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Games go on, as they should



Published: Wed, September 11, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



When the high school sports schedules began trickling in last summer, we were a little surprised to see that several of them contained events on Sept. 11.

Recently, a varsity soccer player who visited Ground Zero last month observed, "We have a game on Sept. 11." Her soft-spoken tone suggested the words "Can you believe" had been omitted from her statement.

Although today hasn't been declared a national holiday, it's a day of remembrance that shouldn't be ignored. Throughout the U.S., churches are open and communities have scheduled observances on the first anniversary of the terrorist attacks on America.

Is it wrong for high school athletes to be competing while these observances are going on? Most in our area would say no.

Dave Smercansky, Boardman High athletic director, said his approach "was to try keep things as normal as possible" when it came to scheduling.

"There wasn't any special policy put into place" for Sept. 11, he said.

Soccer today

Boardman has one varsity event today -- a girls soccer match against Ursuline.

The reason? "Girls soccer always plays on Wednesday," Smercansky said.

The attacks "are a black mark on our history, but we have to move on," Smercansky said.

Poland has varsity golf and girls soccer contests scheduled for today. Myron Stallsmith, Poland High athletic director, said, "We really didn't consider not playing. It never really came up.

"In some way, you don't want to see everything come grinding to a halt -- that's what the terrorists want," Stallsmith said. "It would be nice if everyone paused and reflect on what happened, but in some ways you have to keep going."

Considering how television is covering the anniversary from sun-up to well-past sundown, an informal survey of our newsroom might surprise you.

One editor said that when every other normal aspect of life is expected to go on today (banks and government offices are open, schools are in session), "high school sports should be included. A moment of silence or reflection before any contest would be nice, but the games should go on."

A year ago, high school events scheduled for that Tuesday and Wednesday were postponed even though schools remained open. But by Thursday, most schools had resumed competition.

And just about every Friday night football game was played as scheduled.

Right or wrong?

"In the wake of the attacks, I was proud of our pros and colleges for not playing," another editor said. "I thought the high schools should have followed their lead. But now that a year has passed, and since we've had three-month, six-month and other observances, I see no reason to put off games this year."

Stallsmith said he believes "it didn't hurt anything" when the football games went on as scheduled last Sept. 14.

"Whether it was right or wrong, I don't know," Stallsmith said. "The kids wanted to play. I know the [Ohio High School Athletic Association] received criticism."

The OHSAA drew bad reviews after commissioner Clair Muscaro told school officials that he had no authority to order them not to play. Some felt Muscaro could have shown better leadership during such an uncertain time.

Community spirit is a reason to play, a fellow sportswriter said.

"Not playing last year made sense. Not playing this year probably ruins a chance for people to gather in their community and remember. Sports are one of the few things we have left that bring people together."

All things considered, high school athletes taking the fields, the courts or the links today is not such a bad thing. In fact, it's a big part of the American way of life.

XTom Williams is a sportswriter for The Vindicator. Write him at williams@vindy.com.




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