COLUMN: Where is Yogi when we need him?

Published 4:28 pm Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Baseball legend Yogi Berra was not only a great player, manager and coach, but he was known for coming up with some great “Yogi-isms.”

One of his best was “It’s déjà vu all over again.” That quote has never been more fitting than today when the Michigan High School Athletic Association announced that its representative council met Wednesday, but did not take any action in response to Michigan’s state shutting down sports until at least Dec. 20.

The state said that Executive Director Mark Uyl remains in contact with the governor’s office, and Wednesday’s meeting was “purely” informational, and that it would meet again on Dec. 16 to formulate a plan for when the state allows sports to continue.

I feel a bit like Bill Murray in “Groundhog Day.” I have been down this road before. Last March, when the state decided to shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak, every couple of weeks it seemed like the governor’s office, followed by the MHSAA, would extend the shutdown.

We all kept hoping that it would last a couple of weeks and we would wrap up the winter sports season and move on to spring sports. Weeks turned into a month, and eventually, everything was canceled. Ironically, we are currently in about the same area with the fall sports season as we were with the winter sports — two state tournaments set to play their final weekend and crown champions, while boys basketball still had several weeks to go.

Currently, we are on “pause” with the state volleyball and girls swimming and diving finals set to conclude in less than a week, while football is a couple of weeks away from completion.

Those of you who are regular readers of my column know that I have been saying all along that the MHSAA should not have started something it could not finish. That is not meant to be critical of the state athletic association, which has done its best to give our high school athletes the best shot of having three full sports seasons.

I made those comments because I did not want to see the same heartbreak and anguish the student-athletes went through last winter when the plug had to be pulled. As an avid promotor of high school athletics and its importance in teaching young people life-long skills, it broke my heart as well. I am brave enough to tell you all I cried like a baby the day the decision was finally made that sports could not continue.

I had that same wave of emotion on Nov. 15 when Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced that there would be a three-week pause as COVID numbers spiked and are soaring out of control. It is a gut punch to watch teams like the Three Rivers girls basketball team getting set to leave to play in the state semifinals last March, only to be told there would be no more sports for them.

It was not nearly as bad when we all got the news there would be no spring sports because I have to believe that most of us, whether or not some would admit it, knew in the heart-of-hearts that they were not going to happen.

So, here we are again. My heart breaks for the Edwardsburg volleyball team, which is three wins away from its first state championship since 1977. Then there is the Eddies’ football team, which is trying to win its second state championship in three years. They are so close they can taste it.

I know some will disagree with me on this, but not finishing the fall sports will be way worse than not finishing the winter sports back in March. These kids have done so much, sacrificed so much in order just to be able to play this season. To not let them finish will be devastating.

Here is my hope, if when the MHSAA Representative Council gets together on Dec. 16, it decides once and for all whether or not to continue on with fall sports. I know some of that is out of their hands, but if I were them I would do my best to get some concrete answers from the state, so that they can decide now if there is any shot at completing the fall season and starting the winter season.

It is not fair to string them along again for several more weeks, which turns into a month, which then turns into devastation.

Christmas is the season of miracles. Never before have we needed a miracle as we do right now. If there is no miracle to be had, at least give these athletes the gift of compassion.


Scott Novak is sports editor for Leader Publications. He can be reached at