It’s beginning to feel like the world is starting to heal.
While the COVID-19 vaccines, social distancing, mask wearing, and other protocols are the real reasons why the world is beginning to heal, if you are a sports fan, it’s the games themselves that have made me feel that way.
The first real feeling that we have come out the other side came to me last Friday night in Dalton when Wahconah hosted Pittsfield in football.
There were fans in attendance, enthusiastic fans. The players were enthusiastic. It might have been April, but the intensity made it feel like it was late October or early November.
As I walked off the field in Dalton, it hit me that it felt like we are getting back to a more normal existence. It felt like I had just watched a typical high school football game.
High school sports in the winter and in the Fall II season, at least to me, felt just a touch off. It wasn’t for the efforts of the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association’s Board of Directors, Tournament Management Committee and the sport committees. It wasn’t for the efforts of school districts from the Vermont border to Connecticut, the athletic directors and the coaches. It certainly wasn’t for the efforts of each and every high school athlete and their family members, many of whom gave up watching their children play because of COVID social distancing protocols.
Some of the winter and Fall II rules did make watching the sport feel a bit different. No inbounding the ball under a basket in basketball, no heading the ball in soccer and no throw-ins, gave those sports a bit of a different look.
But when Wahconah and Pittsfield played last Friday night, it felt like a game ripped from the headlines back in 2019, before the pandemic hit us.
Here’s hoping that the spring season will feel much more like a normal season. It’ll be as close to normal on paper as anything can be.
While local teams will not be traveling outside of the Berkshire County boundaries, those teams will be able to play for a Western Massachusetts and potentially a state title. That had been approved last month by the MIAA.
In the sports where everyone, or almost everyone plays, teams will be divided by division. Since there will be no out-of-county games in the regular season, there will be a lot of familiar matchups.
Take baseball for example. The teams in the North Division — Pittsfield, Taconic, Monument Mountain, Wahconah and Mount Greylock — will play each other twice. The South teams — Lenox, Lee, Drury, Hoosac Valley and Mount Everett — will play the North teams once. It’ll be a similar breakdown in softball with Wahconah, Greylock, Pittsfield, Taconic and Hoosac playing each other twice, while playing Lee, Lenox, Mount Everett, Monument and Drury once.
It is genuinely too bad that there won’t be wrestling this spring. Since Greylock, Monument and Everett are not competing, the Taconic co-op has nobody to play. It is a similar situation to what happened with hockey in the spring.
The Fall II season didn’t wrap up without its share of hiccups. Some teams had to take breaks in the season and some of the contests might not have been as compelling as one might like.
Getting student-athletes on the field, pitch, golf course or floor was the goal. While hockey and wrestling are notable exceptions, for the most part, that was a success.
“Given the circumstances and the amount of challenges that we’re facing delivering education and delivering athletics, as well as the resources that are available to us and the challenges that we are facing,” Pittsfield Public Schools athletic director Jim Abel said, “we’re happy. We’re happy that the students are having an opportunity to participate in sports and happy to be providing them something meaningful during a very unsettling time.”