Column: Other States and COVID

Logos from left are from the New York State Public High Schools Athletic Association and the Illinois High School Association. At right is an outline of the state of Texas. Images: wicz.com, prnewswire.com & clipart-library.com.


There are many ways for concerned coaches, parents and players to get California elected leaders to consider health restrictions to be eased during COVID so high school football can perhaps get played in March and April. Comparing what goes on in much different states like Texas, however, doesn’t make much sense because, guess what, politics does come into play. Other more similar states and the other two West Coast states should be looked at much more closely.

Note: We hope you enjoy this free post on CalHiSports.com. This is more of a personal column and not something we normally do. We’d love to get back to covering actual accomplishments by players, teams and coaches on the field, but the Coronavirus pandemic is perhaps at its worst point so far and it seems like the planned start of football is not going to happen for many weeks if at all. We’ll have additional coverage later this week of planned rallies throughout the state advocating for the return of high school sports. To check out getting a Gold Club membership to see all of our state record updates (five sports), totally authentic historical features, recruiting ratings and more, CLICK HERE.

Images blasted all over social media throughout the weekend from the state high school football championships that were played in Texas.

One of the common questions often accompanying those images was why California isn’t playing football but that Texas not only played and mostly got its season completed?

It’s an easy answer: WE’RE NOT TEXAS!

Well, it’s not that easy. It’s more that the politics of the two states are quite opposite of each other with different leaders who are elected by different majorities of Republican and Democratic voters. These political realities are shown in many laws and actions that tend to be much different from state to state, especially as it relates to public health restrictions, on-line learning and high school sports being played during a devastating, worldwide pandemic.

There’s no doubt that Texans love their high school football more than anywhere else. There are pockets of that type of passion in California, but it’s nothing like Texas. Whether one state is “better” or not isn’t the point. Of course, Texas is going to play football during a public health crisis. It’s perhaps more accurate to compare California to other major states that also have not played so far such as Illinois and New York.

Some of the different laws compared to California from Texas (and again based primarily on the results of statewide elections over the years) include those on gun safety (open carry vs. no open carry), marijuana (legal vs. not legal), teachers/education, health care, smoking and access to women’s health. Plus, Texas led an effort to attempt to have the U.S. Supreme Court to essentially hand over the recent presidential election to Donald Trump. In California, Joe Biden won by more than five million votes.

Should any of that have anything to do with high school sports? Perhaps not. But politics also probably shouldn’t have had anything to do with wearing a mask inside a crowded store, but it sure became political.

If someone looks at all these differences and thinks Texas has it right, they have all of the freedom in the world to move there or to use their time to help political candidates they support to win more elections in California.

New York and Illinois are not only large populated states that are run primarily by the same political leaders as California (Democrats), but both states have large rural areas (like California) that have populations that feel misunderstood and not listened to.

Last month in New York, the New York Public High School Athletic Association canceled its 2021 winter state championships for all what was described as high-risk sports. The NYSPHAA also postponed all high risk sports (listed as basketball, competitive cheerleading, football, ice hockey, volleyball and wrestling) until state health officials provide them with a go-ahead.

Late last week, Illinois High School Association executive director Craig Anderson and staff members met with the Illinois Department of Public Health and Deputy Governor Jesse Ruiz. Like California, Illinois also is on pause for high school sports and waiting for hospitalizations and case numbers to decline. The IHSA also knows it may have to make some difficult decisions regarding some of its sports seasons very soon and that efforts need to be made to help Illinois health officials review its risk levels for certain sports.

“Putting together a puzzle that allows for all sports to be played becomes increasingly improbable,” Anderson said in a IHSA press release. “We continue to urge all residents of our state to be diligent in their efforts to adhere to safety guidelines, as a lower positivity rate remains the key to athletics returning.”

Image: Twitter.com.


Washington and Oregon also are often linked to California in terms of response to the pandemic amid similar political realities.

In Oregon, its most recently announced guidelines had a goal of football competition starting on March 1. Other sports usually held in the fall have a current starting date for practice of Feb. 22.

“I think everybody would agree it’s important to get kids participating both physically and mentally, and we want to try and do that as soon as we can, provided we can do it safely,” Oregon Schools Activities Association executive director Peter Weber told the Sherwood Gazette newspaper. “I talk to directors throughout the 11 Western states, and we get that in 35 states they’re playing sports and Oregon hasn’t, but we’re working within the parameters set by the governor’s office. Just like any other business, those aren’t options — they’re requirements.”

On Tuesday, Jan. 5, Washington Governor Jay Inslee announced new health guidelines that included updated metrics for the return of high school athletics. The next day, the Washington Interscholastic Athletic Association announced it was moving several sports from previous start times in the spring to a season of seven weeks from Feb. 1 (first practice) to March 20 (last game).

Image: Twitter.com.

Checking the infection rates and case numbers for Washington, however, shows they are much lower than in California so for our state those numbers would have to come down before that comparison is more accurate. Still, it shows that if the virus can start to get controlled, that elected leaders from the Democratic Party can be influenced.

Nationally, the map shows that a strong majority of states, even some states with Democrats in the governor’s office (best example: Michigan), have played football in the fall. That hasn’t been enough so far to drastically change the landscape in California, New York, Illinois, Oregon, Washington and some other states, but the data collected from those other states should be looked at and considered carefully. If one is supposed to go by the data and science, it does work both ways.

Bottom Line

We know there are hundreds of thousands of kids in California suffering during these many months without sports and in-person instruction, but we agree with the Illinois executive director that the key for a return to sports is lower positivity rates and virus mitigation not to mention a higher percentage of people getting vaccinated.

We hope those who are planning to rally at many schools across the state later this week can be successful with their message. It won’t work if they aren’t wearing masks and practicing social distancing, it won’t work if they continue to add threats of recalling the governor if they don’t get their way, it won’t work if they don’t acknowledge the nearly 30,000 deaths in our state from this pandemic and it won’t work if they compare us to Texas.

Mark Tennis is the co-founder and publisher of CalHiSports.com. He can be reached at markjtennis@gmail.com. Don’t forget to follow Mark on the Cal-Hi Sports Twitter handle: @CalHiSports


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