On Monday, the New York State Public High School Athletic Association announced that all winter state championships, which had previously been indefinitely postponed, are now officially canceled due to concern regarding COVID-19.
My heart breaks for the kids who will remember 2020 as one big fat “what if.” And for those seniors, particularly area seniors, I’m devastated. I can’t relate to their situation and not many can.
Overall, the cancellation of the NYSPHSAA winter state championships is one of the greatest high school sports disappointments in the state’s history.
But it was the right call.
It’s tough to take, but it’s the truth. People will be angry, saying that it’s robbing the players of their chance to be state champions, but I just don’t see how it could have gone any other way.
In the press release announcing the decision, the NYSPHSAA explained its reasoning, stating the fact that we’re in a current state of emergency both at the state and national level, also how the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommended avoiding mass gatherings.
The only way to play the state tournament would be to wait until the summer and hope the situation has improved enough to allow any organized game to be played. Granted that’s one big hope.
It’s still unknown how long we’ll have to socially distance ourselves from others and remain home, but that unknown is affecting more than just local high school sports. The NBA and NHL have mentioned not starting back up until possibly August, and MLB is currently undecided on when its season will begin.
The Summer Olympic Games, which were expected to be played between July 24 and Aug. 9 in Tokyo, are postponed to 2021.
I don’t think it’s fair to the kids to keep them on the hook for that long only to have to their dream cut loose a couple of months from now.
There is no blueprint for this. The NYSPHSAA, while putting in what appears to be a tremendous amount of thought into the decision to cancel the winter tournament, has followed the lead of professional sports and college sports and rightly so.
If leagues that make billions of dollars a year and possess some of the healthiest humans on earth are willing to put their season on hold for the foreseeable future, then why would a league comprised of youths ranging from 14-to-18 years old want to risk playing?
For as important as winning a state title is, it’s not worth endangering the health of athletes, coaches and whoever would be in attendance.
New York didn’t act alone in this; just in the Northeast, the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference, Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association, Vermont Principals Association and the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association all canceled its winter championships due to COVID-19.
Some of these leagues decided to name co-champions and in some cases quad-champions. The NYSPHSAA plans on doing no such thing.
NYSPHSAA Executive Director Robert Zayas told The (Glens Falls) Post Star last week that, “If events are canceled and games are not played, NYSPHSAA’s official stance is that no champion is declared.”
As it stands right now, three north country basketball teams are currently ranked No. 1 in their respective classes by the New York State Sports Writers Association — Lowville boys and South Jefferson girls in Class B, and the Chateaugay boys are tied with DeRuyter for No. 1 in Class D.
I wish I didn’t have to write this. Instead I wish I was writing a story talking about the upcoming parade for your 2020 state champion (blank).
Of course, canceling was the right decision and, frankly, the only decision. But I’ll say it once more, it sucks.
Times sportswriter Philip Sanzo covers high school sports.