Neil Rudel on sports: Memo to PIAA, parents deserve to see their kids play

Suffering through the coronavirus pandemic has been the worst thing most of us have experienced in our lifetime.

If you and your family are healthy and working, count yourselves fortunate.

Even so, every aspect of life has been affected — closing of schools, adjustments at work, the awful isolation of our seniors, social distancing, wearing masks — and it’s collectively taxed everybody.

While state and national guidelines and recommendations are aimed at keeping as many as possible healthy and safe, the inconsistencies have been frustrating.

It’s OK to fly in a stuffy plane, breathing everybody’s air, but we can only have an adult beverage, even outside, if we’re having a full meal and not just an appetizer.

We may send college sports teams — OK, Big Ten teams — around the midwest in planes, but when they return to campus, they’ll need to sit six feet apart in their classrooms.

Now comes word from the PIAA that — at least as of Wednesday, and this could change and hopefully will — no spectators, not even families, will be permitted to attend fall sporting events.

It’s a ridiculous decision.

The PIAA is following the edicts set forth by Gov. Tom Wolf and Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine, and while our state hasn’t been overwhelmed like some others, this is still an overreaction.

Postponement of the winter sports championships and the entire spring seasons were unfortunate, and to the PIAA’s credit, decisions were delayed as long as possible.

But had those teams been able to complete and/or compete their seasons, it’s incomprehensible that their parents would be excluded.

Every student-athlete deserves the support, in victory and defeat, from their parents, who have lived the dreams, and their heartbreak, every step of the way.

The parents introduced them to their sport, had a catch in the backyard, drove them and their friends, paid sometimes beyond their means for camps and travel opportunities, organized team fundraisers, celebrated the highs and encouraged them to push through disappointments.

Most of all, they’ve provided love 24/7.

Sports also inevitably bring injuries. God forbid a player gets a serious injury three hours away at a football game. A parent should be at his or her side.

And what about senior night, typically accompanied by emotion: Is a kid supposed to be introduced alone?


Plus most of the fall sports — particularly the flagship sport, football — are outside.

For the majority of high school athletes, this is the last hurrah. Many parents whose kids advance to the college or professional level have seen their children through the ups and downs.

With social distancing and appropriate planning on seating and arrival times, to avoid logjams at the gate, a school with a football team of 50 players could allow each family four tickets and spread everybody out in the stands without dangerously compromising each other.

Our state and the PIAA have to work this out. Our state has to be better than this.

If not, the high school fall season will be remembered not as much for the games but for who won’t see them.

Neil Rudel can be reached by email at nrudel@altoonamirror.com.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)

Starting at $4.62/week.

Subscribe Today