I was just reflecting on the road trips the Atlantic football team and the throng of fans have made these past couple of weeks.
Aug. 29 came a 47-mile trip to Underwood, most of that on Interstate 80. Last Friday night one had to travel roughly 60 miles, almost all of that on a fairly wide two-lane U.S. Highway 71.
Each time, students drove themselves to the game. In a lot of cases, I’d guess, there were several of their friends traveling with them – some as part of a caravan with parents, but other times I’d guess they were on their own.
Thankfully – and I probably would say this every week there’s a road game – all the students choosing to drive and take a few friends made it to the game safely without any issues.
It may just be the worrywart in me and others I’ve talked to, but I just worry about what might be.
I remember the first time I thought about blood on the highway and a group of high schoolers’ lives wiped out in a crash. It was way back in the early 1990s, when I was in college. I was helping out my alma mater, North Scott, with video work for the girls’ basketball team.
At the time, the Quad-Cities had a professional basketball team, the Thunder (of the old Continental Basketball Association), who played at a historic venue known as Wharton Field House in Moline, Ill. (The CBA, as some of you might remember, was a minor-league basketball league that was maybe best known for its “seven-point system,” based on winning a game and outscoring an opponent in a quarter; the totals were used to determine standings and post-season berths and seeding. Omaha also had a CBA franchise.)
Anyway, the Thunder were holding an “Eldridge-North Scott Day,” where fans from the North Scott School District could come to the game at a discount and participate in various promotional activities. The Lancer girls’ basketball team decided as a group activity to go to one of the games, and everyone went over in a caravan, and I was invited to go.
The upshot is, several members of the girls’ basketball team all piled into one of the girls’ car. (I can’t remember the number, but it was at least five, perhaps six.) This was not a full-sized car; I seem to recall it was a Toyota Corolla, which would be a “senior compact.”
Now before you’re thinking there was some horrible accident and all of the girls’ lives were wiped out after crashing headlong into a semi ... uh, that didn’t happen. Everyone who went to the game made it there and back safely, and we went on to see the Lancers stub their toes early in the post-season.
But I do recall in my mind envisioning such a grisly scene, and that the community would be attending funerals for the next week or so. These were all good girls, coming from good families and having bright futures. It was the thought that was scary.
Even though nothing happened that afternoon in February 1991, the nightmarish idea of a mass-casualty accident involving people I know or whose parents I know has persisted. Yes, there was the one accident – the one near Iowa City in January 1998 – that took the lives of two popular teenaged girls from the community, but I just think of the one just last year in Gretna, Neb., where those five girls died.
I just would hate to have that happen here. Lives of bright young teenagers wiped out from something that happens in an instant. Wouldn’t matter whose fault it would be, but you never know what could happen late at night with deer, people on cell phones, drunk drivers and other recklessness ... the list goes on.
And yes, I’ve kidded a couple of students about driving themselves to games. I just hate to think about it really happening.
Anyway, there’ll likely be very few students who’ll make the trek to Jefferson to watch the Trojans take on Greene County. Only 180 visitor fans are being allowed, and the ticket allotment is very strict, I’m told.
Stay safe, listen on the radio (or watch on TV, as I’m sure there’ll be a few such links) ... and watch for my Twitter updates. I’ll look forward to seeing you all at the big opening night of the “new” Trojan Bowl” in a week.
To add: When Atlantic football hits the road again to Des Moines and Shenandoah, to those students who decide to drive themselves, whether alone or with a few friends in their car, I say: Be careful out there, use common sense behind the wheel, don’t text and drive ... all of that good stuff.
Because the alternative could be a lot worse than me simply writing a posthumous tribute to our young.
* * *
This may be moot point by the time this appears in print, but good for the Des Moines students who marched to the governor’s mansion regarding high school sports being played when their school is on 100-percent virtual learning.
I am not sure how this will play out since the request for an injunction in the Des Moines Public Schools’ case against the state was denied, and I’m sure opinions vary on whether school activities should take place during a pandemic or if school is in “in-person” session.
But I like how the students stood up for what they believe in and were passionate about participating in sports, speech, band, drama and other activities ... and that whether their schools are all virtual or not, activities should be allowed to continue.
With the court’s decision, it does appear that, in a couple of weeks (unless something changes) there will be sports again in Des Moines, along with Ames and Iowa City.
* * *
I was back home this weekend, and it was surreal that a couple of Labor Day celebrations I’ve attended for about as long as I can remember – even when I lived in Marengo and now here – didn’t take place and their tiny towns’ streets were virtually quiet.
I drove through one of the towns late Sunday night, and except for a house party or two and perhaps a band at the local tavern, everything was eerily quiet.
This was, of course, a casualty of COVID-19.
The same could be said, I’m sure, about the surreal scene in Iowa City, with Kinnick Stadium and other Big Ten stadiums remaining quiet on what normally would have been the first game of the season.
This was also a coronavirus victim.
We’ll know in a few weeks whether the announcement by commissioner Kevin Warren to postpone the 2020 season was the right move. Bear in mind that Iowa City (home of the University of Iowa) ranked in the top five of most coronavirus cases per capita.
About 150 miles to the west, Ames — home of Iowa State University — ranked No. 1 at one point last week. ISU is having college football this fall, with its home opener Saturday against Louisiana.
ISU officials originally had hoped to seat 25,000 fans at Jack Trice Stadium, but after an outcry by health officials, the decision was made to not allow any fans inside. You’ll have to watch on TV or listen to the radio to know what’s going on.
I agree with my colleagues here: This might be the right decision, at least for this week. It may have to be this way most of this fall, but I guess we’ll have to wait and see how things play out.