THE EARLY LEAD: A TIME OF UNCERTAINTY

What we can learn from a season 63 years ago and the info available today

By BRANDON HURLEY

Sports Editor
sports@beeherald.com

@BrandonJHurley

Oddly enough, we’ve been through something similar before.
Sixty-three years ago, the high school football schedule faced a daunting virus, the H2N2, or as it was called at the time, the Spanish Flu.
The sickness wasn’t nearly as deadly as the Coronavirus is today, but it was as, if not more, contagious than the Coronavirus we have experienced the last six months.
More than six decades ago, the H2N2 wrecked havoc on local football teams. The contagious aspect of the flu caused students to not only miss several days of school, but it also crippled the Scranton and Jefferson football teams. The Ramblers of Jefferson played only their first four games that fall while Scranton’s quest for three-straight titles was unfortunately derailed after forfeiting a pair of their games.
Vomiting, chills and constant body aches were the typical symptoms of the Spanish Flu, which quickly ravaged its way through the country. Hundreds of Greene County students called in sick, requiring he Paton, Churdan and Scranton school districts to call off school a few days while Jefferson seemingly held strong.
As former Jefferson Herald owner Rick Morain recalls - he was a student at Jefferson in 1957 - he  said not much stock was put into a sickness that would eventually infect most of the country. He remembers the schools not takomg the disease very seriously.
“If you were sick, you’re sick,” he remembers. “But if you weren’t, you went to school.”
That’s where we can learn. We can do better. We not only can pay attention to the thousands of warnings signs we’ve seen this year, but we can act more accordingly. When positive cases start to pop this fall we likely will halt sports, if necessary. Football was only stopped back in 1957 because teams ran out of players, not due to a fear of spread. Everyone dealt with the H2N2 as if it was the normal flu, but it spread much faster, and the effects were almost immediate, often inducing vomiting, even at times at half time.
Thankfully, it doesn’t look as if the Coronavirus is as quick-acting as the H2N2. I don’t necessarily think we will see athletes puking on the field, but we still need to take it serious. At the same time, I believe we need to give sports a chance.
Yes, I’m in favor of a football season this year, I really am. It’s time to start taking more chances and stop sitting back and waiting. I believe some type of safe fall sports season - at least in the high school ranks - can be achieved. But like I’ve said before, it will take patience, consideration and cooperation.
We must all be in this together. There cannot be one corner fighting the rest. It can’t be done half-heartedly. We certainly cannot ignore the pandemic and proceed like normal. That didn’t work in 1957, and won’t work today. No caution will mean no fall sports, especially no football.
But we also can’t let the virus win, which means I am on board with the state of Iowa proceeding with fall sports.
I believe, if we proceed with caution, take the safety guidelines seriously and respect other opinions, this can be done.
I don’t believe the Big Ten and other conferences should punt on the season so quickly, as the Big Ten did Tuesday. Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence is correct in his beliefs, saying how players want the chance to take the field.
He’s right, many athletes across the country, and even in Greene County, use athletics as an escape, as a way to keep the cross hairs focused on a life of production and meaning. If sports continue to be ripped from these athletes, they may lose their motivation, their will to stay at of trouble. That’s not to say all athletes use sports as an outlet, but some do, and it’s a bigger portion than you’d think.
Who’s to say a 16-22 year old is more likely to die from COVID-19 than in a drug-related, alcohol-related or even gun-related incident? I know that’s oversimplifying it a bit, but there is some merit to the thought. There is risk in football, and there’s risk in life.
If students continue to hold themselves accountable (And in no way am I saying they must become hermits, I was young once) and if the coaching staff not only stresses safety but enforces it, I think we have a chance to succeed. We’ve learned that the Coronavirus, while deadly, isn’t as contagious as we once believed. No one is instantly sick upon contraction, and many of the deaths are accelerated thanks to underlying conditions. in no way am I attempting to belittle safety or undermine seriousness of COVID-19, but it’s time to, and I can’t believe I’m writing this, stop living in fear. People will get sick, just like every other infection or virus. And we should be concerned about the people who do contract the virus. It’s serious. But if we take some precautions, limit the spread and analyze who shows symptoms, sports can be held successfully. Now, I may be proved wrong rather quickly (it’s 2020, nothing is predictable), but it doesn’t hurt to try. Let’s proceed with caution while attempting to return to normalcy.
The Greene County Rams football team opens the 2020 season on the road at Perry Aug. 28. The Greene County cross country gets the fall schedule rolling Aug. 24 with a meet at Jester Park in Granger.

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