Being a good teammate has a different meaning these days.
High school athletes around Missouri will report for the first practice of fall sports starting a week from Monday. This week is known as a dead period because MSHSAA stipulates no contact between athletes and coaches, but it could have deadly consequences.
As we see in the testing of Major League Baseball players, unless athletes live in a bubble they are susceptible to COVID-19. The St. Louis Cardinals joined the growing list of teams sidelined due to positive tests for the virus Friday.
The Miami Marlins have had 18 players and two staff members test positive over the last week leading to canceled games and isolation of players. Many of the baseball players that have tested positive have not shown any symptoms.
Others, like Boston Red Sox pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez, have not been as lucky.
“I feel like I was 100 years old,” Rodriguez told masslive.com. “My body was tired all the time. Throwing up. Headaches … all the symptoms.”
The 27-year-old lefty returned to the mound to throw a bullpen session on July 18 but was again sidelined this week. Rodriguez said an MRI revealed he was suffering from myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle. He was told 10-20% of people are diagnosed with myocarditis after COVID-19 and he’s not allowed to do any activities that may accelerate his heart rate.
Still, he wants to play.
“I feel bad every time I see a game happen and I’m not even in the dugout,” Rodriguez said.
It’s hard to be a good teammate by not being a good teammate.
Society, and especially in the world of athletics, praises people when they play hurt or play through an illness.
Michael Jordan playing with the flu in the 1997 NBA Finals is celebrated as a heroic feat of overcoming an obstacle. Today, if LeBron James has flu-like symptoms he’s not getting anywhere near a court.
And while Major League Baseball has the ability to collect 11,895 tests in a week and find 29 new cases of the virus, that’s not possible for student athletes.
Six states and the District of Columbia will not play high school football this fall while nearly half of the state associations will delay the start of fall sports.
Missouri is technically not one of them, however, MSHSAA has said that school districts may not participate in sports if they do not feature in-person education.
“Sports and activities are irrevocably and appropriately intertwined with education provided in the school building,” MSHSAA state in guidelines released in mid July. “If conditions are such in your area that you are unable to safely bring students to a common location for instruction, bringing students together for practice and competitions is inappropriate.”
So while school districts here are working towards opening for students, those in metropolitan areas are looking at online options.
In fact, schools in St. Louis County have been asked to start the year online, meaning no football teams from that area can compete. School districts that are forced to close because of an outbreak of the virus could also have their sports seasons paused or cut short. Unless there is a change, MSHSAA will crown state champions without the entire state competing.
Poplar Bluff already lost one opponent this week when Illinois high schools learned Wednesday that their football games will be held in the spring. There will be plenty of changes to fall sports schedule.
Just look at the MLB standings. If the professional leagues with all their tests and protocols cannot keep the coronavirus from interrupting their season, what chance do local schools have this fall?
All we can do is try by wearing a mask, washing hands and being good teammates for each other.