My mind started writing this column last Tuesday when the Kensington Lions Club announced the cancellation of its annual All-Star Football Classic.
That Buffalo-based contest was scheduled for July 29, three days before the Big 30 All-Star Charities Game at Bradford’s Parkway Field.
It was, in my estimation, time for the Big 30 Game’s committee to draw a similar conclusion and if it didn’t come by the weekend, I was going to make that very suggestion in print. The scheduled media day had already passed by over a month and neither circumstances nor the game’s website gave any indication there would actually be a game in 2020.
Sure enough, the committee made the announcement on Saturday afternoon. The myriad of obstacles couldn’t be overcome and the 47th annual meeting between New York and Pennsylvania Big 30 players, founded by Don Raabe in 1974, was canceled.
It’s a devastating disappointment to the participants, who are all seniors and get only one shot, but the only reasonable decision.
Equally discouraging, it wastes the yearlong efforts of the game’s administration plus the offseason preparation by the coaches.
But time had run out with less than three weeks before the first practice.
AS ALWAYS, many of this year’s Charities Classic players have enlisted in the military, while dozens of others are college-bound with both facing a specific date. Thus, moving the game later into August wasn’t an option, especially with a number of colleges wrestling with when best to reopen.
Then, too, this year’s head coaches – Wellsville’s Frank Brown for New York and Ridgway’s Mark Heindl for Pennsylvania – have their own programs to worry about. Currently, both states are whistling past the graveyard and planning to open the coming season on time.
But until schools open, there will be no practice and there still isn’t a definitive plan in place for that. Plus, there’s no guarantee the New York and Pennsylvania openings will match up.
In addition, there are also two more definitive reasons for the wisdom of the Charities Classic cancellation.
First, practice itself.
With schools closed in both states, it’s inconceivable they would permit an outside entity (all-star team) to use their facilities for practice while their own students aren’t permitted the same privilege.
The second concern is liability.
All-star games are required to be insured. But is the Charities Classic coverage encompassing enough to defend lawsuits in the event of an outbreak of Covid-19 among coaches and players? Or worse, fans, if they were permitted at the game, even with social distancing?
The risk is off the charts.
Indeed, it’s a surprise that the already-postponed Frank Varischetti All-Star Game, moved from last Friday to Aug. 7, is still scheduled. Several Pennsylvania Big 30 stars are scheduled to play in both games and with the Varischetti contest slated only six days after the Charities Classic, it’s hard to conjure a scenario where it would be played.
AND THAT brings up one final event that’s supposedly still scheduled, albeit without a date … the Fourth Annual Corporate Cup Soccer Showcase.
Founders Kris Linderman and Dave Talbot have tried to keep players updated while desperately hoping their games will be played. But the clock is running.
The Soccer Showcase is open to high school players grades 9-12, but 42 of this year’s 96 participants (including eight alternates) are seniors, most of whom start college next month.
Then, too, the games (boys and girls) are subject to the same issues as the football counterparts: practice sites and potential lawsuit liability.
Of course, the coaches of the showcase also have to worry about their own programs as the calendar clicks toward a possible start.
And there’s one final factor.
It’s been clear for months that even if any of the all-star games was played, it would be without fans, destroying the very purpose of their existence.
That alone should be enough.
(Chuck Pollock, a Times Herald senior sports columnist, can be reached at email@example.com)