hope so.
For the seniors, I just can’t imagine what you’re going through. At 17- and 18-years-old, you’re being forced to learn one of life’s toughest lessons. It might be the first time you experience this, but I can promise you it won’t be the last time you’re forced to accept that life truly isn’t fair. It’s not any one person’s fault; there’s no one to blame. It’s okay to be mad at the world and scream, “Why me!?” It’s important to know that you are not alone though. It’s not just you, or your team, or the state of Michigan even… ITS AN ENTIRE WORLD of teenagers who have been robbed of some of the most special moments of their lives. Let that sink in for a second.
What you’ll come to learn is that life does go on. The sun will come up tomorrow. There is no reset button in life like there is on your PS4, and you only get one shot at things. It’s not gonna happen today or tomorrow or next week or next month, but I promise you, when you can come to terms with this and accept it, an entire generation of kids will come out of this stronger and smarter than any other graduating class in our lifetime. That internal strength will serve you well in college and trade school, and some day, with your careers and families.
Parents are in a similar boat. You want what’s best for your kids, and you’re heartbroken that they’re heartbroken. Senior years are just as much your swan song as it is theirs and playoff runs are probably more nerve-racking for you than for them. Clinching tightly to blankets while sitting in the stands, biting your lip watching behind the glass, religiously wearing the same outfits as if your wardrobe somehow affects your son and his team’s performance on the ice. If there’s any silver lining, maybe the next few weeks with teenagers forced to stay at home, away from their friends and “stuck” with their families. I know patience will wear thin with our young kids in the house 24/7 for two straight months. Years from now though, I hope you all can look back on long-lasting memories of daily family meals at the dinner table, movie nights, a series of board games and quality time like we’ve never experienced before.
It’s unprecedented times, and we’re experiencing something no one has ever dealt with... ever. Each day, it feels like we’re experiencing something as a community, as a country, as a society, that only exists in novels and movies. Mandatory stay-at-homes? Schools canceled? Professional and college sports in limbo? It doesn’t make the cancellation of the 2020 playoffs any easier to accept, but I feel for all those affected by the decision and know that we are all in this together. Connect with me on Twitter to continue the discussion.