Wednesday, the Iowa Jazz Championships released a statement cancelling jazz band competition for 2021. The announcement really was a surprise as I feel that schools could compete virtually or progressively load in and load out throughout the day so there were only one or two groups in any given area throughout the day or weekend of regional qualifying competition. Yet, I get the wisdom of not taking the risk as the COVID-19 vaccination is just starting to be rolled out to health care workers this week. On that note, look for a story from Dr. Rob Humble as he was one of those professionals at University of Iowa Hospitals to have his vaccination.
Practices have started for large group speech at the high school, and that looks a lot different with more events and smaller groups, and even the one-act with a smaller cast. We learn to adapt. With Governor Reynolds lifting the restrictions on the number of people at gatherings and allowing all members of households to attend school events (but wear a mask and stay six feet apart from other groups, please) it seems that maybe we are slowly moving to a new normal.
Taking photos at the wrestling meet in Spirit Lake, along with wondering how I would have felt as a kid having the Iowa Jazz Band championships taken away, brought me back to ninth grade in the 1980s at a high school in Sioux City. It was the middle of basketball season along with jazz band practices in full swing when the news came out that the girls JV/Varsity basketball coach was in big trouble for what they called an “affair” rather than abuse of power or assault or some other form of what it really was when an adult in authority took advantage of a student/athlete – with a talented four-sport athlete who was a senior. They both insisted that nothing ever happened before she turned 18 and maybe that:s why he wasn't fired, arrested, or really anything. He was censured and required to have a female assistant coach or chaperone at each and every practice, whether whole-team, special teams or one-on-ones.
My father, who was a teacher in another high school building, put an end to my basketball career after my freshman season because he couldn't tolerate the thought of me being coached by that coach.
“Dad,” I said, “I can assure you, I would never touch Coach or any other adult male for any reason, and if he did touch me in any way not completely necessary to coaching me, I would kick him where it hurt and tell you immediately. I promise. I am sure I would never be in close contact with him. We both know he isn't going to start me – not next year at least – or choose me for special teams. Dad! I finally showed Coach B that even though I am built like a center, I am really a forward because I have that jump shot that I can shoot over people. He has been letting me sub as power forward ever since the Heelan game.”
So there I was, a six-foot-tall freshman, pointlessly shooting hoops in my driveway, soaking with the melting of December's first snow, barred from playing in the game I loved, not because I had done anything wrong, but because an adult who knew better had.
I knew a person of good character would roll with the punches and find the good in the situation, but that December, I was in the place of pounding the basketball against the backboard and yelling, “It's not my fault! It's not my fault! It's not my fault!” I cheered up eventually, but absolutely nothing good came out of that. I didn't get a chance to see how far I would go as a player and there are no pick up basketball games for women who will turn 50 in 2021. If I am wrong and we can get an old lady league going, please count me in. I would even play six-player if that is what it is. Otherwise, I suggest five-player, zone defense, half court. Or, three on three. Two on two. Horse in your driveway. Call me.
I think the length of this pandemic feels kind of like that. We can't do the tings we love because someone else, a potentially deadly virus, is so contagious, so ubiquitous, that we have to take extreme measures to stay away from it, and it's better if we avoid it altogether. If we just don't play this season. It was one thing in the spring when we were stepping up for each other. But now it has lasted most of the year, cancelled numerous events and it is exhausting to work around and give up everything we want to do, in some cases a lot of things we have worked hard for.
So the vaccine has come out and it presents a sign that this is not forever. We will be able to play all of our games again, have as many people together as we want, crowd the gyms, auditoriums, theaters, churches and stadiums, hug and kiss and chest bump whenever we want, and clasp hands without first making them slimy from a gallon of sanitizer.
I look forward to all of it, as long as we can keep each other safe a little while longer. The people who know about public health say to hang in there, stay safe, and protect each other. Just a while longer.