Chip Davenport
Chip Davenport
I approached the privilege of writing my first Times-Union weekly sports column compelled to share a lengthy frame of reference spanning my childhood home, high school and college days, military service, and private life to explain why I currently spend so much time in multiple media roles scurrying among Warsaw Community High School athletic events.

Those of you who know me well are likely amazed I only needed a 55-word preamble to tell you I’ve always loved sports, especially high school sports, wherever I’ve called a place home.

Furthermore, I appreciate your subscribership and loyalty to the Times-Union, and it’s a privilege and a pleasure to spend time each week sharing my thoughts on a variety of sports topics with each of you when you open your Sports section within the Weekender edition. Most of my focus will be high school, a smattering of college and professional sports topics, with a sprinkling of my frame of reference only where it’s relevant.

The transition from Fall to Winter sports is quick, especially with the earlier girls’ basketball regular season with wrestling, boys basketball and swimming/diving gearing up in turn. The Lake City is ready to roll! Typical speed bumps in the fun-filled, action-packed Winter sports season are school closures due to heavy snow or ice, and an annual flu bug usually saddling the student body, and some athletes as well. In years past, athletes would opt to play through a flu or stomach bug, and in some cases (think Kyle Mangus’ bout with triple-digit temperatures in the 2016 regional) spend the time between the two games in a hotel bed. This stuff makes good sports writing fodder; “profiles in (sports) courage” stories.

Enter 2020!

This isn’t the year to take a few extra Tylenol, or to stop by the hospital to hook up to an IV, or drink DayQuil like it’s Gatorade then play in pain the way “the great ones do.” This isn’t the year to take to the court, dive into the pool, or strut onto the wrestling mat after you vomit in the locker room garbage can. The global pandemic requires each of us to leave nothing to chance. If you feel sick, stay home. Right?

Our Winter Tiger sports squads and their opponents are already trudging through unfamiliar territory. Postponed games, and substitute opponents have not been weather driven, but terms like contact tracing, and COVID positive have become the norm. Scholastic athletic programs throughout Indiana are experiencing this… fluidity… due to the pandemic. There is a particular breed of athlete who, in much less severe circumstances, and mostly weather-driven to boot, will adapt to this fluidity.

Winter sports athlete, allow me to symbolically introduce you to Spring sports athlete!

Athletic directors, athletic support personnel, game workers, officials and athletes who comprise the Spring sports machine will tell you the postponements and cancellations Winter athletes will experience this year are par for the course in Spring. Lightning after a one-hour bus ride to a destination, waiting for it to stop, and sometimes not playing another inning, or running another race for the remainder of the evening is almost as exhausting as the energy expended in your sport of choice. You’re doing homework on the return bus ride using your smart phone light, then you get up the next morning and do it all again. Maybe “tomorrow” is the makeup game. If the calendar is already full (typical in an already compressed Spring sports season), coaches and administrators start cancelling non-conference events to squeeze in the essential in-league contests. Opportunities are lost for competition, and performing in front of family, friends and other fans. The scramble to volley e-mails, texts and phone calls among Warsaw’s internal set of coaches, athletes, and game workers as well as those among the opposing school’s contacts does not compromise the regular daily requirements of administration, faculty, students, and athletes. Family, friends and fans… keep your phones close and charged!

I’m not marginalizing the pandemic with discussion of weather-driven Spring sports weather changes!

With that said, athletes, fans and family face the challenge of managing expectations this Winter. If you’ve experienced what I like to call the pencil-printed Spring sports schedule, this dynamic scheduling challenge will be par for the course. It will be easier to embrace when we think of it in terms of how it affects each participant’s health and safety.

Seating capacity, even in a venue as big as the Tiger Den, will still be significantly limited because it’s an indoor venue; prime breeding ground for the spread of illness. The math might not make sense to many of us (e.g. 1,000 maximum fans admitted in a 5,000-seat arena), but athletic departments state-wide are trying to afford their participants the same safeguards and protocols resulting in a recently successful fall sports season. My heart goes out to student sections and athletic participants who are accustomed to the crowds and fever pitch accompanying Hoosier Hysteria in a normal year.

I feel the role of sports writers and broadcasters will be even more critical as thousands of family, friends and fans must listen to or watch the game from home or read the results in print and on-line media. I’m certainly taking my varying roles among each of these media I’ve mentioned very seriously yet having fun in the process.