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Let them play

The pain’s not over yet, and, yes, it’s going to be a tough road ahead.

That’s the unfortunate bottom line that would follow the cancellation of fall sports, from high school athletic fields to local college and Big Ten and Penn State football.

The new game is about staying healthy — and staying alive.

Sad, though, how hard this will make it on local businesses that thrive during fall sports season.

We saw what happened with cancelleation of spring sports.

The term “sports bar” won’t be so valid.

Wings and traditional tailgate staples may not be in high demand.

The lack of games is going to have a ripple effect throughout the economy.

We worry how these small businesses will be able to stay alive.

From Pop Warner to high school and college-level athletics, we are concerned, too, for those coming up through the athletic ranks and the exercise they would normally get through participation in the game.

We would not like to see them instead turn to video games and more stationary activities. It’s past time to get our young people outdoors and active and building strong bodies.

And it’s time that Gov. Tom Wolf and his administration have an open conversation with the people they are impacting. Wolf needs to share the floor and listen to what others are saying, then find room for compromise.

We believe it’s of paramount importance that the governor meet with Dr. Robert Lombardi, executive director of the PIAA, who this past week sent a letter to Wolf seeking such a dialogue.

The PIAA understands the need to minimize the risk of a major COVID-19 outbreak this fall, but it also believes that youths will find a way to participate in sports regardless of whether they are held in a formal setting.

“Doing so within the educational umbrella may provide the safest means for that to occur,” Lombardi wrote to Wolf.

In moving ahead with plans for fall sports, the PIAA developed a set of Return to Competition guidelines which provided what the PIAA believes are safe operating practices.

Nonetheless, Wolf recently recommended that there be no sports until next year. And it’s not just football — it’s tennis, golf, running, basketball, volleyball and field hockey too.

“We are requesting an opportunity to present to you and your staff options that would permit many of our member schools to engage in fall sports in a reasonably safe environment,” Lombardi’s letter states. “Our Sports Medicine Advisory Committee, in conjunction with our individual sport steering committees, have developed guidelines and practices that go even beyond those that your office has developed.”

Yes, we understand people’s wellbeing is at stake. But it has already been demonstrated that it’s possible for youths to get together for practices and games — just look at all of the activity at area Little League fields in the past two months. We have not heard of anyone getting sick while sitting 6 feet apart in a dugout or running around the bases, but we’re sure it was good for those involved to get out and play.

So why not allow sports that fall under the PIAA umbrella, so long as families are willing to let their children compete? Shutting down PIAA sports only opens the door for athletes to continue playing in less regulated environments than what the PIAA and individual schools have developed this summer.

“One particular advantage of PIAA (versus recreational) sports is that school officials can ensure compliance with their locally adopted Athletic Health and Safety Planning Guide and enforcement of our comprehensive Return to Competition Guidelines, which have been shared with your office,” Lombardi’s letter states.

It appears the governor won’t stand in the way of fall sports based on comments from late last week.

We’ll see.

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